It’s becoming more and more clear that the Mariners aren’t the type of team that’s going to win many easy games. It’s equal parts blessing and curse — they’re good enough to win most of these close games, but not consistent enough to win enough games to have more than an outside chance at sneaking the division away from Houston.
It’s part missed opportunities. See tonight: starting the first inning with runners at first and second and getting nothing. Getting runners at first and second in the second inning with just one out and getting nothing.
It’s part questionable defense. Over the past week or so, it seems as if the poor defense has been more of a bother, and it was on display again tonight. I think one of the reasons bad defense is that much more frustrating than bad hitting or bad pitching is that it looks like something any of us could do. No rational person thinks that they could hit an MLB curveball, or retire Giancarlo Stanton. It’s easy, though, to see this play and think That guy’s getting paid millions of dollars to mess up something I could have done for free.
Obviously, Denard Span is more than his glove, but it stings all the same.
Lastly, it’s partly an inconsistent bullpen. The Mariners bullpen has been mostly amazing this year, it’s true. Juan Nicasio and Álex Colomé have been miles better than their ERAs would indicate, and the success of James Pazos and Edwin Díaz needs no such disclaimer.
But who among us wasn’t at least a little nervous when Nicasio came out to start the sixth and plunked two dudes? Who didn’t feel their stomach drop a little bit when Colomé opened the eighth inning with a walk to Gleyber Torres, feed his very next pitch right down the middle to Gary Sánchez? Sánchez held off the first one, but he wasn’t so kind when Colomé gave it to him again.
And don’t even get started on wondering why Ryan Cook, not Edwin Díaz, was in to face Giancarlo Stanton in the ninth inning. I thought Scott Servais’ decision making is supposed to be grounded in advanced analytics!
If there’s a silver lining to be had, it’s an overall great start from Félix Hernández. Félix always seems to rise to the occasion in Yankee Stadium, and it was certainly a welcome sight tonight. His stuff was absolutely dirty tonight, and it seemed to have a good deal more bite on it than usual. For a Mariners team with so little margin for error, the presence of this Félix Hernández is absolutely crucial.
The Mariners have what it takes to put the pieces together, but games against the Angels, Rays, and yes, even the Red Sox, give them a margin for error that they just don’t have when playing the Yankees or the Astros. It doesn’t have to be fatal — they have just one more regular season game in New York — but it sure doesn’t feel good when they’re in the middle of a brutal stretch of scheduling like this one.
If the Mariners were going to win one game in this series, it was going to be tomorrow. James Paxton takes the hill. Hopefully he can stop the bleeding, or else the conversation will quickly swing away from the Mariners’ divisional chances and back towards how they can avoid an impending collapse.