Just when it seemed like things seemed a bit too good to be true, the Mariners took the last couple of days to prove that they were, in fact, too good to be true.
The debacle that was last night’s Félix start was easy to rationalize. Okay, you might have thought. If they were going to lose one game in this series, that was it. They can’t possibly lose a James Paxton start versus Matt Moore. Fivethirtyeight did give the Mariners a very nice 69% chance of winning this game. You’d be excused for thinking that that was selling the Mariners short.
Paxton didn’t have his usual command, but he worked through jams and ended up giving the team a more-than-serviceable outing. Holding the Rangers to two earned runs over 5.0 innings pitched should be more than enough to beat the withered husk of Matt Moore.
Despite ending up with six runs of their own, the Mariners left plenty on the table against Moore. Two of those runs were gifted off of a passed ball and a wild pitch as the Mariners ultimately went 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. Still, the Mariners have been able to win without playing perfectly. It felt like they were going to do so again.
Unfortunately, Edwin Díaz had the day off today, so the bullpen was stretched a bit thin. Dan Altavilla gave up a run in the sixth, and Ryan Cook couldn’t do much of anything in the seventh. Cook was pulled for Marc Rzepczynski, who is a member of the apparently-a-playoff-contender-Seattle-Mariners. Zep had accrued just 7.2 innings pitched of work coming into this game. The vast majority of that had been against left handed batters, of course, as Zep is supposed to be a lefty specialist. He has proved not to be especially special.
Zep gave up the lead, and Juan Nicasio came in to give up another two runs and seal the Mariners’ defeat. Just like that, everything that had been going so right turned to ash in our mouths.
Tonight’s result didn’t have a massive bearing on the standings. The Astros, Angels, Athletics, Blue Jays, and Twins all lost as well. The Mariners essentially left today having gained or lost no ground... in any race. Another way to look at this game, though, is that they were given an extremely tangible chance to tighten their grip on the second Wild Card and to move into a tie atop the AL West. They failed. They failed partially because James Paxton wasn’t at his best, and also because of some unfortunate scatter luck. They mostly failed, though, because Marc Rzepczynski is on this team, and Marc Rzepczynski is atrocious.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Mariners’ main areas for potential improvements have rarely been so obvious as they have been in the past two games. Last night, it was painfully obvious that Félix Hernández is a problem, albeit one without an obvious (or at least an easy) solution. Tonight, it became apparent that bullpen depth beyond the trio of Edwin Díaz, Juan Nicasio, and Álex Colomé is another problem.
The Mariners are lucky, because their competition for the playoffs looks increasingly weak. The Angels are hitting Albert Pujols in the cleanup spot. Yes, still. The Athletics are meh. The Mariners have cushion, and a couple of games like this won’t kill them.
These games are symptoms of an underlying condition. A condition that’s eminently treatable. All you have to do is do the obvious things: go to the doctor and take your prescription. The Mariners should really make an appointment before the Hernández-Rzepczynski Syndrome fully manifests and they find themselves on life support in the ICU, wondering why they didn’t just go to the fucking doctor.