When you think about it, it might be a little unfair to complain about pitching on this team. As of today, the Mariners' staff has allowed the second fewest runs in the American League. In reality, we should be complaining about the offense, right?
It's pretty strange how an M's game that lacked Robinson Cano still ended with five runs on the board. That might have been just good enough to back up this pitching staff in most cases. Unfortunately, there's a pretty substantial drop-off in production from #4 to #5 right now, and that just wasn't enough to get it done with the #5 guy on the hill tonight.
Brandon Maurer actually started the game unlike his usual self. At least in the sense that he usually does pretty well for the first few innings before completely imploding. Tonight, he was off his game right away when he began by walking Kole Calhoun, allowing a single to Erick Aybar and then a sac fly to Mike Trout.
Maurer would escape the first, second, and third innings without any further damage despite allowing six total baserunners in those innings. A 1-0 deficit felt a hell of a lot more like a 5-0 deficit and then, oh wait.
That'll do it. That's when this game felt like an un-winnable one. At the time, Matt freaking Shoemaker was hurling a perfecto against a Mariners offense that looked completely lost at the plate. Whatever, on to the next game I guess.
But wait! Maybe things were going to get a little interesting after all. Saunders launched a two-run shot in the next inning to bring the score to 5-2 and then Justin Smoak would hit a solo shot aft-...oh wait sorry never mind. Still, 5-2 felt a lot closer to winning than 1-0 felt, somehow. It was proof that the bats were at least present and the M's wouldn't look completely lost for the entirety of the game.
They didn't though. In fact, they began to look a lot better the second time through the lineup. Well, maybe everyone except for Nick Franklin who was awarded the Golden Sombrero for his efforts at the plate tonight (let's also forget that whole four-pitch fifth inning while we're at it). All jokes aside, there were plenty of hard-hit balls later in the game and not all of them came from those you'd expect.
Brad Miller led off the sixth with a solid liner (hard grounder?) up the middle followed by a James Jones hard-hit single on a splitter, which was extremely encouraging from a guy who has been struggling against off-speed stuff the past couple of weeks. A wild pitch moved the runners up and Franklin struck out on a curveball in the dirt which would have easily been ball four. In the next at-bat, Saunders nearly hit one out but the ball died on the warning track and they only ended up getting one run out of it on the sac fly. 6-3 Angels.
Things wouldn't get interesting again until the ninth when C.J. Cron (who I can already see now as being a pesky Mariner-killer in the future) laced a double and then scored on a John McDonald (wait, he's still a thing?) single. Cron would finish the night a homer shy of the cycle. 7-3 Angels.
Here's where things got (at least minorly) interesting. By this time, I had already left the television to start writing up the chart, but I turned on the radio just in case. Of course, the second I did that good things started to happen. Saunders walked to lead off the inning. After a Smoak strikeout, Kyle Seager hit a homer of his own that sounded pretty good on the radio and all. 7-5 Angels.
But "ha-ha!" said the evil Angels. "Just wait to see what we have in store for you!"
The Mariners cowered in fear as the mighty Ernesto Frieri emerged from his cavern and spat out flames as he launched baseballs into Hank Cogner's mitt during warm-ups.
"Dude, you gotta lay off those Hot Tomales before you pitch," complained Cogner, shaking his head in disapproval.
Stefen Romero stepped up to the plate and lined out to
Howard Howie Kendrick. After that, Dustin Ackley struck out to end the ballgame. No come-back victory tonight. Just a split against the Angels which I guess hey, that's not too bad.
The question people will likely be asking until something is done (which could be fairly soon) is what should be done with Brandon Maurer? As Scott tweeted out earlier, batters essentially produce Miguel Cabrera-like numbers against Maurer. It's pretty evident that he doesn't really belong up here right now, and likely would do well to go down to Tacoma and try getting some work in as a reliever.
Erasmo Ramirez had a solid outing for Tacoma tonight and the fact that their throwing schedules line up so well makes a transaction seem pretty easy to complete. Whether it's really worth it or not given that Walker or Paxton should hopefully be back within the next few weeks is another question, but I'd really like to see someone else given a chance to show what they can do up here. Even if it's Jordan Pries or Andrew Carraway or Hector No-...No...no never mind forget it.