Most teams would kill for the opportunity to spend six straight days feasting on the Miami Marlins and Houston Astros. Last year those two teams were the only to lose 100 or more games, with Houston blasting well past that figure. The Marlins have two good players, and just capped a winter in which they did very little to improve. The Marlins also just swept the hell out of the Seattle Mariners, who were looking at this six-game stretch as an opportunity to put up some wins and give themselves a little cushion. Yeah, that didn’t happen.
Making a spot start, Brandon Maurer was… fine, actually. No really, he did alright. His outing was short, as he lasted four innings and an out in the fifth while throwing only 63 pitches. But he struck out four, kept the ball mostly on the ground and entirely in the park, and only allowed two hits and two walks for a single earned run. He was pulled after allowing a walk and two singles, which plated Miami’s run against him, but it’s safe to say his removal had as much to do with his ongoing recovery from injury as it did anything else. Taxed bullpen be damned, Maurer wasn’t ready to throw more than five frames. Erm, hopefully the Mariners prioritize pitching depth a little more in future seasons.
Seattle plated two against the invariably boring Kevin Slowey. Corey Hart doubled to lead off the second, advanced on a grounder, and scored on a sac fly. Robinson Cano doubled to lead off the fourth, advanced on a deep fly, and scored on a sac fly. Small ball! Arquemedes Caminero has an awesome name that you’d never heard of before yesterday, and he held the Mariners scoreless until handing the ball to Dan Jennings. Jennings then held the Mariners scoreless until handing the ball to Carlos Marmol, who held the Mariners scoreless until handing the ball to Mike Dunn, who held the Mariners scoreless until handing the ball to Steve Cishek, who… at least made things interesting. A half inning earlier, the M’s effectively lost. Let’s revisit, because pain is pleasure.
Charlie Furbush has been hit hard all season, which is just the kind of unpleasant surprise we as Mariners fans have come to never, ever expect, not ever. Christian Yelich, leadoff man and maybe a developing young star, doubled to lead off the inning, and Furbush was pulled in favor of a still-broken Tom Wilhelmsen. The Bartender put Marcel Ozuna away and intentionally walked Giancarlo Stanton, which is almost always the smart thing to do, but especially in this case. What he did next was damning, as he walked Casey McGehee on five mostly-terrible pitches to load the bases. Yelich, remember, is fast. It’s important that Yelich is fast.
The call on the field was out at home, but from the get go it looked questionable. Garrett Jones grounded to first, but Justin Smoak did a double-clutch and had to take that extra second in getting the ball home. Yelich, being the burner that he is, made it to the plate a fraction of a second before the ball did, though the broadcast didn’t show any good replay angles that made it seem more than just “likely” that his foot hit the bag. It sure seemed like the call would be overturned based on what little we could see, and sure enough, Mike Redmond challenged and got his tying run. Instead of 2-1 with two outs and the bases loaded, it was 2-2 with one out and packed bags. One sac fly later, and the Marlins were ahead. Cishek worked around another leadoff Hart double to secure the save. Just like that, the Mariners were swept. In Miami.
This sucks, obviously. This completely and absolutely sucks and hurts especially hard given the way the team looked at the start of this road trip. Since the season is so young everything is magnified, and with so few games to consider, six straight losses feels even worse than it actually is. Not to say it isn’t awful, just to say that there are one hundered and forty four games to go. 144. Baseball seasons are impossibly long, and so far in this first snippet of a snippet we’ve seen the M’s look awesome, then okay, then awful. We should know better than to declare that the sky is falling right now – how foolish will we look after the Mariners sweep the Angels again?
At this point we can safely say we have no idea what kind of team the 2014 Seattle Mariners are. Odds are they’re not great, but they’re almost certainly not as bad as they’ve looked this last week. No team is actually as bad as they look at their worst. If this isn’t the M’s at their worst, it’s at least close, with blowouts and shutouts and heartbreaking late-innings losses galore. Over their last nine games, the Mariners are 1-8. Over a full season, that’s a 23-win pace. No team ever has been or will be that bad. The M’s are slumping, that’s all. Slumping some kind of awful.
You know what’s good for slumps? The end of a road trip. Also helpful? Playing the Astros. Best yet is Felix Hernandez, and he’s the starter tonight against a Dallas Keuchel-led Houston club. Happy Felix Day, game starts at 7:10 and if this isn’t a good time to win, nothing is. If the Mariners don’t identify tonight as a good game to win, it is fair to assess that they’re not even trying. You’re a baseball team! The goal is to win! Felix! Felix Hernandez is pitching! Felix has 39 strikeouts this season. He’s made four starts. Watch Felix. Love Felix.