A terrific start from Marco, but no support from the bats
May 23, 2019
The Mariners are a bad team. If we didn't know it already, getting swept in this three-game series by the Texas Rangers let us know.
And you know what, it isn't because these were particularly terrible games. All three were close, no blowouts to be seen (though Monday's game looked like it might go that way). One could make the case that these games show that the M's aren't really that bad after all; they fought back from a big deficit on Monday night, they held fast in a nailbiter Tuesday night only to be undone by an uncharacteristically poor relief outing from Roenis Elías, and got an outstanding performance from Marco Gonzales on Wednesday afternoon.
However, being jaded as we now are, having seen this team take their brilliant 13-2 start to the season and flush it so far down the commode that they are now six games under .500 and in last place, we can see it as evidence that they are, indeed, bad.
Monday night saw Mike Leake have one of his monthly faceplants. That's OK, we know Mike Leake, we expect them every fourth-to-sixth start, we just need to be attuned to recognizing them before things get too far out of hand. And in this case, "we," of course, refers to just one guy, manager Scott Servais. Sadly, he's part of the whole "bad team" problem. As has been said before, Servais might be a great manager off the field—he might have the right touch when it comes to managing egos and fostering attitudes in the clubhouse; there's not a lot of evidence to support or refute that theory, so let's just acknowledge its possibility—but in-game, well . . . he seems a bit slow on the uptake. Leake served up five runs on the first inning on Monday, showing us that it was going to be one of those games for him. And, sure, it's just the first inning and trot him out there for another, OK, but we'd been put on notice. No matter how things unfolded from here, Leake was not to be relied upon if he got in trouble again, at least not until his next start. It's his pattern. It's history. It's a position backed up by hard data going back years. Leake is a fine pitcher most of the time, but he will get bashed around once a month or so. He seemed to right his ship for a little while, emphasis on "seemed." Isiah Kiner-Falefa led off the second frame with a ringing double and Shin-soo Choo followed with a hard lineout. Time to get someone warming up, right? Well, not if you're Scott Servais. Leake gutted his way out of it, and escaped the third as well thanks to a double-play, but again, we'd been put on notice. A reliever should have been on the mound to start the third. But Leake was still there to start the fourth inning, which went like this: Home run, double, strikeout after getting away with a fat one that went foul . . . anyone in the bullpen? No? OK, double, strikeout, base hit, fielder's choice. Then he was sent out for another inning. That Texas failed to score in that frame, that Leake got away with only two more runs after his awful first inning, is just luck. Still, when Leake was finally replaced the score was 7-2. Not great, but not hopeless. Ryan Garton (since DFA'd) threw one decent inning and then was sent back out for another, and by the time the seventh was over the score had become 10-2 with homers off of Garton and Parker Markel (also now off the team). And guess what? In the eighth and ninth, against the Ranger relief corps, the M's broke out for seven runs of their own. But damage done, game lost, 10-9.
Evidence the M's are a bad team: Poor knowledge and handling of the starting pitcher. Debatable whether there was also malfeasance with the bullpen, but if you're going to use the 'pen as a tryout camp, I guess you actually have to try guys out. Also, the relievers were so bad they were both cut the next day.
Tuesday's game featured a spot start by callup Tommy Milone, who did better than expected and kept the M's close for five solid innings. All the M's needed were a few runs off of journeyman Lance Lynn, he of the 1.36 WHIP and 4.94 ERA. Unfortunately, Servais had made out his lineup card with two of the most strikeout-prone batters in the Majors at one and two in the order. Mitch Haniger struck out three consecutive times, surprising no one except maybe the guy who decided he should bat leadoff. Doningo Santana struck out his first two ABs batting second, also surprising no one. The M's as a whole had racked up eight Ks before the seventh inning, the first frame when someone with a decent OBP led off and not coincidentally the first one in which they mounted any kind of scoring threat. At that point down 3-0, Omar Narváez came up with two runners on and none out after a walk to Vogelbach and a single from Encarnación and smacked one that missed going out of the park by inches. Still, it plated one and Jay Bruce got in a second with a sac fly, and after a wild pitch it was one out, a runner in scoring position. But with this Mariner team, everyone except the three guys that started the inning are always swinging big, so you can guess how things played out (hint: swings and misses). Narváez would get his homer later on, but by then Texas had scored two more on a Joey Gallo home run off of the usually reliable Elías and it was too little too late.
Evidence the M's are a bad team: Atrocious lineup structure, failure to execute with RISP and less than 2 out, an inexcusable number of strikeouts (11) against Lance Lynn. Not Nolan Ryan, not Justin Verlander, not Clayton Kershaw—Lance Lynn.
On Wednesday, Marco Gonzales was terrific. He cruised through seven innings, making only a single mistake (a 2-0 offspeed pitch that missed its location and went for a solo homer), induced double plays on command, and the two new guys relieving him put up zeroes. But the offense didn't show up and the defense did its kick-the-ball-and-throw-wild thing, so despite Marco's gem, the M's found themselves down 2-1 in the ninth. They mounted a threat, though—two on and one out—but you can guess how it ended (hint: the letter K was involved twice).
Evidence the M's are a bad team: MLB strikeout leader leading off again, errors/unearned run, inability to advance runners or execute with RISP and less than two out, way too many Ks (9).
The Mariners are off today. Let them take this down time in the wonderful city of San Francisco and think about what they've done. Then stick it to the Oakland A's over the weekend.
Mariners vs. Rangers, by the numbers
- Total runs scored: 30 (SEA 13, TEX 17)
- Home runs hit: 10 (SEA 3, TEX 7)
- Bases stolen/attempts: 2/2 (TEX - Mazara & Odor)
- Errors committed: 3 (SEA 3 - Santana, Bruce, Encarnación)
- Quality starts: 3 (SEA - Gonzales, TEX - Minor, Lynn)
- Pitching changes: 17 (SEA 9, TEX 8)
- Starters ERA: 3.98 (SEA 5.29, TEX 2.45)
- Bullpen ERA: 6.98 (SEA 7.71, TEX 6.94)
- Runners left on base: 33 (SEA 16, TEX 17)
Do you think Scott Servais is doing a good job as manager of the Mariners?