Mariners Insight

Weekly updates on the Seattle Mariners

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Mariners Insight Podcast May 1st

M’s Have Mediocre Week on the Road, Suffer Key Injuries

Despite the rigorous road schedule this week, this was a week where the Mariners had a chance to turn their record around. But it ended up being a week of mediocrity with the M’s going just 3-3 on the week.

After an off day Monday they arrived at Comerica Park on Tuesday to start a series with the Detroit Tigers. Tuesday was not one of the brighter days for Mariners fans. Not only did they lose 19-9 with Felix giving up four earned in just two innings, but there were some major injuries on hand.

Felix left the game after two innings with an arm injury that turned out to be bursitis in his arm. He will miss the next 3-4 weeks. Along with the King, Mitch Haniger strained his oblique in the game and will also miss 3-4 weeks. The Haniger injury was very tough to swallow, as he has been not just one of the best players on the M’s, but one of the best in baseball. He is hitting .338 and was tied for second in the majors in hits at the time with 27.

Wednesday’s game result was about the exact opposite. James Paxton had another dominant outing, tossing 7 shutout innings, allowing just four hits and one walk. Homers from Guillermo Heredia and Nelson Cruz sparked the offense on the day, and the club would put up eight on the board to win by a score of 8-0.

Hisashi Iwakuma took the mound in the rubber match against Justin Verlander. In what would end up being a pitcher’s duel, Iwakuma wasn’t his sharpest, but he kept the M’s in the game. He was pulled after 5.2 innings, but gave up just one unearned run on three hits. Verlander was even better, going seven innings, also allowing one unearned run on five hits, while throwing 119 pitches. The game was deadlocked at 1-1 until Ben Gamel came up with a clutch base hit in the top of the 9th to give the M’s a 2-1. Edwin Diaz then slammed the door in the bottom of the 9th, along with a terrific catch from Taylor Motter up against the first base tarp. The M’s would take the game 2-1 as well as getting their first road series win of the season.

They then made the short trip over to Cleveland to open up a weekend series against the Tribe. Ariel Miranda took the mound on Friday and had a nice bounce back from his last start against the A’s. He went 5.1 innings allowing just one run on a Jose Ramirez solo shot. But the M’s would put up two runs of their own against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco thanks to solo homers from Robinson Cano and Ben Gamel. Two runs was all they would need, as James Pazos and Edwin Diaz each had dominant relief appearances. They combined to pitch the final 3.2 innings for the M’s allowing no runs to secure them a 2-1 win.

Saturday was a game of early runs. The M’s went out to an early 3-0 lead when Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager hit back-to-back homers in the top of the 1st against Danny Salazar. But Yovani Gallardo quickly gave up the lead when the Indians scored four runs on him in the bottom of the first. Both pitchers would find their groove after that, with neither of them allowing another run. Both bullpens would hold their ground as well. In fact, the M’s did not register a hit for the rest of the ballgame. The score would remain 4-3 for the final, with the Indians taking game two to even the series.

Sunday was all Indians in the rubber match. Rookie Chase De Jong made his first career major league start for the M’s, and it didn’t go too smoothly. He gave up six runs on nine hits in just 2.2 innings and was quickly removed by Scott Servais. Casey Fien didn’t stop the bleeding, lasting just 1/3 of an inng, letting up three runs. Dillon Overton would pitch the final five innings of the game, allowing three runs, but only two were earned. The M’s had a little bit of a rally going in the sixth, but the Tribe was already too far out in front. They took the game 12-4 to win the series.

A 3-3 record against two very tough AL Central teams on the road is not the worst thing in the world. But with the M’s needing to get themselves back on track, an extra win could have been very helpful, especially with the substantial injuries that the team suffered this week.

They will come home for an off day Monday before opening up a three game home series against the Angels, as well as a three game home series this weekend against the Texas Rangers. These are two very mediocre teams that the Mariners have a real opportunity to take advantage of to move themselves up in the AL West standings, as well as get themselves above .500.

MVP: My weekly MVP this week has to go to Guillermo Heredia. Heredia hit .391 on the week, collecting nine hits along with a homer. His defense has also been spectacular since the start of the year, proving he can play all three outfield positions. He made a couple of run saving catches throughout the week, keeping the M’s in the game.

Mariners Insight Podcast 4-23

M’s Struggle On the Road, Fail to Hit with RISP

After a scorching hot week two, the M’s came back down to earth a little bit in week three. Despite winning a home series against the Marlins, they lost a four game road series to the Oakland A’s.

Ariel Miranda was dominant in the first game, pitching seven scoreless innings on just four hits, all of them being singles. Robbie and Nelson Cruz shot the team out of the gate quickly with back-to-back jacks in the first, and then added on more later in the ballgame, thanks to doubles from Cano and Jarrod Dyson, as well as a homer from Taylor Motter. The offensive spark gave them a 6-1 win in the opener.

In game two there were not a whole lot of good things to say. Yovani Gallardo had yet another rough start, giving up four earned runs in his 6 innings. The M’s got one hit on the night, and were no hit until there was one out in the 9th when Mitch Haniger (who else) doubled to right center. Wei Yin Chen pitched seven innings of no hit ball before being removed, with the no-no being lost by Marlins reliever Kyle Barraclough. The Marlins would win on Tuesday by a score of 5-0.

The rubber match went back and forth on Wednesday. Felix did not have his best stuff, but he kept his team in the game, giving up four earned in 6.1 innings pitched. Despite the Marlins taking an early 2-0 lead, the M’s would take a 3-2 lead in the 2nd. Giancarlo Stanton hit a mammoth shot to tie it up in the 3rd, but it was all M’s from there on out. The four run 4th inning was highlighted by a Mitch Haniger double an a Kyle Seager 2 RBI single. The M’s would hold the lead and win 10-5 to take the game and the series.

Thursday the Mariners came into the Bay Area looking to get another series win, this time against the Athletics. They were up 3-0 after the second due to RBI singles from Cano and Dyson, as well as an RBI double from Mike Zunino. But James Paxton had his first rocky start of the season. Coming into this start he had thrown 21 scoreless innings to open up his 2017 campaign. But the A’s scored three off of him in the 3rd and two in the 5th, bolting out to a 5-3 lead. Paxton lasted just 4.1 innings. Taylor Motter would tie it up in the sixth with a two-run shot to dead center, but the bullpen couldn’t hold their ground. The three-run bomb from Trevor Plouffe against Dan Altavilla was the big blow, and the M’s would lose 9-6.

Friday the Mariners had another early lead when Mitch Haniger tripled in the first to get his team out to a 1-0 lead. Hisashi Iwakuma was on the mound for the M’s, and was not incredibly efficient. He allowed three earned runs in 5.1 innings on the night. The A’s got the run back in the 5th when Plouffe hit his second homer in as many days. They would then get out to a 3-1 lead in the 6th on a homer from Yonder Alonso and a sac fly from Stephen Vogt. The Mariners had many scoring opportunities throughout the game, but were unable to get anything more going against A’s starter Sean Manaea or the bullpen, dropping game two 3-1.

Saturday was more of the same story. Robinson Cano turned around a pitch from A’s starter Jharel Cotton for a first inning solo shot. But two quick homers from the A’s in the bottom of the 1st against Ariel Miranda would give them a 3-1 lead. Miranda had the shortest outing of any Mariner so far on the year, lasting just three innings. The M’s cut the lead to a one run deficit two different times in the ballgame, but they could not put together enough clutch hitting, and would lose the game 4-3.

But on Sunday they would finally find some offense. In fact they found a lot of it. They put six runs on the board against A’s starter Andrew Triggs, who had not allowed an earned run up until his start on Sunday. The offensive highlights came from a grand slam from Taylor Motter and a three run homer from Nelson Cruz. Yovani Gallardo also had his best start of the early going, allowing just one earned run in 6.1 innings. The M’s would get a game off of the A’s, taking the finale 11-1.

Not the ideal week for the M’s, but for all of the runners that they left in scoring position along with the poor pitching from both their starters and relievers, going 3-4 on the week is about all one can ask for given the circumstances. The M’s were just 5/25 with RISP in the first three game against the A’s. But after an off day Monday, they will look to turn things around this week when they travel to Detroit for a three game sweepstakes with the Tigers, and then go to Cleveland for a weekend series with the Indians. They will also be getting shortstop Jean Segura back on Tuesday for the first time since April 10th when he went on the DL with a strained hamstring.

There were also some major roster moves made this week, with the marquee moves coming on Sunday. On Friday Dan Altavilla was sent to Tacoma due to his early season struggles, and the team recalled Chase De Jong. Then on Sunday Daniel Vogelbach and Chris Heston were called up to the major league club. Chase De Jong was sent back to Tacoma after four innings of no run ball against the A’s on Saturday. But the most surprising move was Leonys Martin getting DFA’d. He was off to a terrible start, hitting just .111, but his defense was stellar and he was a fantastic clubhouse presence. There is still a chance that he clears waivers and gets outrighted to Tacoma.

Weekly MVP: While it could easily go to Mitch Haniger again, the MVP of the week goes to Taylor Motter. Motter had some big shoes to fill while filling in for Segura, who was off to a hot start in 2017 and led the National League in hits last season with 203. But Motter is making a name for himself and proving to manager Scott Servais that he is indeed an everyday player. He has three homers in the last seven games, including the grand slam, all of them coming in clutch situations. He also had six hits on the week, along with not committing an error on defense.

Mariners Insight Podcast April 16

Mariners Have Bounce Back Week, Paxton Shines

To quote Jay Buhner after the walk off home run from Leonys Martin last May: “It’s not how you start it’s how you finish baby”.

While the Mariners started off the week very sluggish, they came out hot over the weekend, sweeping the Texas Rangers to improve to 4-2 on the week and 5-8 on the season. The weekend was a success due to dominant pitching as well as grit and fight from the offense.

Monday afternoon was the home opener for the M’s, starting up another series against the Houston Astros. James Paxton took the hill in the matinee and was dominant yet again. He gave up no runs and just four hits in seven innings of work, with just one hit being allowed to players not named Carlos Correa. The offense was also on display after a tough first week, with Nelson Cruz leading the way with a 3 for 4 day. Kyle Seager, Mitch Haniger, and Robbie Cano all had a double on the day as the M’s would cruise to a 6-0 win on Opening Day at Safeco Field.

Tuesday Ariel Miranda looked to give another win over the Astros, along with their first series win of 2017. He pitched adequately, holding Houston to just two runs through the first five innings. But he was removed with two outs in the sixth after allowing back-to-back walks. James Pazos would then come in the game, and that’s when the turning point of the game occurred. Astros catcher Evan Gattis hit a short fly ball to right field, forcing Mitch Haniger to charge in from deep right field. He just missed a shoe string catch, with the ball bouncing off the heel of his mitt, allowing three runs to score. The Astros would later tack on two more runs to make it 7-3. While the M’s chipped away in the bottom of the 9th, it was not enough to mount a comeback, dropping the game 7-5.

Wednesday was a real tough game to swallow for every Mariner player, coach, executive, and fan. They jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, thanks to early homers from Taylor Motter and Mike Freeman, who was called up to fill the final spot on the 25 man roster while Jean Segura is on the 10 day DL recovering from a hamstring injury. But then things started to go downhill. Mariners starter Yovani Gallardo let up four runs in the fourth and fifth innings, cutting it to a one run game. The bullpen really struggled on Wednesday following Gallardo’s outing. Dan Altavilla and Dillon Overton allowed a combined six runs to the Astros to extend their lead to 10-5. The score would stay that way, with the M’s offense failing to score any further runs throughout the game. They would lose the rubber match, dropping the series two games to one.

The only bright thing to take away from this series other than the win is that the Mariners don’t have to see Astros outfielder George Springer again until the end of June. Springer torched the M’s in their two series with four total homers, including two leadoff 1st inning homers, and a walk off bomb last week.

After an off day Thursday, the struggling 4-5 Texas Rangers came into town for a three game series.

In the opener, it was a Happy Felix Day in the Pacific Northwest, with the King on the hill looking to get his ballclub some momentum. He did just that, tossing 7 1/3 innings of one run ball. Nelson Cruz also cranked his first bomb of the season, drilling one into the seats in centerfield in the bottom of the 4th. Mitch Haniger then missed a three-run homer by about six inches, hitting one off the wall in left field to drive in one run to make it a 2-1 ballgame. Despite Edwin Diaz getting into a little bit of trouble in the 9th, he came on to hold off the Rangers and pick up the save, as the M’s would win by a score of a 2-1.

Saturday night it was the James Paxton show in Seattle. Paxton was dominant yet again on Saturday, keeping the Rangers off balance all night long. He had a no hitter going into the sixth before Joey Gallo broke it up with a double to right field. Paxton finished the night after eight innings, allowing just two hits and one walk. Taylor Motter lead the way on offense with a three-run blast in the sixth for his second of the season. The Mariners would win by a score of 5-0 to take the series.

Sunday the M’s showed some real fight for their first come-from-behind win of the season. Hisashi Iwakuma did not have his best stuff that day, being pulled after just three short innings, allowing six runs, five of them coming off the bat of Shin Soo Choo. But the 6-1 lead was cut to  6-4 in the 4th thanks to a three-run jack from Mitch Haniger. A Danny Valencia double and a Guillermo Heredia solo shot would knot things up at 6-6 in the 7th, but a solo homer from Nomar Mazara in the top of the 9th against Edwin Diaz gave the Rangers a 7-6 lead. But the Mariners fought back. They loaded the bases on infield hits from Jarrod Dyson and Leonys Martin along with a walk to Mike Freeman. Another walk to Haniger would tie the game, and Nelson Cruz delivered an infield single to walk it off and give the M’s an 8-7 and series sweep.

After a very tough first week of play, the M’s are really starting to turn things around. They look to continue their success into this upcoming week when the Marlins come in to town for a three game sweepstakes before they go on a long road trip, starting with a four game series in Oakland.

MVP: While most people would give the award to James Paxton this week, who threw 15 scoreless innings on the week and earned AL Player of the Week honors, my weekly MVP would have to go Mitch Haniger. Haniger had a hit in every game this week, currently holding a 10 game hitting streak, along with hitting .391 on the week with two homers. He also made a game saving catch in the 8th inning on Sunday, robbing Joey Gallo of a home run.

Lack of Offense Hurts M’s in First Week Back

Monday the Mariners kicked off what should be a very memorable season down at Minute Maid Park against the Houston Astros. But after the first week of play, the last thing anybody associated with the Mariners wants to do with this week is remember. The team got out of the gate very slow, going 1-6 on the week with a couple of heartbreaking losses. Despite strong efforts from their starting pitching in each of their starts, the lack of production on offense really hurt the club in week one, hitting just 5 for 49 with runners in scoring position.

Game one consisted of a matchup between former Cy Young winners in Felix Hernandez (2010) and Dallas Keuchel (2015). In the game, Keuchel got the better end of the stick, holding the M’s to just two hits and no runs in his seven innings pitched. Felix was not as sharp, surrendering a homer to George Springer on the first at bat of the game. He would leave the game after just five innings with a minor groin injury while covering first base, allowing two earned on five hits. The Astros tacked on an extra two runs, one in the fourth and one in the sixth to give the M’s their first loss, winning by a score of 3-0. The Mariners were held to just three total hits.

Tuesday was more of the same story for the M’s. While they did string together seven hits, they failed to execute and come up with any clutch hits. Jarrod Dyson gave them a little hope with a ninth inning double, but they could not bring him around and lost 2-1. It was another pitchers duel with Lance McCullers dominating for the Astros, throwing six innings allowing one earned run. Hisashi Iwakuma was effective for the M’s, throwing six innings and giving up two runs, but two costly dingers to Brian McCann and Marwin Gonzalez would be the difference in the game.

Wednesday James Paxton was dominant for the Mariners, tossing six innings of scoreless ball, having the Astros off balance all game with his 98 mph fastball and nasty offspeed. But the Astros would score two runs in the 7th against Evan Scribner to knot things up. The game continued into extras, and despite the M’s taking a 13th inning lead and being one strike away from victory two different times, Mariner killer George Springer was at it again, putting a 3-2 pitch from Chase De Jong just into the Crawford Box in left field for a walk-off homer to give the Mariners a 5-3 loss.

Thursday night the Mariners would finally put together some timely hitting, along with another solid outing from their pitching staff. Despite another leadoff homer from George Srpinger, Ariel Miranda threw five innings, allowing just two earned on five hits. With the game deadlocked at 2 going into the 9th, Jarrod Dyson and Jean Segura put their foot on the clutch pedal. Each of them would produce an RBI single to give their team a 4-2, and closer Edwin Diaz slammed the door in the 9th to give the M’s their first win of the season.

The club would then travel to Anaheim to start a three game sweepstakes with the Angels, looking to get back on track. But it turned out to be another rough series for the team out of the Pacific Northwest. The lack of offense yet again on Friday, as well as Yovani Gallardo not having his best stuff in his first outing of the year, surrendering three earned on eight hits. Angels starter Jesse Chavez held the M’s to just four hits during his outing, and the Mariners could not put together any clutch hitting on the night, going just 1 for 7. They would lose by a score of 5-1.

Saturday looked more promising to start out after Mitch Haniger blasted a 2 two-run jack in the first inning. But the Halos would fight back to take a 3-2 lead in the 5th after Yunel Escobar blasted a solo shot over the center field wall off of King Felix in his second start of the year. Despite a clutch two-out single from Mike Zunino in the 6th to tie the game at 3, the best player in baseball came up clutch for his team. Mike Trout destroyed a pitch from Evan Scribner in the 7th for a two run homer to give the Angels a 5-3 lead. The M’s would cut it within one, but could not mount the comeback, losing 5-4.

Sunday everything looked like everything was going in favor of the M’s… until the 9th inning. The Mariners were up 9-3 going into the top of the 9th thanks to a 5 RBI day from Robinson Cano. But Casey Fien was unable to record an out, and was pulled after allowing two runs and loading the bases. Edwin Diaz then had to come in not mentally ready to pitch and struggled mightily. Yunel Escobar singled to make it a two-run game, Pujols singled to tie it after homering earlier in the inning, and pinch hitter Cliff Pennington drove a double off the wall to win it. The Mariners are just the second team in 7 years to blow a lead of six runs or more entering the 9th inning.

It was a frustrating week indeed. Not how any team looks to start a season, especially one with high aspirations for 2017, while also looking to break a 16 year playoff drought. But the first seven games make up less than 5% of the season, so there is still plenty of time to turn things around. The M’s will come home to take on the Astros again for their series opener, and will then welcome the struggling Texas Rangers to town for a three game weekend series.

 

Weekly MVP: Despite all of the poor hitting in the first week, the easy MVP for the week would have to go to Jean Segura, also known as Jean Jean the hitting machine. Segura picked is currently leading the team in average after hitting .333 through the first week, collecting a team high 10 hits along with one homer. The M’s will look to him to be a force at the top of the lineup all season long.

Mariners Insight Podcast April 9

Offseason and Spring Breakdown: M’s Ready to Kick Off 2017

Monday is the day Mariners fans. Felix will be taking the mound on Monday night at Minute Maid Park to open up what should be a very memorable 2017 baseball season for the Pacific Northwest.

But before that, we will break down the offseason transactions and spring training for the 2017 season.

General manager Jerry Dipoto was at it again in the offseason, making a move every time fans turned their head around. It started off on Thanksgiving eve when perhaps the most impactful trade of the Mariners offseason was put into action. Dipoto sent right-hander Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for 2B/SS Jean Segura, and former 1st-round draft pick and outfielder Mitch Haniger.  Segura hit .319 with 20 homers and stole 32 bags last year, and collected 203 hits in 2016, which led the National League, and was 3rd in all of baseball. Haniger put together a phenomenal 2016 year in Triple-A where he hit .321 with 25 home runs. The two of them look to fill up the number one and two spots in the M’s batting order, and both of them are plus defenders, which will fit into Dipoto’s regime of getting more athletic and improving defensively.

Later in December, Jerry signed left handed reliever Mark “Scrabble” Rzepczynski to fill out the club’s need for a reliable lefty in the bullpen, after getting a lack of production from Vidal Nuno, and trading Mike Montgomery to the Cubs for first baseman Daniel Vogelbach. Rzepczynski posted a 2.64 ERA in 47.2 innings pitched last season. He then traded for corner infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia, with the idea of him splitting a platoon role with Vogelbach. Valencia had a productive 2016, hitting .287 with 17 homers with the Oakland A’s.

Then in January, Dipoto made a few more calls, and made some more improvements to his team. He acquired veteran starter Yovani Gallardo in exchange for outfielder Seth Smith. Gallardo had a down year last year in Baltimore, having a prolonged injury for the first time in his career, as well as posting a career high ERA of 5.42. But he went 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA with the Texas Rangers in a very hitter-friendly ballpark in Globe Life, located in Arlington. That same day, he shipped Nathan Karns to the Royals in exchange for speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson. The M’s cut ties with Karns after one season, in which he spent time on the DL and put up a 5.15 ERA. Dyson hit .278 for the Royals last year along with 30 stolen bases.  Dyson was not an everyday player for the Royals, but manager Scott Servais does expect him to be the everyday left fielder, and give them some much needed speed in the lineup along with Segura and Leonys Martin.

A week later, the final marquee move of the offseason was made when Drew Smyly was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays. This gave the M’s the much needed middle-of-the-rotation starter that they desperately searched for all winter. Jerry Dipoto said he spent more time in the offseason trying to acquire Smyly than any other player. Smyly had a very down 2016 year, going 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA, but pitching in five AL East ballparks didn’t help his cause either, with all of them being hitters park, and him being a fly ball pitcher. His fly ball rate was the 2nd highest in all of baseball, a statistic that should be very friendly to him while pitching in SafeCo Field in 2017.

There were some other small moves made, including acquiring utility man Taylor Motter and veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz, along with some young pitching depth in Max Povse, Rob Whalen, and Dillon Overton.

Spring Training was a successful one for the M’s. They finished second in the Cactus League (for what it’s worth) and got to see several different players in lots of different roles. Mitch Haniger was the evident standout of the spring, with pro scouts from several teams raving about how fantastic he looked. He hit .385 along with 11 doubles, which led all of Major League Baseball for the spring. Mike Zunino looked very impressive as well, hitting .333. The M’s really need Zunino to have a coming-out type of season, after failing to hit above .215 in each of his first 4 pro seasons. Felix Hernandez gained some positive weight in the winter, looking to revamp himself after an injury-riddled 2016.

The only downside to the spring was the late-spring announcement that Drew Smyly will miss the first 6-8 weeks of the season with a strained flexor in his elbow. Ariel Miranda will fill his duties for the time being, after going 5-2 with a 3.54 ERA after coming over in July of 2016 from the Orioles. Right handed relievers Tony Zych and Steve Cishek will also start the year on the disabled list, but both are very close to returning to full form.

The only position battles of the spring were for the utility role and fourth outfield spot. Guillermo Heredia beat out Ben Gamel for the last outfield spot after hitting .365 on the spring, along with having a cannon for an arm and having some nice range in the outfield. He also plays with some intensity and fire in his game. Taylor Motter won the utility job after Shawn O Malley went on the DL with appendicitis and Daniel Vogelbach was sent down to Triple-A after underperforming in Spring Training. He will primarily serve as the backup first baseman, while also playing the utility role.

Here is your projected starters to start the 2017 season:

Jean Segura – SS

Mitch Haniger – RF

Robinson Cano – 2B

Nelson Cruz – DH

Kyle Seager – 3B

Danny Valencia – 1B

Leonys Martin – CF

Mike Zunino – C

Jarrod Dyson – LF

Pitching Staff:

Felix Hernandez

Hisashi Iwakuma

James Paxton

Ariel Miranda

Yovani Gallardo

Bullpen:

Edwin Diaz – Closer

Dan Altavilla – Setup

Other right handers: Nick Vincent, Evan Scribner, Casey Fien

Other left handers: Mark Rzepczynski, James Pazos, Dillon Overton

Preseason win projection: 92-70, grab wild card berth

Here’s to a great year everyone. Go M’s!

Mariners Second Half Recap

A roller coaster ride: That would be the easiest way to describe the second half of the 2016 season for the Mariners and its fan base. The Pacific Northwest was once again electric in the month of September, and it was not just because of the start of another Seahawks football season. Many thought that the Mariners would finally break their 15-year playoff drought, but once again, it just wasn’t to be. The team did finish the year 86-76, which was a ten-win improvement from 2015. But they just couldn’t win enough big games down the stretch.

The club was sitting on a .500 record at the All Star Break, and remained in the hunt for the wild card. However, it was clear that some changes needed to be made. After seeing enough blown saves from closer Steve Cishek, manager Scott Servais converted 22-year-old flamethrower Edwin Diaz to the closer role. Diaz did not disappoint. He finished the year 18/21 in save opportunities with a 2.79 ERA. But the bullpen in general needed improvement.

General manager Jerry Dipoto shipped setup man Joaquin Benoit out of town and acquired former superstar closer Drew Storen from Toronto. He also promoted Double A starter Dan Altavilla to the big league club in mid-August to fill a role in the bullpen. Altavilla was lights out during the final six weeks of the regular season, posting an 0.73 ERA and a WHIP of 0.973 in 12 innings of relief. Cishek spent a little time on the disabled list, and became the team’s new setup man when he returned. He performed admirably in that role, and looked as if he was back into full form. Along with Cishek, right handed reliever Evan Scribner was a very pleasant surprise. He came back in September after spending the entirety of the season on the disabled list. Scribner did not allow a run in any of his outings, and pitched the M’s out of a lot of big jams. The right-handed heavy bullpen turned out to be a great success for the Mariners, who really rode them during the second half of the year.

The club made changes with some position players as well. Double A outfielder Guillermo Heredia was promoted in early August to get some speed and defense into the M’s lineup. Dipoto then made a trade for Yankees Triple A outfielder Ben Gamel to play the same respective role. The team got tired of Nori Aoki’s lack of production in the lineup, so they sent him down to Tacoma for a couple weeks to get him into shape. The moved seemed to pay off, as Aoki came back better than ever. He hit over .330 for the month of September, and finished with a batting average of .283.

The Mariners decided to give Mike Zunino another chance at the big league level after three and a half solid months in Triple A. He performed very well during his first three weeks, but was again haunted by his old struggles after that, as he was constantly chasing curveballs and sliders well off the plate, and missing hittable fastballs. He finished with an average of .207. However, catcher Jesus Sucre was a very nice surprise during the month of September, as the longtime offensively challenged catcher hit a whopping .480 for the month.

On the whole, the team had a much-improved second half, getting within a game of the second wild card in the middle of August. Then they started to fade away toward the end of August and beginning of September. They got swept in Texas and were six games back of the wild card on September 6th. But right when everything looked bleak, the team started to turn things around again, and at one point ran off eight straight wins. With two weeks to go in the season, they were right in the thick of the race, despite losing two tough games to the Blue Jays in a critical series.

With four games left to go in the season, the M’s were 2 games behind the Blue Jays for the last wild card spot. They needed to sweep the A’s and get some help from the Red Sox to beat the Blue Jays. The M’s won the first two games of their series, and the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays in one of the first two games, which put the Mariners one game out with two games left. On that Saturday the Blue Jays beat the Red Sox in the middle of the Mariners game, so the team knew that the current game they were playing was win-or-go-home. The Mariners had two miraculous late-inning rallies, including a game tying home run by Nelson Cruz in the seventh, and a Ben Gamel game tying single in the eighth. However, the M’s lost 9-8 in 10 innings. Closer Edwin Diaz was brought in for 2 1/3 innings, and let up a run in the top of the 10th on a double to A’s second baseman Joey Wendle. The team’s playoff hopes came to an end.

This season felt very similar to 2014, when the club was in the playoff hunt until the very end of the season. The team has many reasons to be optimistic about 2017. The core of the offense in Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager, who all put up career numbers in 2016, will be back next season. The bullpen will get everyone back next season, with the exception of pending free-agent Drew Storen. The pitching staff will have six guys competing for five spots, in Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Ariel Miranda, and Nate Karns. Centerfielder Leonys Martin, who was a speed demon on the base paths, and had a gold glove type of year in centerfield, will also return. Nori Aoki and Seth Smith have club options for next season, and it will be interesting to see if the Mariners will pick up the options on them, due to them also having strong seasons.

Along with all of the positives, some changes still need to be made. The two gaping holes for the team are evidently at catcher and first base. The first base platoon between Adam Lind and Dae Ho Lee did not work out as well as everyone had hoped. Lee’s numbers dipped during the second half of the year, and Lind did not hit right-handed pitching in the way that was expected of him. Since the two are free agents, it is likely they will bring in another first baseman, as well as letting prospect Daniel Vogelbach compete for the job. Catcher will be tricky. It is likely that the Mariners will give Zunino another chance, but another catcher is clearly needed. The free agent catcher market has some intriguing options in Matt Wieters, Wilson Ramos, and Nick Hundley, but Dipoto seems more inclined to the trade route when it comes to acquiring players. Shortstop may be another place where the team looks to improve via trade or free agency. Ketel Marte is still only 23 years old, and clearly needs a little bit more time in the minors to better his defense and consistency at the plate.

The team may still consider adding another starting pitcher, as Felix and Iwakuma are starting to age, and they did not put up the numbers that the club needed from them in 2016. And Taijuan Walker has not yet lived up to the hype on him. But he is still only 25 years old, and will have surgery this offseason to repair his injured ankle.

Overall the season was a positive one, as the club finished five games over .500, and had a ten-win improvement from last season. Now fans will sit back, watch the offseason moves that the team makes, and hope for a very successful 2017 season.

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