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Mariners squander early lead, lose 9-4 to Orioles

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The team's first east coast game played by a team on west coast time.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is a game with a high degree of randomness and unfairness. You don't have to be a Mariner fan who's watched dozens and dozens of superlative Felix Hernandez starts end in defeat to know this. You are one, for some reason, but that's not the point. No the point is that in a game with so much velocity and so few right angles things are going to happen. Bad teams play poorly and win against good teams sometimes. Many times in fact.

Tonight the Mariners allowed for no such whims of chance. They offered up a game to justice. They lost. They lost badly. They lost due to a rich and diverse set of malfunctions, errors, poor choices and inadequacies. They lost and they deserved it.

The Mariners deserved to lose because Taijuan Walker is not at this point a major league starting pitcher. It's not only Walker's results, which after tonight's 3 2/3 inning, 4 run, 3 K, 4 BB line results in a 7.47 ERA and a 5.00 FIP, but his approach and stuff that are completely lacking. As an example let's take a look at Walker's pitch sequence in the 1st, an inning where he labored and threw 28 pitches:

1st Batter: Fastball, fastball, fastball, cutter, fastball, cutter (Walk)
2nd Batter: Fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball (Strikeout looking)
3rd Batter: Fastball (Flyball, nearly a home run)
4th Batter: Fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball (Walk)
5th Batter: Cutter, fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball (Single)
6th Batter: Fastball, splitter, splitter, fastball, splitter (Strikeout swinging)

Until the 2nd pitch to batter 6, Travis Snider, that is 24 straight pitches belonging in the fastball family. That, that is not pitching. Unless you are Bartolo Colon major league starting pitchers don't get to throw basically the same pitch 24 times in a row, particularly when the command of that pitch is something befitting Jackson, TN.

Walker went on to throw 43 more pitches after the 1st inning, none of them a breaking pitch. If he has one, he's not comfortable with it and if he's not comfortable with it he may as well not have it. And if he doesn't have it he is quite simply not a pitcher a team hoping to make the postseason can afford to pitch every 5 days. There are no better alternatives within the organization at this point.

This is Justice, Part I.

The Mariners lost because Brad Miller plays DH and Nelson Cruz plays right field almost every day. Since we are focusing on deserved outcomes Miguel Gonzalez threw a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad curveball to Nelson Cruz today and Nelson Cruz dropped the gavel like a an episode of Mock Trial with Judge Reinhold:

But Cruz also allowed a shallow single fall where a faster player may have made an out. Later, he made a play in right field that had Rickie Weeks feeling sorry for him.

Nelson Cruz's offense has been a large, helium dirigible keeping the leaden ballast of the Mariners offense from crashing into the ocean. It should be a joy to watch him hit. It IS a joy to watch him hit. But it's offset by the team insisting he (or allowing him to) spend 80% of his games playing outfield when they spent the entire offseason snatching up outfield platoon partners, 2 of whom never play. They deserve every misplay, poor route and bloop single just out of reach that Cruz gives them.

This is Justice, part II.

They lost because the roster, who's primary strength coming into this year was the thought that what they lacked in elite production they would make up for in 1-9 consistency, has rotted full of holes. Dustin Ackley is playing centerfield, a position he has almost no experience playing, everyday. He is doing it with a 52 wRC+. Mike Zunino along with Salvador Perez has caught as many games as any catcher in baseball while striking out in almost 40% of his at bats. Somehow, neither stood out as substantially worse than Chris Taylor, who in limited time has an OPS 40 points lower than Nelson Cruz' batting average.

That is one third of the lineup that on any given day is hitting more or less like 3 pitchers. 1 in 3. 33%. It is untenable. To the team's credit the Welington Castillo acquisition is an acknowledgement of that fact. Players on this team that were counted to produce have failed, and they have only themselves to blame.

This is Justice, part III.

The Mariners lost because they aren't a particularly good team right now and tonight they played poorly. That's a reality that's as easy to write as it is horrible to read. The Mariners are 17-21. They deserve every bit of it.