Mariners closer Fernando Rodney blew his third save of the season Tuesday and his ERA now stands at 6.85, but manager Lloyd McClendon made it very clear that he’s sticking with him in the ninth inning.
Rodney has struggled a little bit, but so has everybody else. But the fact is, he’s our closer. We need him. We are going to need him to be successful. I think people talk very lightly about changing closers. And that’s fine, but you have to have somebody to do it. You just don’t throw anybody in the ninth inning and say, “Let him do it.” Because what happens when that guy doesn’t do it? And that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
McClendon has a history of sticking with closers well past their expiration dates, including Mike Williams and Jose Mesa. He clearly believes the ninth inning is vastly different than every other inning, but the “so has everybody else” quote about all the Mariners’ relievers struggling leaves out the fact that rookie setup man Carson Smith has a 1.17 ERA and 28/5 K/BB ratio in 23 innings after dominating in the minors.
When asked specifically about Smith by Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, the manager replied that “he’s a young kid and we have to be careful with him.”
McClendon and the Mariners are going to live or die with 38-year-old Fernando Rodney.
Yankees 5, Mariners 3: Comeback win for the Bombers, who tied it in 9th when Fernando Rodney couldn’t hold a one-run lead and then won it in the 11th thanks to a Garrett Jones three-run HR. The tie came via a two-out double from Stephen Drew who offered some keen insight into his accomplishment: “Just trying to get a good pitch to hit. Not try to do too much.” He ACTUALLY SAID THAT. And people wonder why I don’t go into clubhouses to talk to players after ballgames.
Yuck. Let’s cleanse the cliches from our palate with Lloyd McClendon going crazy after his catcher got ejected in the third inning for flipping out after a bad check swing call on an A-Rod walk:
This is Lloyd’s second stint as a manager and he spent years coaching. I feel like having all of that time in the dugout, much of which he spent learning at Jim Leyland’s elbow, really helped his showmanship here. That’s one of the things we’re losing with all of these handsome, low-experience managers in the game. They still think like players. More apt to offer those “good pitch to hit, not trying to do too much” cliches rather than let the old id loose. I don’t want to go back to the days of Billy Martin because he was a big jackass, but once in a while I’d like to see some friggin’ fire out there. Thank you, Lloyd, from giving us a break from the BradMathenyCashBots.
Rangers 15, White Sox 2: Welcome to the big leagues Joey Gallo! We covered the highlights last night here and here. He finished his major league debut with four RBI. The kid has amazing power and has gotten better each year in the minors and he’s going to be something special to watch. He wasn’t the only one kicking butt here, of course — Carlos Corporan drove in five himself — but I feel like this will always be remembered in Texas as “the Joey Gallo Game.”
Nationals 2, Blue Jays 0; Blue Jays 7, Nationals 3: Game 1 featured Jordan Zimmermann shutting down the Jays and the game ending in 2:17. Which adds fuel to my theory that teams intentionally buzz through Game 1 of a doubleheader in order to get more time to chill in between games. Game 2 featured Kevin Pillar hitting two home runs off Max Scherzer. Which adds fuel to my theory that baseball is about the most random thing possible.
Rockies 6, Dodgers 3: Dodgers 9, Rockies 8: Big homers were the order of the day here. First, big in distance — Joc Pederson’s two massive blasts definitely fit that bill — including one in the first game and again in the second game which, went even farther. Or, if you watch that video, “further,” which is Charlie Steiner’s choice of words. But if I remember my schoolin’ accurately, it should be “farther” which is more often used for physical distance while “further” is more often used for figurative journeys. They may be interchangeable, however.
Another homer was big given the moment it was hit: Alex Guerrero’s two-out grand slam in the ninth inning of the nightcap, giving the Dodgers the lead. Which, unlike a lot of leads in Coors Field, held up:
Phillies 5, Reds 4: The Phillies don’t come back late very often — they were 1-30 when trailing after seven coming into this game — but Maikel Franco tied this one in the eighth with a two-run homer and then Darin Ruf hit a walkoff single with one out in the ninth. The only reason Franco got to bat in the eighth was because Jay Bruce lost a liner in the lights that should’ve been out number three. That’s another thing wrong with today’s game. Lights, consarnit! What’s wrong with playing in the daytime! If it was good enough for Rogers Hornsby back in nineteen dickety five, it’s good enough for these whippersnappers!
Athletics 5, Tigers 3: Ben Zobrist hit a grand slam to cap a five-run seventh inning to give the Tigers their fifth loss in a row and their eighth defeat in their past ten games. Look, I know it’s early June and a lot can happen, but I’m starting to get a bad feeling about the Tigers’ chances. I don’t believe in omens and hardly anything that happens in a baseball season can truly be seen as a symbol for anything, but this one feels ominous. Like they’ll look back and say “yeah, that stretch against the Angels and Athletics in June. That’s when we kind of knew we were screwed.”
Red Sox 1, Twins 0: Clay Buchholz (8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 8K) only needed one run of support here and he got it via Rusney Castillo’s RBI single in the seventh. Mike Pelfrey was no slouch himself (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER).
Miami Marlins left-hander Brad Hand stood at his locker eager to talk about a rare win, but the clubhouse stereo made conversation impossible, so he just smiled while rapper 2 Chainz’s “Birthday Song” blared away.
“I like that song,” Hand said.
Easily the highlight of the Marlins’ season so far.
Indians 2, Royals 1: Michael Brantley hit a two-out RBI single in the eighth inning to break a tie. Off of Wade Davis, no less, who hasn’t been in the business of giving up two-out RBI singles much lately. Brantley probably shouldn’t have made it to the plate, however, as there was a disputed safe call at first on a would-be double play earlier in the inning that both the umpire AND the replay officials blew. Of course, if the Royals scored more than one run off of Carlos Carrasco we’re not even having that conversation.
Astros 6, Orioles 4: Baltimore took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the third, but we play nine around these parts. Evan Gattis hit a three-run homer and Luis Valbuena knocked himself in for the go-ahead run with a solo shot as part of yet another Houston Astros comeback win. Their 17th to be exact, which leads all of baseball.
Cardinals 1, Brewers 0: Lance Lynn tossed shutout ball into the eighth. Fun times: Matt Holliday had his National League record on-base streak halted at 45. In part because he struck out on a bad call from Joe West (shocker) who then proceeded to eject Holliday. Probably would’ve been Holliday’s last plate appearance anyway, but thank goodness we had Joe West around to make sure it ended definitively. People pay to see that master work.
Diamondbacks 7, Braves 6: A see-saw game ended with the Dbacks up high — or down low? How does one “win” at see-saw? — thanks to A.J. Pollock’s two-out, two-run home run in the seventh which landed in the dang swimming pool.
Rays 6, Angels 1: Chris Archer was as dominant as all get-out, striking out 15 in eight innings of work. That tied James Shield’s franchise record. Three of those Ks were of Mike Trout. The lone Angels run came on Albert Pujols’ 534th career homer, which ties him with Jimmie Foxx on the all-time list. The homer also put him past Foxx and Ted Williams on the all-time extra-base hit list.
Padres 7, Mets 2: Noah Syndergaard had allowed only two earned runs in his previous three starts. Had. San Diego lit up the rookie sensation for seven runs on ten hits in four innings. All of which makes me wonder about the choice of headline in ESPN.com’s version of the game story:
Sorry, You do not get to be mentioned in an “Outdueled” headline if you give up seven runs on ten hits in four innings. That’s like saying “ant outduels foot.”
Pirates 7, Giants 4: Remember when Andrew McCutchen started slow? Nah, me neither. Here he had four hits and drove in two runs. He’s now hitting .398 (37-for-93) over his past 26 games, with 11 doubles, a triple, five homers, 21 RBI and 17 runs scored.
There will be some business. I have a couple of non-baseball projects I’m messing around with and I do plan on hitting up a the Rays-Mariners game in Seattle on Saturday night. I may post something at HBT if anything notable happens there, or if some Craig-bait PED story happens. But otherwise I’ll be putting up periodic updates of my trip on Tumblr and Twitter.
D.J., Drew and Bill will be putting up Settling the Scores threads in the mornings. Aaron will be here all day. Please try to find things to be outraged about while I’m gone.
And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights
Red Sox 8, Nationals 7: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the Nationals defense stunk and was a big reason they lost the game. Indeed, the Sox scored three runs in the seventh inning with the aid of zero (0) hits. How? Like this: Hanley Ramirez reached first base on yet another Ian Desmond error. Then Matt Thronton hit Shane Victorino. Ramirez went to third on a flyout, Thornton then hit Allen Craig to load the bases (the Nats have hit a LOT of Red Sox this series). Enter reliever Blake Treinen who fielded a Ryan Hanigan comebacker, dropped it, allowing Ramirez to score then threw it pas the catcher which allowed Victorino to score. Craig then came in with the go-ahead run on groundout.
The Nationals are still the most talented team in the NL East. It’d be folly to not say they’ll still win the division after a mere week or so’s worth of play. Yet they are 2-6, in last place in the division and have earned that spot by playing, perhaps, the worst baseball of anyone in the league so far. That’s pretty darn special.
Orioles 4, Yankees 3: Miguel Gonzalez struck out ten. Adam Jones homered and hit a sac fly. Postgame quote from Gonzalez: “Against the Yankees, you can’t give in. Every pitch has to be a quality pitch.” If I was there I’d be seriously inclined to ask “Which teams can you give in to? To whom can you throw junk pitches?” Then they’d take my press pass away and throw me the hell out, I assume. Be totally worth it.
Tigers 2, Pirates 0: Shane Greene is helping the Tigers not miss Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello or the injured Justin Verlander. Here he tossed eight shutout innings. This follows his season debut in which he allowed only an unearned run in eight innings against the Twins.
Rays 3, Blue Jays 2: Steven Souza had a homer that went a mile — officially 463 feet — and then later reached on a bunt single — unoffically 15 feet — and came around to score the go-ahead run. Souza on his homer: “It’s fun when it goes like that. Have you ever cut butter with a knife? That’s what it feels like.” I’m pretty sure Rabbit Angstrom said that to his priest on the golf course in “Rabbit Run.”
White Sox 4, Indians 1: Carlos Carrasco was struck in the face by a line drive in the first inning but thankfully only got a bruised jaw out of it. It did put the bullpen in the game early, however, the White Sox scored two early and that was that. I think the Indians will take that, though, given how much worse the evening could’ve gone.
Marlins 8, Braves 2: It wasn’t like Giancarlo Stanton was gonna hit .130 all year, right? Here he went 3-for-3, doubled, walked twice and drove in four. Also: in his last at bat he didn’t wear his new face guard. The AP recaps didn’t say why. I’ll check out the Miami news later this morning to see if he explained it. Either way, one of his doubles came sans face guard.
Mets 6, Phillies 5: Matt Harvey Day and a win, but Matt Harvey was mortal — giving up three runs on five hits in six innings — and the Mets suffered multiple injuries. David Wright went out with a pulled hamstring which is likely to lay him up for a while. Michael Cuddyer left with a bruised hand, though he’ll likely play today. Chase Utley homered twice in a winning effort in a losing cause. Daniel Murphy hit a homer over the newly moved-in right field wall.
Rangers 8, Angels 2: Robinson Chirinos, the ninth place hitter, drove in five runs on a three-run homer and a two-run double. The double was aided by a miscommunication between Mike Trout and Matt Joyce, but it still counts because those are the rules. Nick Martinez allowed only a single unearned run in seven innings of work.
Reds 3, Cubs 2: Anthony DeSclafani threw seven scoreless innings and Joey Votto had two hits and an RBI to help the Reds stop a three-game losing streak. The pen bent but didn’t break in the eighth and ninth. Which is sort of novel for the Reds so far this year. The not breaking part, I mean.
Athletics 4, Astros 0: Rookie Kendall Graveman and four A’s relievers combined on the shutout. Billy Butler had an RBI double, giving him a hit in every game this year.
Dodgers 6, Mariners 5: Another walkoff win for the Dodgers, this time via a Howie Kendrick two-run double. The rally came off Fernando Rodney, who has allowed six runs in his last two outings. Nelson Cruz homered for the fourth straight game and Robinson Cano hit his first homer of the season.
Padres 5, Diamondbacks 1: Odrisamer Despaigne, who’s got more junk than Fred Sanford’s driveway, allowed one run over seven innings. Dude throws stuff in the 60s and the 90s. If I had him on my team I’d slot him the day after my hardest throwing starter and enjoy the chaos.
Rockies 4, Giants 1: Six pitchers — and some amazing defense — combined on this one for Colorado. The Rockies are 5-0 on the road this year, as everyone assumed they’d be. Among the web gems: a Nolan Arenado diving catch over the tarp and then a Charlie Blackmon play in which he chased down a deep fly at the fence to rob Buster Posey of a hit, both in the same inning. We’ll do separate posts about those here at HBT shortly.
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Seattle Mariners.
The Big Question: Did they add enough offense?
The Mariners surprised in 2014, but man, if they just got a lick of offense, they could’ve surprised a lot more. Their 87 wins and near-wild card birth was achieved almost totally on the back of their pitching staff. Overall, the M’s had the best staff in all of baseball, allowing only 3.42 runs a game. The offense, however, was forgettable at best. Seattle scored 3.91 runs a game, which was third to last in the American League.
Robinson Cano is back, of course. As is third baseman Kyle Seager, who was the only other regular besides Cano to post an OPS+ above 100 in full-time play. Other positive offensive contributors in 2014 included Michael Saunders, who only played have the season and who is now gone, and Logan Morrison who played in 99 games. To improve upon 2014’s performance, the M’s needed more offense. So they went out and tried to get some.
The biggest addition was Nelson Cruz, who hit 40 homers and slugged .525 for Baltimore last year. Also added was Seth Smith, who hit .266/.367/.440 for San Diego in 2014. Given that Austin Jackson only played in 54 games last year you can think of him as an addition too. Rickie Weeks was acquired as well, though he’ll be riding pine and hitting against lefties mostly.
I sort of don’t think that’s enough. Taking Cruz out of Camden Yards and putting him in Safeco Field is going to cause him to take a step back a bit, and that’s before you acknowledge that he likely overachieved a bit last season in the first place. Seth Smith is not a cure-all, and full seasons of Morrison and Jackson could, based on their track records, mean full seasons of anything from good production to less-than-mediocrity. For the M’s to take that next step, they’re probably going to need more than this. They’ll need better production from Dustin Ackley, Brad Miller and Mike Zunino or they’ll need to add a bat at some point during the season.
None of which is to say the Mariners are in trouble. Heck, with their pitching staff (discussed more below) they’re almost instant contenders. But they were a flawed team last season which, while likely better on offense as 2015 begins, may not be quite good enough.
What else is going on?
The pitching is, of course, ridiculously good. Felix Hernandez needs no introduction. Hisashi Iwakuma has been one of the best kept secrets in baseball over the past three years. His late-season falloff last year is a bit worrisome, but given how James Paxton came on late in the season, the M’s may not need him to be a number two starter like he was before. Paxton has an injury history, of course, but he has gobs of talent. But wait, there’s more! Taijuan Walker has dodged injury and perpetual trade rumors to, presumably, earn a slot in the rotation following a spring in which he has tossed 18 scoreless innings with a 19/4 K/BB ratio. J.A. Happ at the back of your rotation is way better than J.A. Happ at the front of your rotation, and pitching in Safeco should help him. Roenis Elias is hanging around when someone needs a break, gets injured or forgets how to pitch. An extremely solid crew.
The bullpen was every bit as strong as their rotation last season, with Fernando Rodney, Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen, Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush all pitching well and all returning. Rodney is occasionally heart-attack inducing, but if he implodes, Farquhar can handle the job. Expect a bit of a step back for this crew, as all bullpen performances fluctuate from season to season, but it’s a strong unit.
Adding Rickie Weeks was fun. Because he’s a second baseman and the Mariners, you may have noticed, have a pretty OK second baseman. That makes Weeks a super-utility guy, who will probably get looks in the outfield. Which is hilarious given that one of the reasons he was on the outs in Milwaukee was because he basically refused to play in the outfield when they asked him to. One presumes that Weeks was aware of Mr. Cano’s presence before signing his deal with the M’s, so one presumes that he’s on board with the move to the outfield now. Should be fun, though. He’s only ever played 2B and DH.
Another smallish addition: Justin Ruggiano, who could platoon with Seth Smith and/or Dustin Ackley. Or maybe Weeks can platoon. A lot of flexibility here, it seems, and if Lloyd McClendon feels comfortable with doing some plate-spinning with this lineup, he may be able to squeeze a bit more production out of it even without another big name addition.
Prediction: It’s hard not to like this club’s chances to to compete for a playoff spot. I think they still have enough questions on offense to where the Angels get the nod, but I think the Mariners are contenders. Second place, American League West.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, though expensive, has been one of the best in the business since signing a four-year, $50 million contract with the Phillies after the 2011 season. In the three seasons since, he has saved 106 games with a 2.45 ERA and a 212/44 K/BB ratio in 198 innings. Only a handful of closers have been better: Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, Huston Street, Aroldis Chapman, Fernando Rodney, and Kenley Jansen are the only other ones to have saved at least 95 games with a lower ERA than Papelbon since the start of the 2012 season.
And yet, no one wants to trade for Papelbon, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. He writes that the Blue Jays and Astros are two teams with an obvious need at the back of the bullpen but neither is interested in paying the price. Recent reports have indicated that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has a high price tag on his tradeable assets.
Papelbon, 34, will make $13 million in 2015 and, as long as he stays healthy and finishes 48 games in the upcoming season, will likely have his 2016 option for $13 million vest as well. In any trade, the Phillies would likely have to cover most or all of his remaining salary to get anything of value in return.