BY Art Thiel 07:53PM 05/10/2017

Thiel: Mariners are .500, whoever they are

Pitchers are dropping like confetti, but the Mariners have scored 53 runs in the past seven games (six wins) to reach .500 for the first time this season. All they need to do is keep averaging seven runs a game.

Ariel Miranda is happy to learn he is, momentarily, nearly the ace of the Mariners staff. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

The Mariners finally figured it out: Keep doing the outlandish and the ridiculous to the point that most of the Class AAA roster is in place, then run down the Astros for first place in the American League West before anyone understands how it happened.

Hey, Donald Trump proved the model.

Improvising on a moment-to-moment basis, the Mariners (17-17) unaccountably have won six of their past seven games to reach .500 for the first time this season.

As a couple of shaky starting pitchers, Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo, wobbled and weaved, the offense offered 21 runs of cover in two triumphs in Philadelphia. More remarkably, they did it without Nelson Cruz, the formidable designated hitter who was ineligible to play in a park of the National League, where the savages allow pitchers to hit.

With four-fifths of the projected starting rotation in training-room repose, the Mariners don’t really know who will start until the remaining apprentices finish a pre-game ritual of paper-scissors-rock. Yet the club took consecutive series from the Angels, Rangers and Phillies mostly by scoring 53 runs over the past seven games.

“That’s kind of the formula for us right now,” Scott Servais said after an 11-6 win Wednesday (box). “Have our starter keep us in the game, go to the bullpen, and maybe shorten the game a little bit. Keep it tight enough where our offense can figure it out. It’s worked out well.”

Not that there was a choice of strategies.

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma was a latest to go down, with shoulder inflammation likely to keep him out a couple of weeks. That follows the departures Felix Hernandez (shoulder), Drew Smyly (elbow) and James Paxton (forearm), leaving Gallardo like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti Western — one against the many, armed mainly with a squint.

The Mariners mound world lately is populated by people named Chase De Jong, Dillon Overton and Christian Bergman. They are not to be confused with Wade LeBlanc, Donn Roach or Arquimedes Caminero, some of the warriors of the instant who flitted through Seattle a year ago on the way to helping set a franchise record — most pitchers used, season (32).

The 2017 Mariners apparently will not let that stand.

They are up to 21 pitchers as of Wednesday, with another AAA callup, Sam Gaviglio, replacing Iwakuma. The season hasn’t reached Memorial Day. And they don’t have a pitcher declared for Saturday, the third game of four in Toronto.

In 2016, the Mariners used five starters all the way through May (Hernandez, Iwakuma, Nathan Karns, Wade Miley and Taijuan Walker) and were the last AL team to need a sixth. But by the end of the season, they went through 13 starters, including the original five.

Including position players, the Mariners in 2016 used 54, another club record by three. The disabled list set another record with 19 players, and that didn’t count CF Leonys Martin (14 games) and SS Ketel Marte (30), who were not listed.

Theories abound about whether the Mariners are improperly conditioned, misused, misjudged or cursed. While the temptation is strong to blame the return of the upside-down trident, a logo that in Greek lore brings bad luck when it isn’t pointed up, I vote for coincidence — with an asterisk.

General manager Jerry Dipoto is big on buying low in free agency, seeking players who had an off-year relative to their histories, and anticipating bounce-backs. Every club offers a version of this, but no one has churned an MLB roster the past two seasons as the Mariners. Hell, Dipoto has acquired several players who never put on a uniform before being dealt away.

But since every player’s off-years and injuries are a little different, there’s a lot of educated guesswork involved in forecasting rebounds. Certainly Dipoto has done well on the offensive side — the Mariners are second in the AL in runs scored and fourth in OPS, and newcomer SS Jean Segura’s .365 average leads the league — but The Force is not strong in him regarding pitching.

After Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Rangers, manager Scott Servais summarized the problem succinctly: “There will be times when you don’t know quite what you’re going to get.”

That’s the problem for the near-term — Servais and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. share Forrest Gump’s travail regarding a box of chocolates.

During a phone interview on ESPN 710 Wednesday, Dipoto tried to sound positive about a pitching staff that is slings, limps and bandages.

Speaking of Hernandez and Paxton, he said, “We are somewhat optimistic that we’ll get those guys back toward the tail end of the next homestand, or as we head back out on the road as we start the (next) trip.”

As long as the Mariners keep averaging seven runs a game — the record is 9.2 by the 1894 National League Boston Beaneaters (it’s a good day when I can write, “Beaneaters”) — the fellas can take their time.

Surely, Overton/De Jong/Bergman/Miranda have this. Whoever they may be.

 


YourThoughts

  • Jamo57

    Maybe the Ms can pull of a trade for a pitcher with the Bridegrooms. (Just trying to share that “good day” feeling of yours, Art).

    • art thiel

      I was delirious. Won’t happen again.

      • Jamo57

        No worries. Imagine the sensory overload if one of us had made a reference to the Superbas……..oh darn……..

  • Husky73

    Paul Newman to Robert Redford—“Who are those guys?”

    • art thiel

      Paul and Bobby didn’t come out well in that one. Can’t freeze-frame sepia-tone baseball.

      • Husky73

        Things were going so well until they went to Toronto. Oh wait…their road record…in the words of Edgar Martinez, “That’s a problem.”

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  • Husky73

    For the first time in a while the M’s have some pitching depth at Tacoma, rather than aged and broken down spare parts triaged back and forth past Federal Way, Another point–Dipoto, and to a degree JZ, got some quantity in both trades and the draft.The odds are better that you are going to get SOMETHING out of three or four guys than one or two. That “something” has come in handy thus far this year.

    • art thiel

      You’re on the record now, pal. See me around the Fourth of July.

      • Husky73

        I’m OK with that. I was the Mariner Pessimist since Juan Baez scratched the infield in 1977. Now in my old age, I have turned into the Mariner Optimist. I like the new owner, I like Dipoto and Servais. I think the M’s are in for a good run, starting last year.

  • Paul Harmening

    “The Mariners finally figured it out: Keep doing the outlandish and
    the ridiculous to the point that most of the Class AAA roster is in
    place, then run down the Astros for first place in the American League
    West before anyone understands how it happened.

    Hey, Donald Trump proved the model.”

    You know what? Art has nailed it. Time to mortgage the farm and head to a Vegas sports book.

    • art thiel

      In 2020, put the cash on Dwayne Johnson, The Rock. Dems need to play the goofball TV star game.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Got Smoaked today. Logan Morrison leads all M’s in homers? With Tampa? They need Smyley and Felix back pronto.

    • art thiel

      Ex-M factor.
      No greater force in nature.

  • jafabian

    The record for number of pitchers used in a season is 31 by the Padres. Can’t believe the M’s are, unintentionally, chasing that record. In the case of Felix and Smyly I wonder how much the WBC played a role in their injuries?

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    • art thiel

      Mariners broke the club record LAST year with 32.

      The WBC is always the culprit when any participant later gets hurt. With Felix, it could be anything after 2,400 MLB innings.