Mariners Bullpen Getting Job Done
Despite the Mariners winning a “shootout” in Cleveland on Thursday, the bullpen has been a strength for the M’s 15 games into the year.
Last season, it was mostly the bullpen that doomed the Mariners to a 76-86 record and 4th place finish. They ranked 25th in the league with a 4.15 ERA, which was a huge increase from the 2.59 mark, which was MLB’s best in 2014 when they barely missed the playoffs.
This season they are at 2.70, 7th in baseball. Yes, it is early but this is already an area of the team that looks improved from last season. They also rank 2nd in all of baseball in opponents’ batting average and on-base percentage. The bullpen looks a lot better and the numbers prove it. There are several reasons why.
In save opportunities, closer Steve Cishek is three for three and has only allowed two hits and no walks. That is a huge improvement from Fernando Rodney’s first three chances in 2015: four earned runs and two walks.
Aside from Cishek, Vidal Nuno has allowed just one run in 5 appearances and Tony Zych has 13 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. Underrated was the move that got Nick Vincent to Seattle from San Diego. All he has done is earn a win and two holds while striking out 9 in just 6 2/3 innings.
In the series against the Indians, the bullpen allowed just two runs in 12 innings of work (1.50 ERA) with Cishek nabbing two saves in the process.
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The Mariners have been able to win a few games even with bad hitting. Look at game two of this past series in Cleveland. Besides Nori Aoki’s clutch two-out, two-run triple, the Mariners couldn’t hit anything. After that two-run second inning, the M’s were essentially no-hit from that point on, only getting two walks in the process. But they won the game thanks to a brilliant performance by Taijuan Walker (6 IP, 0 ER, 6 Ks, 0 BB). When the bullpen took over, it was lights out. In three innings of relief, Joel Peralta, Joaquin Benoit and Cishek combined for just two baserunners allowed, one hit and one walk with zero runs and three strikeouts.
In their 10-inning victory at home against Texas, the Mariners had Cishek to thank for keeping the game tied after the 8th inning. Cishek came in and struck out three in two innings in the 9th and 10th to earn the victory on Dae-Ho Lee’s walk-off home run. A lot of times if a closer comes in during a tie game, he is a bit unreliable. Not this time. The bullpen as a whole only allowed one run in four innings that day.
Next: Steve Clevenger Steps Up in M’s 10-7 Win
Need I say more? Seattle’s 2016 bullpen is significantly better than whatever that thing was in 2015. However, it is a small sample size during a long season. Things can get a lot better or worse in a hurry. But I am giving the bullpen a “so far, so good” to start the season!