The Seattle Mariners’ offseason, while unremarkable, doesn’t seem to translate to a worse team than they made the playoffs within 2022. Mitch Haniger hasn’t played yet for the Giants. Abraham Toro was sent down upon arrival to the Brewers. Jesse Winker has seemingly excelled in the early going, but it was hard to predict that with his middling 2022. Meanwhile, Seattle acquired Teoscar Hernandez and Kolten Wong, both with track records of success that made them upgrades in areas of need.
Yet, with another week under our belts, the Mariners have continued to struggle. After a brief rest day following their four-game series in Chicago, they returned to Seattle, where they swept the Colorado Rockies in three games, building a four-game winning streak while finally returning to a .500 record for the first time since they lost the second game of the year. Jarred Kelenic finally had his home run streak broken at four games as well.
Of course, not every team is going to be the Rockies, who are now 5-14 and last in the NL West division. There could be no starker contrast in team quality than the Milwaukee Brewers, who, at 14-5, have the second-best record in baseball behind the 16-3 Tampa Bay Rays.
It was clear from the start the Mariners couldn’t hang with the top teams, as Milwaukee took the first game of the series in a 7-3 final score that didn’t feel nearly that close. Game two was closer, and honestly one of the most exciting games the Mariners have played this year, even though they ultimately fell 6-5 in 11 innings.
Game three finally looked like Seattle had created a winnable game, up 2-0 through six innings. However, Milwaukee put up five runs in the seventh, and although the Mariners loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, they only pushed one across to lose 5-3.
The one constant in all these losses: an aggressively mediocre bullpen. In game one, Flexen allowed a not-great but perfectly adequate four runs in six innings, but the nail was driven in when Penn Murfee immediately allowed two more runs in the seventh. Game two was eerily similar, with Logan Gilbert also allowing four runs in six innings. Three relievers kept the game tied until extras, where neither Trevor Gott nor Gabe Speier could keep the extra-inning runner on second base.
Game three was particularly deflating, considering starter Marco Gonzales had pitched six scoreless innings while tying his career-high in strikeouts of nine. He looked dominant, but was pulled in the seventh after allowing the first two runners to reach base. In a fashion in line with my narrative, Matt Brash came in and proceeded to allow four hits, scoring a total of five runs and sealing the Mariner loss.
Bullpens are unpredictable, as Mariner fans are being forced to learn very quickly. Every single person that pitches in relief has the stuff to succeed and has proven that this year. But in close games against top-of-the-table teams, it only takes one person having an off night to blow a game.
The good news? The Seattle Mariners now have a home run trident.