Moore: Mariners have gone from no hope to all things possible in 3 weeks
At some point, the Mariners won’t be this hot – 9-2 hot, punishing-almost-every-baseball hot. But at this point, do you really see them falling off the face of the Earth like they did last year?
Neither do I. Or maybe you do. Why is that? What have you seen that makes you think they’ll suddenly go from averaging nearly eight runs a game to being weak sticks and as bad as we thought they were going to be?
The bullpen? OK, it’s not great, but I don’t think it’s that bad either. Plus, some help is on the way – Shawn Armstrong (strained oblique) is expected to be ready to go this weekend, and Gerson Bautista (strained pec) could be back by the end of April.
And you’re right, the Mariners could be 11-0 were it not for the relievers losing a two-run lead Friday in Chicago and Hunter Strickland blowing a save with a three-run lead against the Red Sox a week before.
Veteran reliever Cory Gearrin’s the guy I’m having a hard time pulling for. If they wanted to designate him for assignment right now, I wouldn’t miss him. I’m guessing he’s just going through a really rough stretch because if he were truly this bad, he wouldn’t have lasted as long as he has in the major leagues. I’ll just say this, if you’re going to nibble and walk batters, do it faster than you’re doing it, Cory! I heard Mariners play-by-play announcer Dave Sims call him deliberate the other day, which is the nice word for slow. And Gearrin just slowly kills the Mariners every time I’ve seen him pitch.
But honestly, that’s the only negative on the team so far. What has there been to complain about? I thought Jean Segura was the hitting machine, but he was a solo act. This team has nine hitting machines every single game. That’s the thing, even when some of the hotter players cool off, others will pick up the slack. For instance, they scored 12 runs Sunday with Mitch Haniger going 0 for 5, ending a nine-game hitting streak.
It’s easy to focus on the power because we’ve seen so much of it, 27 homers in 11 games, giving them a great start toward a chance at beating the club’s all-time record of 264 in 1997. But they can also manufacture runs. Lost in all of the crooked numbers Sunday was their first run in the first inning that was produced by a single, a catcher’s interference, three steals and a groundout. And in a six-run third inning, six of Seattle’s hits were singles, with Daniel Vogelbach’s three-run double the only one going for extra bases.
I love the 9-1 combination of Dee Gordon and Mallex Smith in the order, setting the table for Haniger, Domingo Santana and either Edwin Encarnación, Jay Bruce or Vogelbach.
Good luck trying to figure out that DH-1B dilemma for Scott Servais when he fills out his lineup card every game. Like Monday night against Kansas City, I guess he could put Encarnación on the bench since the Mariners are facing a right-hander in Homer Bailey. But you could question that decision and have a good argument – Encarnación went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs in the Mariners’ 12-5 win over the White Sox on Sunday.
Could you really not have Vogelbach in the lineup after the two-homer, six-RBI day that he had on Sunday? It’s certainly possible. Servais didn’t have Jay Bruce in the lineup Sunday after Bruce hit two homers in a 9-2 win Saturday.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 7, 2019
If you were to play all three, Bruce would have to take an outfield spot away from Haniger or Santana, and that’s not going to happen on a regular basis. Santana’s been fantastic and clutch, too, with 10 of his 15 RBIs coming with two outs.
The depth of this lineup is startling. Vogelbach hit seventh on Sunday. Ryon Healy, who is one of four Mariners with 10 or more RBIs, hit eighth. And Gordon might be the best No. 9 hitter in the league. I also like that he appears to be OK with hitting last in the lineup after being the leadoff man last year. He could have had a poor attitude about that, but it’s not apparent. Gordon could have a big year playing at his more customary second-base position after roaming center field last year. A foot injury troubled him for a major portion of his 2019 season too.
Even the starting pitching has been better than I thought it would be. If I had to rate them 1 through 5 on who I think will have the best season, I’d rate ’em like this: 1) Yusei Kikuchi; 2) Marco Gonzales; 3) Wade LeBlanc; 4) Mike Leake; 5) Félix Hernández.
I understand Kikuchi’s a shaky top pick and that Gonzales might be your No. 1, but let’s see how that plays out. LeBlanc and Leake have always struck me as being so-so starters, but they’ve proven me wrong in their first two starts so far. And Félix? If he gives you fifth-starter stats all year, I think most of us would be fine with that, and he gave us second-starter stats in his first appearance against the Angels. I’m concerned about Monday night’s start, though. After a brilliant first start against the Indians last year, Félix gave up eight earned runs in his second start against the Giants. I fear a similar outing against the Royals.
Nonetheless, if you’re finding issues with the Mariners at this point, they amount to quibbles and nitpicks. It’s more fun to look at the positives and what they could mean down the road. Just as Servais has problems filling out his lineup card with Encarnación, Bruce and Vogelbach having justifiable reasons why they should be on the field every day, GM Jerry Dipoto could be facing tough decisions down the road if the Mariners keep mashing opposing pitchers.
You have to hope they’re as good in July as they’ve been in March and April, forcing Dipoto to think twice about dealing Bruce, Encarnación and Leake for prospects who are supposed to help in a World Series push in the 2020s. If the Mariners are on top of the AL West then, I’d contend that Dipoto should stand pat and make that World Series push now, as crazy as that sounds.
By then, the Mariners will get the equivalent of a trade-deadline boost anyway with Kyle Seager returning and the possibility of Justus Sheffield joining the rotation. With Seager, I’m hoping that Healy will still be playing so well that it will be tough for Seager to get his old job back. I know it’s not likely because Seager will be a defensive upgrade, but still, if Healy’s bat is still smokin’, what are you gonna do, put him back at first base and increase the log jam you already have at that spot?
Good problems to have, I guess. It’s amazing how the Mariners have gone from what we thought would be no hope whatsoever in 2019 to all things possible in three weeks.
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