After a flurry of moves in which they effectively hoisted a white flag on the 2015 season, the Mariners played as if a division title were on the line Friday night in a 6-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Taijuan Walker tossed a splendid, complete-game one-hitter, Nelson Cruz had four hits, including a home run, and Jesus Montero, recently arrived from AAA Tacoma, drove in a pair of runs as Seattle snapped a four-game losing streak (box score).
After taking a 1-0 lead on Brad Miller’s sacrifice fly in the second, the Mariners iced it with two runs in the fourth on Montero’s RBI double and a second run-scoring sac fly by Miller. The Twins never mounted anything after that against Walker, who won first the first time since blanking San Diego 7-0 July 1.
Cruz’s ninth-inning home run was his 27th of the season and capped a season-high four-hit night. Cruz also doubled in the first and singled in the third and seventh innings. Cruz is batting .314.
Montero’s sixth-inning solo homer was his first in the majors since June 17, 2014 against Eric Stults of San Diego. Montero went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Top prospect Ketel Marte, called up from Tacoma Friday, a shortstop who played second base in place of injured Robinson Cano, went 0-for-4 but drew a ninth-inning walk in his major league debut. Catcher Mike Zunino extended his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games with a single in the fifth. Mark Trumbo (2-for-4) and Austin Jackson (2-for-4) both had multi-hit games.The Mariners hit 37 home runs in July.
Walker made only one mistake, yielding a fourth-inning home run to Miguel Sano. Otherwise, the Twins did nothing. Walker tied a career high with 11 strikeouts (also June 20 vs. Houston) and set a career high with nine innings pitched. The Mariners are 9-1 in Walker’s last 10 starts. Prior to Walker’s outing, Seattle starters had allowed 21 earned runs in the previous four games.
“I was just having fun pounding the strike zone. I was able to keep them off balance. Zunino did a really good job calling pitches. We were on the same page the whole game. Everything felt really good. Any time we can get a big win like this it’s good” — Walker
“That was his best outing to date. His tempo was outstanding. He was commanding all four pitches, and when you are commanding all four pitches it’s going to be a long night for the opponent. I think he’s still a work in progress, but it’s coming. You can see what he’s going to become. It’s going to be special” — Lloyd McClendon, Mariners manager
Canó (abdominal strain) did not play for the third consecutive game, and Logan Morrison (thumb bruise) also sat out. Both are listed as day-to-day.
The third of a four-game series is Saturday at 4:10 p.m., PT. LHP Mike Montgomery (4-4, 3.20) will throw for Seattle against RHP Kyle Gibson (8-8, 3.48). The series concludes Sunday at 11:10 a.m., PT (RHP Hisashi Iwakuma vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey).
OK, then…. what’s the plan? If we’ve hoisted the white flag, what’s the plan for the remaining 58 games? Here’s a modest goal:
Reach 0.500 for the season.
To do that, we’d have to win 34 out of the last 58 games, playing 0.586 ball. And why not? We were supposed to be playoff contenders this year and we’ve still got that core team intact. Play like contenders and go 34-24 down the stretch.
Tonight’s games was one of those gems – how the season should have unfolded. To me, the season’s failure was a failure of execution, not personnel or management. Tonight, everyone executed well, even with Cano and Morrison sitting out. (And Walker… man, one-hitters are rare things, indeed.)
My point is this: We’ve got the talent – set a goal that befits that talent and go for it. Do not wallow is self-pity, but play hard, every day. If we’d played 0.586 ball all season, we’d win 95 games. So play like that now, inspiring the fans, making it fun to go out to the ball park, and give us a high note to finish on looking forward to next year. Get to 0.500 for the season.
(OK, I can feel those more cynical that I revving up to shout that down. In lieu of that goal, how about this most modest (and most personal) goal for the rest of the season?
Finish ahead of those Oakland A’s.)
Problem is, any sort of sudden success will only tempt HoLinc to keep JZ around. Nobody would argue in favor of that plan.
Right. A strong finish will be misleading. Here’s what didn’t work that needs to change:
1. Ackley platoon (get a .280 spray hitter with speed and a good arm)
2. No mo LoMo. (find the next Olerud, line drive hitter with great range)
3. Z calling Zunino (“dude, we have to get a .250 hitting catcher to compete with you. Sorry.”)
4. The Big 3 Fantasy (keep Walker but you’re going to need another starter)
5. No depth (utility infielder/outfielder with speed)
6. Rodney (Carson’s the closer, hope Furbush recovers)
I can’t believe they stuck with Rodney as long as they did at 38 years old and performing so poorly. Trading Castillo, an adequate backup, had no backup plan. Where is the guy to push Zunino and give him a few days off?
Backup catcher is an open wound. Where are you, John Jaso?
Or how about…uh…Kurt Suzuki? Don Wakematsu?
Dunno, Effzee. Maybe the Nats win the series. Maybe the Mariners being the only ones still playing Left Right Out becomes more clear to fans and owners. Maybe Lincoln actually gets embarrassed by Z’s ineptitude , or maybe the other owners stasrt to feel the … naw. Never happen. Equity appreciation trumps all. Never mind.
Jeez. All right, for the sake of analysis, we’re going to take all those people that you deride so easily (Jack Z, Howard Lincoln) and we’re going to call them “Front Office.” Now, guess what? No one….. no one from the Front Office IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL has ever taken the field, stood in the batter’s box, thrown a pitch.
(I know it’s a tautology, but I make my point.)
You all act as if these players were the sum of the back-of-their-baseball-cards and just slotting them into the 25-man roster is the key to success. Sure, maybe in some Fantasy Baseball League somewhere, but not between the white lines of the thirty ball parks in MLB.
Those guys on the 25-man roster (or the 40-man roster – take your pick) still put on their socks and put a cup on their rocks and take the field, every game. They have to do it 58 more times. “White flag?” Season “dead-and-buried?” What should they do – phone it in? Live up to what they’ve done before?
No. If you phone it in now, it’s just that much easier to phone it in next spring. Do they think that we’re not watching here in the stands, we whose ticket monies pay their salaries? If they phone it in now, I won’t be phoning in my ticket order next February. Multiply by 15,000.
You should always have something to play for – every game, every season, every moment. Big goal, reaching .500? Hell, yeah. But, as Robert Browning said:
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”
“You all act as if these players were the sum of the back-of-their-baseball-cards and just slotting them into the 25-man roster is the key to success.” No. The Front Office acts like that. “We all” see the flaw in the plan. The Front Office, sadly, does not. Someone has to put these guys all on the same team. If that person puts a bunch of guys together who are just kind of OK, then that’s the kind of team you’re going to get. You can look across the street to see a team who puts players in position to succeed. The Mariners seem to almost innately put players in position to fail. They use their minor league call-ups bazaarly. They seem to switch the position of a young player without rhyme or reason, more to fit what the team needs than to utilize the player’s strengths. They destroy minor league pitching shoulders at an alarming rate. They give up on players just to see them blossom elsewhere, and habitually get fleeced in the deals that send them away. They are perpetually downgrading and covering for mistakes. Blame the players if you want. Fine. But its not like they aren’t trying hard or don’t want to win. They are all probably playing exactly as well as they possibly can together. The problem is someone thought it would work. Someone, and probably more than just one person, was really, really, rrrrrreeeallly convinced that this team was at least only half-crappy. But instead…. They are still more than half-crappy. Still. Again. For the umpteenth year in a row. I don’t blame the players. I blame whoever keeps trotting this dreck out there, inconceivably unaware of their unfathomable incompetence.
I expected playoffs, so count me in the idiot house. I didn’t anticipate a half-season of Cano ailments, nor a first-to-nearly- worst regression of the pen. That’s probably a 10-game turnaround.
They’re in with that.
I admit that when they signed Cruz, I expected a late season push towards the playoffs based on the previously mentioned Slugger-to-Crappy-Pitcher ratio.
Clearly, however, “Expecting the Playoffs” is something that a person should never, ever, ever enter a season doing, when it comes to the M’s. There is no reason for the expectation, except blind hope, which seems to be what the Front Office runs on.
Have we not learned our lesson by now? We need to WAIT until they ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING ON THE FIELD that indicates, in the present reality, that there may actually be something worthy of hope. We should stop projecting hope onto them.
Also, one player’s tummy problems should not sink an entire season. Can you say Next Man Up? In order for that to work…. Willie B, the Jesuses, Franklin Gutibroken, etc., cannot be the Next Men Up.
Also, its not your job or my job to be right or wrong about the crappiness of the team. It doesn’t matter if you or I expected playoffs. Someone gets paid a lot of money to make these bad decisions, and it aint you or me. The one getting paid to do it is the one who should have at least a modicum of a clue. But instead, Lincolnland!
LINCOLNLAND, man!!!!! When you bring it back around to the basic horror of who is in the Front Office… What the hell business did anyone have thinking the M’s were going to the playoffs in the first place?
Well put again, Effzee. Clownship Lincolnland is just that: a baseball failure. Not because of any one year “didn’;t play up to their baseball card stats” either: the data set is a long as Lincoln’s tenure. He’s everything we all realize he is: a lousy, old school, obsesience demanding geezer married to his benefactors’ ill-educated and inapt oversight in the realm of ownering and directing a MLB franchise. Not moneyball. Moneygrab is the mantra. They do not respect the game, its history, its significance– the gift and trust they have been given.
They fail on the field. The reason sportswriters are not GMs is because they aren’t qualified–any more than we fans. We just second-guess, and see clearly where the lack of talent lies. Gms can’t write about sports, either, and Dustin Ackley is a far better player than I ever dreamed of being– but an MLB failure so far. Point is, it doesn’t matter what we thought would happen from out here in the peanut gallery. What matters is whjat always happens: Lincoln can’t hire and sustain baseball competent people in his button-down-baseball land of magical thinking: baseball is not Lincoln’s style, nor are those competent to do it right in baseball operations. So they won’t work for him. They walk. Or get axed and go on to be noted successes. And won’t even answer interview questions about coming back or why they left. Except Wedge: like him or not, he had the guts to say it out loud: Lincoln and his yeZ-man are cluueless autocrats.
Luckily, nobody works till they are 105.
If only. Again. However, they aren’t in. They didn’t make that 10 game turnaround. Still. Cano’s tummy or bullpen regression notwithstanding: it’s not a team. Still. It’s a collection of baseball cards. The difference lies in who one chooses to be part of the roster, how the roster is balanced, how the fun and expectation of on-field success is transmitted from the top. Or how my-way-or-the-hiway, I’m the smartest guy in the room, I manage equity and you are just tokens for the fans to keep cash calls at bay– how THAT mentality filters downward. Its seems to go from Lincoln’s ancient and archaic hardcore style through Jack’z smarm and insipid back-biting to managers that always seem to be biting their tongues and hoping, hoping, hoping…
Effzee nailed it again.
Great blog entry. Thank you.
You’re right, the cynics will lap you on your “plan.” But they are tired of plans, justifiably. 14 years without playoffs. Hard to do in MLB.
Playing .586 ball down the stretch when the season is dead & buried is not the same as playing like that from April on. Anybody that gets excited about this roster IF by some strange way they reach .500, is being fooled. Not to worry though, even without the 2 inning, 5 run starts anymore from JA Happless, these guys still can’t string 3 whole wins together in a row. This roster needs an entire overhaul. They need some athleticism, this station to station baseball, waiting for non home run hitters to hit home runs is not the World Series formula.
But it is Jack Z’s formula. Which should end his tenure. But that is a mystery,
No Mystery. He lock-step salutes the corporate monarch. Until he makes Lincoln look bad, he stays. Success on the job is no predictor. Obviously.
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