Stat ‘o the season for the Seattle Who-Dats 20 percent into the schedule: Christian Bergman Sunday became the 20th pitcher used. He made his debut in the fourth inning after Dillon Overton, subbing for injured James Paxton, made his first seasonal start.
Shredded by injuries, the team formerly known as the Mariners nevertheless stitched together an improbable 4-3 win (box) that made for a 2-1 series triumph over Texas, a 4-2 homestand against the AL West and a fragile relevance.
It also proved that in baseball, you need no introduction. Or clubhouse locker nameplates. Just an Uber driver who knows the best I-5 traffic workarounds from Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium to Safeco Field.
Then there’s the traffic jam in the training room.
“Never seen anything like it,” said Jerry Dipoto, the general manager with a $150 million payroll but a medical team that is in the lead for MVP.
Here’s some of the facts:
- The pitcher count is one back of the Angels for the MLB lead. And this after setting the club record last year with 32, tied for second-most in MLB.
- Nine pitchers are onthe disabled list: Starters Felix Hernandez, James Paxton and Drew Smyly, and relievers Evan Marshall, Evan Scribner, Steve Cishek, Shae Simmons, Tony Zych and Rob Whalen have beenthere. Three position players have also been there: Mitch Haniger, Shawn O’Malley and Jean Segura. Among the dozen, only Segura, Zych and Whalen have returned from the 10-day disabled list.
- Twelve rookies have made their major league debuts this season, and three more — Edwin Diaz, Taylor Motter and Ariel Miranda — are still in their first year of MLB service time.
The 52-card-pickup operation of strangers and youngsters means that manager Scott Servais finds himself winging it often.
“There will be times when you don’t know quite what you’re going to get,” he said. “The thing about our team is we have an environment in this clubhouse that’s really good. Veteran players are helping out the new guys coming in. It’s really important to get those guys comfortable.”
Marshall, the young reliever who pulled his right hamstring late Friday night and is done for months, was making the rounds on crutches with a smile on his face when he was asked to explain the clubhouse’s emotional navigation.
“There’s superstars here, but they’re just part of the guys,” he said. “That’s the best part. They’re leaders on the field, but take the role in the clubhouse too. It makes it more fun when all these guys get along with each other.
“Now that I’ve been a Mariner for a month, it feels like I’ve been here a long time.”
Bergman, 29, who was signed to a minor league contract this off-season after a bad year with the Rockies, was 5-0 with Tacoma and dealt 3.2 sold innings Sunday. He gave up one run in long relief of Overton and kept the Rangers’ lead to 3-0 until the visitors had to resort to a depleted bullpen that gave away the game with four walks in a three-run seventh.
Bergman was also taken by the vibe in the clubhouse.
“I felt very welcomed,” he said. “I was only with them for three or four weeks in spring training. It’s good atmosphere, especially in a season like this, when guys are going down. You have to stay together, pick up everybody.”
Among the Seattle walking wounded to help pick up was 1B Danny Valencia, pulled from the starting lineup because of a tight hamstring. He was healthy enough in the seventh to pinch-hit a broken-bat blooper for two RBIs.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be shut down,” he said. “If they needed an at-bat or defense late, I made it clear I was available.”
Speaking of healing up, in the eighth, 3B Kyle Seager offered further evidence that his swing is healthy again, when he jacked a Sam Dyson fastball for the game-deciding solo home run — his long-delayed first of the season at Safeco.
“I’ve hit some here before so I kind of remember it a little bit,” Seager said, smiling. “But it definitely feels good to get one in a big situation and get a win off of a really good team.”
It’s clear that Seager and the offense have to carry the Mariners for a good while as the pitchers penciled in during spring training begin to show up again. It’s no way to go through a season, but there’s not much choice, starting Tuesday with two interleague games in Philadelphia and four in Toronto.
Nor is there any predictable cessation in health woes. Because starter Hisashi Iwakuma took a line shot off his leg in his last appearance, his start Tuesday was moved back. That means Miranda will take his place.
In a National League park, that means the Cuban refugee will have his first MLB at-bat.
“All you are really looking for, can they execute a bunt?” Servais said pre-game. “I am not looking for Miranda to bang a ball off the wall by accident, and the chances of that happening are very slim. Let’s keep things in context.”
Well, the context is that the Mariners are nearly leading the ball world in rookies and disabled-list entries, and at 15-17, are bobbing around relevance.
I say: Swing from the heels, Miranda. The Mariners are playing with house money.