Just because they’re not the worst we’ve seen doesn’t mean they don’t play like it sometimes. The yawning gap in talent between the best teams in the league and those like the Mariners who, in another period, might easily be the league’s worst, is dwarfed by the chasm between the best and the league’s true worst.
Today’s loss, served piping hot by a bullpen implosion, puts the M’s at 29-43. That’s a .403 winning percentage, good enough for last in the AL West. But last in the AL West is nowhere near the worst of the worst. Not only is Seattle just the sixth-worst team by record, their winning percentage is nearly 100 points ahead of both the Orioles and Royals. They’re no closer to the cellar of their own history, moving to ninth-worst over a full season with today’s loss. A mere 97-loss season, as they are apace for, wouldn’t even outdo their inaugural campaign’s 64-98 run in 1977. Those factors build the sizable dissonance that occurs when watching this team, however, because on days like today.
Yusei Kikuchi labored, but was talented and fortunate enough to evade multiple traps, emerging unscathed in the 1st and 2nd innings despite a pair of walks and a bases-loaded nobody out jam in the latter frame. Despite 92 pitches through his 5.0 innings, only a Nelson Cruz dinger blemished his line and he left the game free of being the pitcher of record. His bullpen would not come out the same.
Four walks in the final three frames, along with a massive homer and a flurry of missed spots made the entire pen the goat of this game. It was a spectacular undoing, featuring a couple wild pitches, a HBP, a wild pickoff throw, and everything short of a balked in run that could go amiss for relievers. Brandon Brennan drew the brunt of it, looking sloppy enough to push the team to commit him to an IL stint post-game, suffering shoulder fatigue.
Brandon Brennan is dealing with some fatigue in his upper back and shoulder. He was checked out by doctors postgame. It’s been an off and on problem since the mariners played in New York— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) June 13, 2019
After failing to record an out, he was followed by Cory Gearrin, who narrowly earned his lone out on a laser line drive tracked by Mac Williamson. The outfield defense would save Jesse Biddle even further embarrassment as well, with Mallex Smith leaping at a sprint straight backwards for an impressive snag on a Marwin Gonzalez smash.
By the time Tayler Scott entered in the 7th and yielded a sunscraping homer to C.J. Cron in relief of Biddle, it was 10-1. In another game, this might’ve been a shootout, as Seattle took advantage of a shaky Twins bullpen to put themselves on the board. Kyle Seager put a charge into the ball, as did Shed Long and Dylan Moore, and each was rewarded with doubles in the later innings.
But the hole was too deep, and a few inexplicable strike three calls from home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman tossed the final piles of dirt on Seattle’s grave.
The Mariners bullpen as a unit is now in possession of a 5.48/5.12 ERA/FIP, having been -0.8 fWAR as a unit this year. No lead is safe, no deficit easily surmountable with this group in the pen, and though it may not matter the same way it might for a team expected to contend it is still disheartening. But like so many things in 2019, Seattle’s terrible efforts are hard to grasp, but still far from the worst. Remember that cold comfort the next time you see a lead slip away.