Two in a row is a start(?)
Sorry, Wade, you were just too good tonight. Hit the showers.
August 7, 2018
The Mariners are on a winning streak. Not an impressive one, sure, but two games is technically a streak. And with the way the M's have performed since they broke their last actual win streak—eight games—on July 4th, two in a row feels like a notable achievement. We all hope this is the beginning of the resurgence Seattle needs to reclaim its playoff standing, but a win like tonight's doesn't do much to calm the nerves of the Mariner still-for-now-but-for-how-much-longer-faithful.
Leading three to nothing in the 7th tonight, manager Scott Servais pulled his starting pitcher, Wade LeBlanc, after he gave up a one-out infield single. LeBlanc had thrown 82 pitches, which is generally near the limit of his effectiveness, but he'd shut down 11 in a row before the squib hit and faced the minimum since walking the Rangers' second batter of the game. He was cruising. But Servais went to the ’pen anyway, opting for newly-acquired Adam Warren. Warren got zero outs, issuing a walk, a double, and a hit batter before getting pulled himself in favor of fellow new arrival Zach Duke. Duke issued a bases-loaded walk, then gave way to Alex Colomé, who served up a base hit to score two of his inherited runners before finally recording two outs to mercifully end the inning in a tie score. The M's finally scored again in the 12th, on an unlikely RBI single from Ryon Healy, he of the .273 on-base percentage, but had LeBlanc been allowed to finish the seventh inning, would they have needed to play 12?
In isolation, OK, the new guys had a bad night. Shrug it off, they won it anyway, go get 'em again tomorrow. But in the context of a month of frustration—9-17 since ending their eight-game winning streak—it looks bad on two fronts. No, three fronts.
One, was Servais panicking when he pulled LeBlanc because of a dinky hit and an 82 pitch count? This was a bad move. Given his dominance throughout the game, there was no reason to think LeBlanc was out of gas or couldn't finish the inning, yet Servais yanked him. To quote Star Trek's Dr. McCoy, "what the hell kind of strategy is this?!" Had Wade been getting in and out of trouble all game, or even served up a few loud outs, sure, OK, but he'd allowed just two baserunners—a first-inning walk and a third-inning single that was erased by a caught stealing—and only one other batter squared up a line drive, which was an easy catch in center field for Cameron Maybin. A performance like that and an infield hit was what did him in?
Two, Warren and Duke looked awful. They've done nothing as Mariners to inspire confidence and look, for now, like poor acquisitions. They certainly have time to turn that around, but when you trade for relief help you expect your bullpen to get better, not worse. This is a knee-jerk reaction and they deserve some more innings before passing judgment, but ugh.
Three, how is it the M's only got three runs against Martín Pérez? They historically have torched the guy, batting a collective .342 against him, but tonight they couldn't cash in, going a mere 1-for-6 with RISP while Pérez was out there. Since July 4th, the Mariners as a whole have hit .238/.301/.370. The technical term for numbers like this is "bad," and they need to pick it up if they want to get back into contention.
What can be done, other than hope for good luck? Well, one improvement is a week and a half away, and that's Robinson Canó's return. Robbie will help in two ways—one, he slots back onto the three-spot in the lineup and balances the rest of the order out. Being able to put Haniger and Span both in the lower two-thirds of the order should be a real benefit. And two, he will displace Ryon Healy (mostly). I know, Healy was the hero tonight with his 12th-inning hit, but his on-base percentage has been gawd-awful all season long, ranking 151st out of 158 qualified batters in the Majors. Another move I don't want to wait until September for is bringing back Ben Gamel. Gamel has reacted to his demotion to Triple-A with style—by proving he doesn't belong there; since being sent to Tacoma he's hit .429/.500/.810. He needs to come back immediately. We don't need eight relievers, especially ones that don't record actual outs, so he can have one of their spots on the roster.
So: Be smarter. Pick your spots with Warren and Duke. Scrape the rust off the bats. Get Gamel back up here and make a hole for Robbie.
Now, let's get 'em again tomorrow.