With his performance in Sunday’s series-clinching win for the Milwaukee Brewers, old pal Wade Miley completed a yearly tradition. His 4.2 innings of shutout ball—at Coors Field no less, where pitchers’ are often carried out in a casket—was both highly improbable and totally predictable. You see, every year during October, the normal spookiness of the season is exacerbated for Mariner fans. Seattle supporters are forced to re-live old nightmares of flailing strikeouts and grooved changeups as Ghosts of Players Past dominate in the playoffs for other teams.
As a member of the Mariners’ rotation in 2016, Miley posted an 81 ERA+ and 4.98 ERA, punched up by the 18 tank jobs he allowed in 112 innings. The Mariners took a wrecking ball to their pitching staff that July, dealing Miley as well as Joaquin Benoit and Mike Montgomery (more on him later) in separate trades. In return for his services, the Orioles shipped Aríel Miranda to Seattle, while Miley puked out a 70 ERA+ and 6.17 ERA in 54 innings for the O’s. When Baltimore brought him back in 2017, Miley rewarded them with a 77 ERA+, 5.61 ERA, and a league-high 93 walks in 157.1 innings.
Rather than packing up his stuff forever, or plying his trade somewhere like Japan, Miley climbed his way into the Brewers’ depth chart in 2018. Pitching on a one-year, $2.5 million deal, Miley has pulled the classic former Mariner routine. After being woefully below average for both the Mariners and Orioles, the 31-year-old lefty started sixteen games for the 2018 Brew Crew, earning his spot following seven appearances at Double-A. The results in the bigs? 80.2 innings with a 2.57 ERA, buoyed by the best groundball rate of his MLB career and a bit of good luck, as indicated by a .269 BABIP and 3.59 FIP. The Louisiana native has been cheap and effective while helping the Brewers secure their spot in the NLCS. In short, Miley has been the best of both worlds.
With his gutty outing to eliminate the Rockies on their home field, Miley joins the storied ranks of former Mariner-greats to pull rabbits out of their hats long after the magic was supposed to fade. Join us in a trip down memory lane as we look back on all of our exes who glowed up significantly after finding something new.
2017: Chris Taylor – Los Angeles Dodgers
Taylor, known to Mariner fans as the scrappy middle infield prospect who hit like a drunk boxer, was a massive part of the Dodger team that finished one win shy of a World Series celebration. He brought home the 2017 NLCS MVP as Los Angeles’ starting center fielder in a convincing series win against the defending-champion Cubs. A year and change after the Mariners traded him for Zach Lee, Taylor went 6-for-19 with two homers, three RBI and five walks to bring LA to its first Fall Classic since 1988.
The .316/.458/.789 performance in the NLCS preceded Taylor’s indelible postseason moment. With the Dodgers’ down to their final strike in Game 5 of the World Series, the former Mariner turned around a 2-2 slider to etch his name in one of the decade’s best baseball games.
Playing shortstop, centerfield, and second base during the Dodgers’ playoff march, Taylor smacked three home runs, three more than he hit in a Seattle uniform.
2016: Mike Montgomery – Chicago Cubs
While Taylor came one win short of a ring fitting, Mike Montgomery is the proud owner of some shiny jewelry. Montgomery slid a World Series rock on his finger after recording the final out of the 2016 season, in turn making him the pitcher of record when the Cubs exorcised 108 years of demons.
Most will remember Montgomery for inducing the curse-breaking groundout, but MiMo was rock solid for most of Chicago’s 2016 run. The lanky lefthander also spun two innings of shutout ball in Game 2 of the World Series, notching four of his six outs via the K. He took the ball five times in the World Series and coughed up just one earned run in 4.2 innings.
History may remember Montgomery as merely the answer to a trivia question, but he was an instrumental piece to the Cubs’ bullpen. In the NLDS against San Francisco, Montgomery tossed 5.1 innings and also allowed just one earned run to cross the plate. All told, Montgomery picked up 14.1 postseason innings for the world champion Cubbies, striking out 11 hitters while not surrendering a single home run.
I believe the universe owes us a Daniel Vogelbach postseason bomb or two.
2015: Kendrys Morales – Kansas City Royals
Here’s what I remember about Kendrys’ Morales time with the Mariners:
1. His walkup music was Craig Mack’s “Flava in ya Ear”.
2. He fried a walk-off tater in this late-June 2013 game against the A’s that I happened to attend.
3. In 2014, the year the Mariners finished one game out of the playoff picture, he was a very bad hitter. (Upon further review: .207/.285/.347 in 239 plate appearances. 82 wRC+. Gross.)
4. I have never seen a baseball player move slower than he did.
Here’s something I didn’t remember about Kendrys Morales:
1. In the Royals’ 2015 five-game clash against the Astros, he hit three home runs.
That’s right, the year after doing his best to sink the Mariners’ ship, Morales lifted the Royals to a World Series. His biggest contributions to the team came in that ALDS tilt with Houston, when he hit the aforementioned fence-clearers, including this one off Dallas Keuchel that basically eliminated the Astros.
If that wasn’t enough, he mashed Blue Jays’ pitching in the ALCS to the tune of a .273/.320/.409 line and hoisted the World Series trophy not long after that. There is indeed a brand new flava in my ear, and it sounds like an aneurysm.
2014: Mike Morse – San Francisco Giants
Mike Morse, the one-time skinny middle infielder in the Mariners’ system, is the third member of this list to reach baseball’s pinnacle after exiting the Pacific Northwest.
The Mariners actually broke up with Morse twice. Jack Zduriencik traded him to Washington in 2009 for Ryan Langerhans, re-acquired him in January 2013, then flipped him to the Orioles later that year for Xavier Avery. Morse would end up with the Giants for the 2014 campaign, bringing big stick energy when the team needed it the most.
Bruce Bochy did not play Morse at all in the 2014 NLDS, but called his number four times as a pinch-hitter during the NLCS. He responded by collecting two hits in those four opportunities. You may recall one more than the other.
This Disney-ass moment seemed to ingratiate Morse to his coaching staff, as he started every World Series game in Kansas City as the Giants’ DH. In typical post-Mariner fashion, he delivered. Like, winning hit in Game 7 of the dang World Series delivered.
His final 2014 postseason stats: 6-for-20, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 1 2B, .375/.389/.782 slash line. Ryan Langerhans and Xavier Avery could never.
2013: Doug Fister – Detroit Tigers
It may read like a mistake here in the year of our lord 2018, but not long ago the Detroit Tigers were a legitimate force, and Douglas Wildes Fister was a big part of that. While the Motor City Kitties never broke all the way through and won the ‘ship, they did don the AL Central crown each year from 2011 to 2014, with Fister making seven postseason starts during that time.
In 2013, the 6’8” hurler turned in his masterpiece. Fister kept the eventual-champion Red Sox at bay in Game 4 of the ALCS at Comerica Park. A six-inning outing featured seven punchouts to just one walk and a solitary run as the Tigers tied the series at two games apiece. Of course, Detroit eventually fell in six games, taking three of the four losses by one run, and the last one in truly heartbreaking fashion.
You can take a player away from the Mariners, but you can’t always take the Mariners away from the player.