As this is my first post for SoDo Mojo, I’ll take a brief moment to explain the concept behind this weekly column that I’ve named “Bases Loaded, Two Outs”. The idea is simple: write about the past week for the Mariners to shine a light on three bright spots, as well as acknowledge two low points during the course of that week.
The bright spots are represented by bases, as the biggest highlight of the week represents the runner on 3rd base. The low points are represented by the two outs, with the lowest point in that week being represented by the 2nd out. With that said, let’s hit the ground running (like Acuna outrunning a chopper to the shortstop).
Currently, the Seattle Mariners sit at 3rd in the AL West at 5-4 and have taken the series against two of their first three opponents.
Below are the three baserunners, or bright spots, from week two of Mariners baseball
First Base: Will Vest’s First Major League Win
Will Vest was drafted by the Tigers in the 2017 MLB draft and was later selected by the Mariners via the 2020 Rule 5 draft. Will Vest is easily one of the most promising relievers the Mariners have in their arsenal (along with Kendall Graveman and Keynan Middleton), made evident by the fact that Scott Servais has turned to him in 5 of 11 games for a total of 7.1 IP.
The most telling statistic behind Vest’s early success: his ERA+ of 312 (for readers unaware of what ERA+ is, it normalizes a pitcher’s ERA to account for ballparks and opponents before comparing against other major league pitchers. An average value is 100, and 150 is considered 50% better than the league average).
Vest’s ERA+ makes him 300% better than the average relief pitcher. Servais brought Vest on in Game 1 against the White Sox as a good early test of the 26-year-old’s ability to be successful against a team many are picking as an ALCS dark horse. In his third appearance of the year, he threw 1.1IP, only giving up 1ER on 3H and striking one batter out. On a roster where good relief pitching is going to be necessary, Will Vest is creating a big role for himself as a go-to reliever.
Second Base: Kyle Seager’s Big Night
Watching Kyle Seager hit this season, it’s been clear that his batting average was not an accurate representation of the contact that he was generating at the plate. He finally had his breakout game in the finale against the Twins, going 4-4 with two home runs and four RBIs. As a result, he’s ranked second in total bases (22) and has the highest batting average (.317) on the team.
Third Base: Mariners taking the series against the Twins
While it wasn’t terribly surprising to see the Mariners lose the series against the White Sox, there was a certain expectation that the Twins were beatable (if we could piece together some offense). While the first game didn’t exactly inspire confidence, the extra-innings win followed by the big offensive rubber match (14 total runs) showed that the Mariners are capable of taking down a team that is likely to be a quiet postseason contender come September.
While there were some incredibly bright spots this past week, below are this past week’s two outs:
One Out: Marco Gonzalez’ location issues
In his first two starts against the Giants and Twins, Marco Gonzalez has given up 17H, 12 ER, 5HR and struck out 8 in 10.1IP for an ERA of 10.45. He has struggled mightily with his location and simply hasn’t looked sharp. It’s only two starts, and the season is obviously very young, but he has yet to look the part of the ace that the Mariners will need (especially considering the 2nd out to be discussed shortly). My personal panic meter rates this as a 7/10.
Two Outs: The Loss of the Big Maple
The biggest letdown of the season has to be the loss of James Paxton to season-ending Tommy John surgery. He threw 28 pitches before being pulled against the White Sox with what was originally described as elbow discomfort. After getting two medical opinions, Scott Servais confirmed that the Big Maple will undergo surgery later this week and that he will miss not only all of 2021 but also part of the 2022 season, as well.
This is incredibly sad news for a player who was excited to return and bring success to Seattle. The fans were equally as excited to see him back on the T-Mobile Park mound as the home pitcher, made evident by the nearly 8k fans that attended the game to turn out in support of Paxton’s return.
Here’s to hoping that the Mariners continue their series (and extra-inning) success as they finish up the back half, after splitting the first two, of a 4-game stint in Baltimore before returning to face the Astros. Seeing how the Angels and A’s treated the Astros only gets me more excited to see what sort of PNW welcome we extend to them. Anything less than two inflated trash cans and I consider it a weak SoDo showing.