The Mariners’ only off day in a stretch of 31 games is Monday. It happens to be not at home but on the road in Detroit, not high on the list of resort destinations. But the development is fairly representative of the baseball experience of the past three months, which has had all the rhythm of hiking boots in a clothes dryer.
From the recklessly demeaning public remarks of then-club president Kevin Mather in spring training that led to his ouster, to an episode of COVID-19 infections that impacted four relief pitchers and has sidelined their best guy, Kendall Graveman, since May 19, the Mariners have produced two feats of industry-wide distinction: They have used the most players (46) and have the worst team batting average (.206).
Yet somehow they are 30-31.
In most precincts of baseball, that is a nothingburger. In Seattle, home of baseball incrementalism, it is a feat rich in epicurean majesty.
After beating the Angels in Anaheim Sunday 9-5 (box) to split a four-game series, the Mariners finished a stretch of 14 consecutive games against the American League West with a 9-5 record. Yes, Mariners-savager Mike Trout was out hurt. But regarding injuries among other teams, the Mariners make the polite request to shut the front door.
The Mariners have been twice no-hit, shut out seven times, lost a game 16-1 and as recently as Saturday, blew a 5-1 lead to lose 12-5. This team is a Marvel Universe movie, Manhattan catastrophe scene, waiting to happen every day.
Even Sunday, the Mariners emerged from under a pile of bricks, re-bar and crumbled drywall.
Angels starter Patrick Sandoval induced 32 swings and misses, most of any pitcher this season. According to Sportradar via Associated Press, it is the most swings and misses in a loss in the pitch-tracking era, since 2008. Yet when they weren’t striking out 14 times, the Mariners were getting 10 hits and five walks.
They did it often enough to help create the first career win for a pending superhero, rookie starter Logan Gilbert. It took him 105 pitches over five innings, but he held the robust Angels lineup to one run, two hits and four walks, while striking out seven. Most of that came after Gilbert on his first pitch gave up a homer to Justin Upton.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 7, 2021
A youngster of placid demeanor on the mound, he finally was exuberant post-game on video conference.
“It’s crazy and it’s awesome,” Gilbert said of his first win. “It’s a moment I’ve dreamed of for sure. My family is here (from Florida), so it’s awesome to have them here and see the first win. It’s really special.”
Manager Scott Servais, who is pulling together ingredients faster than a taco truck cook at lunch hour, was thrilled.
“He really made some big pitches against some big-time hitters,” he said. “I thought his competitiveness late in his outing was outstanding.”
Much of the current treading of water is being done by unfamiliar people, such as Donovan Walton, Jack Mayfield, David Zamora and J.T. Chargois, doing unheard-of things until the regulars return. The Mariners have had four of their six intended starters (James Paxton, Marco Gonzales, Nick Margevicius, and now, Justin Dunn) miss, or will miss, at least one rotation start.
Starting LHP Yusei Kikuchi, who looked Saturday as if he would be out awhile after taking a hard one-hopper to his right knee, is progressing well with treatment for a bruise and might be ready for his next scheduled start Saturday, according to Servais. CF Kyle Lewis is supposed to make a decision Monday about whether to have surgery for a torn meniscus.
Monday afternoon update: After 23 games with Seattle, and hitting .096 (8×83) with seven runs, two doubles, two home runs, six RBI, walks, 26 strikeouts, OF Jarred Kelenic was sent back to AAA Tacoma, where he played six games before being called up May 13.
My suspicion grows that Mather is a warlock who put a curse on Kelenic for spurning a contract offer a year earlier, then being cocky about it. Mine is not a popular theory, but I’ll bet no one has thought to demand that Mather lift the curse.
All Kelenic need to do was get two hits every 10 at-bats to be the same as everyone else in the lineup, which at the moment is good enough to be 1.5 games the lesser of the New York Yankees.
It is true that the Mariners are a minute from falling apart. But imagine if Kelenic could have gone two-for-10 and the Mariners started to fall up. It’s an underrated superpower.