Table Setter: Mariners’ Jean Segura should win Final Vote to All-Star Game, but that doesn’t mean he will
The Mariners have three players heading to the Midsummer Classic but narrowly avoided getting swept by the Rockies in their final home series before the All-Star break.
Now it’s on to Anaheim and Colorado for seven games as the M’s look to finish a great first half of the 2018 season strong.
Here are three things to keep in mind this week about the Mariners.
As I suspected about a month ago, the Mariners’ best player was snubbed in the initial announcement for the All-Star Game. The American League’s shortstop class is loaded, apparently so much so that Jean Segura’s .330 average, 47 RBIs and status as a team leader in Robinson Canó’s absence wasn’t enough to make the first cut to go to Washington, D.C.
But it’s not over yet.
Segura is one of five players on the American League’s Final Vote ballot, and there is no limit to voting. The window is short, though, with the ballot closing at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Segura should win this vote. It is by no means a sure thing, however. Not with players from big markets like New York, Boston and Los Angeles in the mix. But Segura is the only player on the ballot who really has no reason he shouldn’t be an All-Star this year.
The Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton has 21 home runs, but he’s already struck out 120 times and appears on his way to his first 200-strikeout season. Andrew Benintendi of the Red Sox has solid numbers, but they’re just that – nothing really jumps out. Eddie Rosario of the Twins has a .300 average and 18 homers, but he’s playing on a team eight games under .500. Andrelton Simmons of the Angels has the most legitimate argument against fellow shortstop Segura, as he has a .307 average and .805 OPS to go with his usual Gold Glove-caliber defense, but he missed some time on the disabled list and the Angels are fading fast in the playoff race.
Here’s the real test: If you take any one of those players out of action for a couple weeks, how much does it impact their team’s postseason hopes? The Yankees and Red Sox could survive without Stanton and Benintendi. Losing Rosario would really hurt the Twins, but they aren’t going anywhere without a miracle run in the second half anyways. The Angels are Mike Trout’s team, not Andrelton Simmons’.
But the Mariners without Segura? Let’s not even think about it.
(Completely unrelated, but the Mariners have struck up a partnership with the Giants to get Mariners fans to vote for San Francisco’s Brandon Belt in the NL Final Vote and Giants fans to vote for Segura. That allows me to bring up this incredible pro wrestling-style hype video the Giants’ Derek Holland and Hunter Pence made to stump for Belt, which is the best baseball-related comedy you will see this week.)
A revived back-end of the bullpen?
The Mariners’ starting pitching had a rough weekend against Colorado, something Danny O’Neil covered quite well in his column Monday. But the silver lining was that when Wade LeBlanc was done after six innings on Sunday, the bullpen was more than ready to take the ball.
James Pazos, Alex Colomé and Edwin Díaz combined for three perfect innings to lock up the 6-4 win over the Rockies, with Colomé and Díaz striking out all six batters they faced.
Pazos is quietly having a stellar season, owning a 1.72 ERA and 0.96 WHIP to go with 27 strikeouts and 15 holds over 31 1/3 innings, so it was nice to see him get a high-leverage opportunity over Juan Nicasio (6.09 ERA) and Nick Vincent (4.10). The Mariners rode Nicasio and Vincent pretty hard earlier this season, and both are coming off recent DL stints; maybe moving them down and Pazos up in set-up depth chart will help them get back to where they need to be.
Díaz, of course, is now a first-time All-Star and possibly on his way to challenging the MLB saves record. He’s looked as nasty as ever recently, even if his league-leading 47 appearances is a bit concerning.
Colomé, however, is the X-factor. He’s been up and down since coming to the Mariners in the late-May trade with Tampa Bay, just like he was before the deal. He has a 4.34 ERA, but he’s also got 13 holds and isn’t even a season removed from saving 47 games for the Rays in 2017. His inning against Colorado on Sunday was the best he’s looked since coming to Seattle, and he hasn’t given up a run in four straight appearances.
Playoff teams need lockdown set-up men just as much as they need a dominant closer, and if Colomé can keep on the path he’s been on as of late, the Mariners will have more than a fighting chance if they make it into the American League Wild Card game.
Oh no – it’s the A’s.
Great news: The Angels don’t appear to be much of a threat anymore to the Mariners for the AL’s second wild card.
Bad news: It’s one of those years down in Oakland.
The Athletics, the team you never see coming, are red hot and making a push to make the wild card race interesting. They’ve won 11 of 13 and 17 of 21, including a 2-0 decision over the AL West-leading Astros on Monday, and now sit just six games back of the Mariners.
I’ll never pretend to understand how the A’s find a way to win with the teams they field, and this year is no different. Their best offensive player is Jed Lowrie. With the amount of platoons they use, manager Bob Melvin pretty much never has the luxury of using the same lineup twice. They sometimes still use Khris Davis in left field even though he throws like Scotty Smalls in the beginning of “The Sandlot.”
Then again, they usually figure out a way to put together a strong bullpen in these surprise years, and that is certainly the case in 2018. Blake Treinen has grown into an All-Star closer thanks to a ridiculous sinker he can hit 100 mph with. They also have a rookie named Lou Trivino who has a 1.34 ERA and 10 saves because of course they do – they’re the A’s and they always have some no-name bullpen guy ready to have a breakout season.
Point being, just as it looked like the Mariners were going to run away the wild card race, a young upstart appeared in the rear-view mirror. Game on.