Mariners v. Tigers: 3 Up, 3 Down
Game one of the series was awful for the Mariners, and thankfully, I can find quite a few downs from that game alone. Thankfully, because there weren’t many downs to be had from the other two games, but we’ll try and look at the whole body of work and see what we can find. First though, we’ll hit the obvious.
Mitch Haniger (and to a lesser extent King Felix)
The Mariners saw both players depart game one of the series with injuries, fly back to Seattle, and then be sent to the 10-Day Disabled List. Most would have said preseason that the Felix would’ve obviously been the bigger blow. However, where it stands currently, there’s no real question Haniger is the more critical loss. As the MLB leader in WAR prior to his injury, Haniger has proved stellar at the plate and in the field.
To fill the void he left, the Mariners recalled Ben Gamel from Tacoma. I believe though, that should for some reason, the Haniger injury be something bigger, requiring a longer recovery time, the fanbase will begin to clamor for Tyler O’Neill’s promotion. I do not think this is a smart call for the Mariners who have a history of rushing players to the big leagues. O’Neill is good. I firmly believe he will be a huge asset for the team in the future, but he is not ready yet. Getting him up too quickly would hurt him more than he’d help the team.
Felix’s loss is heavy, don’t get me wrong. While not having a banner year, he is still the face of the franchise, and a quality starter day in and day out, a commodity the team can ill-afford to lose at this point. Seattle has the 12th-ranked rotation ERA in the AL. Their Batting Average Against sits at the second-worst .279. With Hernandez down, the Mariners are left to field a new starter. There aren’t many options what with the fanbase already clamoring for Miranda and Gallardo to get the boot.
They can’t just replace him. A team can’t just plug a manageable starter in to fill Felix’s shoes. This injury means 2-3 weeks without a #HappyFelixDay. He’ll miss a home start against the division-rival Rangers, and with the team being in last place, that feels like a must-win series.
The Mariners will likely slip Chris Heston in, and as good as he has been in past years, does not seem to have the same stuff. On Tuesday he replaced Felix and gave up five runs on seven hits in two innings. He is not a major league starter, but the M’s will probably try to shove him into that role.
What is up with the pitching?
This is the million-dollar question for the Mariners at the moment. Some nights the pitching looks like the best in the league, others make you want to fire the whole crew. On Tuesday the squad got absolutely shelled. To say it was awful is an understatement. Giving up 19 runs on 24 hits, they were torched worse than any other team yet this season. We saw this happen once in Spring Training too. Back in Peoria, the Brewers took them for 24 runs.
Honestly, I am totally baffled by the night and day inconsistency that is shown by the Mariners’ collective pitching staff. Some days it’s great, some days it’s awful. The only thing I’m certain of is that the Mariners need to pull it together ASAP if they want to salvage 2017.
Who’s on first?
Right now the Mariners are caught between a rock and a hard place with their first baseman situation. Dan Vogelbach was tearing up AAA pitching when Seattle called him up to replace a struggling Danny Valencia. The latter is hitting .188 currently, and that includes a 4-for-7 stretch in his last two games. Vogelbach has played 2 games during this most recent big league stint. He hit 1-for-4 in each contest.
If Valencia can remember to pack his good hitting for the trip to Cleveland and then not lose his luggage for the rest of 2017, the Mariners have themselves a quality first baseman. This is a big if, and we could easily be calling for his demotion again in the next few weeks.