Mariners limp home after 1-4 trip, send for help
Justin Dunn labored through his shortest outing of the year tonight in Los Angeles
May 12, 2021
Your Seattle Mariners are once again an under-.500 team. Losing big tonight to the newly-revitalized Los Angeles Dodgers, the M's fell below the break-even mark for the first time since April 6th. The 7-1 loss closes out a brief five-game road trip during which the M's won once, a 5-4 victory in Texas last Friday, and brings their season record down to 18-19.
Dodger pitching allowed the Mariners just two hits tonight, a seeing-eye grounder off the bat of Ty France and a soft liner from Dylan Moore. The 2-for-29 performance gives Seattle a Major League-worst team batting line of .204/.272/.364. The slugging percentage portion of that is the only one not dead last in the rankings. Unlike last night, tonight's defeat cannot be blamed on mismanagement by skipper Scott Servais—Servais made just one obvious error tonight (leaving in lefty reliever Aaron Fletcher to face A.J. Pollock), and the M's were already down six runs by that time. You have to either chalk this one up to excellent opposition pitching and/or terrible Mariner batting.
Starting pitcher Justin Dunn wasn't sharp and had to be relieved after just 31⁄3 innings; his relief wasn't awful, but even though Will Vest got out of trouble in the 4th, he got tagged for four two-out runs in the 5th rather quickly to put the M's down five. Not that long ago, with four innings remaining a 5-run deficit would have seemed manageable for the tenacious, scrappy Mariners; but now, with the entire lineup slumping at once, not to mention facing one of the best teams ever assembled, it felt insurmountable.
Something has to change, and when the M's return home tomorrow to start a seven-game homestand, they'll look a little different: Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert will be promoted and in the lineup tomorrow night at TMP. Kelenic will be the left fielder and Gilbert the starting pitcher.
The wisdom of bringing either of those young men up to the big leagues so quickly is debatable. Sometimes a prospect really is Major-League-ready within a year or two of going pro and doesn't need development time in the high minors. It isn't common, but it happens. The Mariners have gone that route a lot in their current rebuilding effort and it's mostly gone poorly for the players in question; even Kyle Lewis was likely done a disservice by leapfrogging him over the Triple-A level. The 2020 American League Rookie of the Year would likely not have been a contender for that award had 2020 gone on longer than that season's abbreviated 60-game schedule as all his success came in the first few weeks; the scouting report got around and in the second half Lewis was a worse hitter than fellow rookie Evan White, who had a terrible year at the plate (games 31-60: Lewis .150/.265/.280, White .183/.272/.317).
Kelenic might be the exception. He might be a Bryce Harper or a Fernando Tatis Jr. We'll see after he's gotten a few months' worth of ABs. Either way, though, bringing him up is a no-lose proposition for the M's in the short term. Even a disappointing performance out of Kelenic is likely to be an improvement over what the Mariners have been getting out of, well, everyone except maybe Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager of late.
As for Gilbert, his ascension is even more rapid than Kelenic's—just one season of pro experience to Kelenic's two (not counting the minors-less 2020), though he did pitch in college while Kelenic went pro directly from high school. Seattle's first-round draft selection in 2018, the right-handed Gilbert made 26 minor-league starts in ’19 at Class-A, High-A, and Double-A levels, clearly outclassing his peers. In Triple-A this season, he's made just one start, a five-inning effort for Tacoma against El Paso in which he allowed one run on four hits.
The need for Gilbert right now in Seattle is arguably greater than that for Kelenic. So far in 2021, the Mariners have leaned heavily on their pitching staff, and with injuries claiming two of the six spots in the starting rotation and Servais refusing to change his mind about using a rotation of six instead of the traditional five, things have fallen apart. The club has not brought in anyone from the outside to fill either of those vacancies, so Servais has had three scheduled bullpen games this month already. That's three of ten games over twelve days. I don't care how good your bullpen is, when you overwork them that much you're asking for a world of hurt.
Since the M's don't seem interested in getting a starter from elsewhere, someone has to come up to stop the madness. the only reason for that someone not to be Gilbert is to give him more development time in Triple-A, and whether he needs that or not we have no way of knowing. (Veteran Hector Santiago would be the other option, the 33-year-old former White Sox, Angels, and Twins pitcher is in Tacoma as well.)
Right or wrong, smart or not, both youngsters will be in uniform and on the field tomorrow night against the visiting Cleveland We'll-Have-a-New-Name-Soons.