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The Eye-Opener: The Mariners’ pen is mightier

Edwin Diaz struck out seven of 11 batters faced in three saves in Chicago. (AP)

The Mariners’ bullpen wasn’t exactly perfect this weekend in Chicago.

The relievers even allowed a run in the third and final game of Seattle’s sweep of the White Sox.

The bullpen was, however, better than anyone had a right to expect, a total of six different pitchers allowing a combined total of four hits in 14 innings of relief for Seattle’s starters. So while a Mariners starting pitcher was credited with the victory in two of Seattle’s three games, let’s make no mistake: Seattle’s bullpen won that series in Chicago, which the Mariners absolutely had to have.

It wasn’t necessarily pretty with a Mariners starting pitcher going into the sixth inning in only one of the three games.

It certainly wasn’t overwhelming with the Mariners winning the three games by a combined total of four runs and almost all of Seattle’s scoring coming via home runs.

But it was a vote of confidence for a bullpen that wobbled at the back end in two different stretches of the first half of the season, but began the second half of the schedule with a pretty strong message.

It wasn’t just Edi Diaz, who saved all three games – two of them without so much as a whiff of uncertainty – and striking out seven of the 11 batters he faced.

It wasn’t just Nick Vincent, who also pitched in all three games and didn’t allow so much as a base runner in those appearances and was credited with the win on Sunday after Nelson Cruz homered in the 10th.

It was the entire group of relievers who picked up the slack over a series in which Seattle’s starting pitcher became less effective with each passing game from James Paxton (two runs in six innings) to Felix Hernandez (three runs over five though two of those runs were of the unearned variety) to Andrew Moore, who gave up three home runs in the three innings he pitched in his first big-league road start, putting Seattle in a 5-0 hole.

What if the bullpen was a strength like this for the rest of the season? It’s a question worth asking as the trade market heats up.

The White Sox’s cross-town trade of Jose Quintana to the Cubs showed the price for starting pitchers, and it’s significant. The Cubs gave up their two best prospects as part of the four-player package to acquire Quintana.

But what about the back end of the bullpen? Jon Morosi of the MLB Network pointed out that closers are the one area in the pitching market where the supply may outweigh the demand, which could make for some interesting possibilities for Seattle.

Expecting Seattle’s bullpen to replicate its weekend in Chicago is unrealistic. Their bullpen isn’t that good. No one’s is. But if the bullpen got better, that would be a boost and it wouldn’t cost as much as adding a starter.

Least surprising news ever: Lonzo Ball’s shoe choice remains a subject of intrigue. It’s almost like it’s a deliberate marketing ploy or something.

After reading stories about Lonzo Ball wearing Nike shoes and then Under Armour last week, I want to raise my hand and state that I am utterly and completely uninterested in what the eldest of Ball’s ballers wears on his feet.

I can see why a shoe company that pays Ball would be interested in what he wears. I can see how the company whose shoe he does wear would be interested in having his choice publicized. But I can not for the life of me, however, figure out why any grown adult is so captivated by what brand of overpriced athletic shoe a glorified teenager is wearing.

I do not want my basketball news to read like red-carpet coverage in which I’m informed that Ball wearing the Nike “Sweat Shop 15” or the Under Armour orthopedic male nursing shoe.

The kicker: The ‘C’ was not for cookie. At least not in the case of one unwitting Cookie Monster doll and erstwhile mule who was stuffed with a significant amount of contraband. This happened in Florida (of course it did), and as allegations threatened to besmirch the beloved Sesame Street character, @DJFish_12 in Seattle pointed out that this was perhaps a case of mistaken identity: