What can the M’s Learn?
There were two 9th-inning losses, but the Mariners finished the 9-game road trip with a 5-4 record and two series wins over divisional opponents.
In the dog days of summer, this is known as treading water, but for the M’s, the well is pretty much dry — being 12 games back of the second wild card.
So, it is time to assess what Seattle has moving forward. Here are 3 players whose performances require further assessment.
1. Erasmo Ramirez
Erasmo Ramirez started twice on the road trip in Tampa and in Texas, getting players out in very different ways while pitching efficiently in both. Finishing the trip with 12.1 IP, a 1.074 WHIP, 3.65 ERA and 9 KO’s, Ramirez got one victory to his credit, but helped the team win both of his starts.
It is good seeing Ramirez begin to show his versatility as a starting pitcher.
Some may call it inconsistency, but watching him, it seems like he uses whatever is working best for him on that specific day. In Tampa, Ramirez had 7 KO’s in only 5.1 IP of work, but allowed two HR’s along the way, missing his spots badly.
But in Arlington, where the balls fly out constantly, Ramirez kept the ball down, reducing his strikeouts to two while going 7 innings and out-pitching Yu Darvish.
2. Justin Smoak
Justin Smoak has been one of the Mariners most consistent hitters since his return from the DL in July, but this trip was not kind to the big first basemen, netting a .200 BA and little power. Smoak usually shines in Texas — after being traded from there in the Cliff Lee deal years ago — but aside from one HR he could not connect consistently.
Smoak’s resurgence, along with his excellent defense at 1B, has made people question the organization’s move of Jesus Montero to 1B in the minor leagues.
If the M’s do decide to reach out to Kendrys Morales, it is imperative that Smoak finish well in his best statistical season of his career (.263/.357/.433 so far).
3. Brandon Maurer
I have been far from shy discussing my frustration with the Mariners’ organization regarding position changes during the season.
But, I will say that Maurer’s move to the bullpen beginning in late July was the right move for him.
Brandon Maurer was beat up for two months as the M’s fifth starting pitcher. His move back to the minors was disappointing, but not a huge surprise, and there was still plenty of hope for the 23-year-old.
In Tacoma, Maurer started 10 games, allowing plenty of runs (a 5.21 ERA in those 10 starts), but reminded everyone in the organization how well he can strike out the opposition, fanning a batter per inning (9.1KO/9). His call-up was to fill a need, but it has also brought some confidence back.
Maurer struck out 5 over 3.2 IP on the recent road trip and is coming into a zone.
Long relief is not the role that Maurer will fill in the future here in Seattle, but in a year that has been up and down for the young man, seeing him succeed down the stretch should prepare him well for the years ahead.
Expect him to start a game or two in September as well; eventually Aaron Harang will not be useful for a non-playoff team looking ahead to next year, and we will get to see the young guys take their turns.