The Seattle Mariners reside on the brink of their first postseason berth since 2001. Back when George W. Bush had just taken office, Jennifer Lopez was topping the UK charts with ‘Love Don’t Cost a Thing’ and Polaroid was filing for bankruptcy.

It’s been 13 long years, and during the club’s hiatus from playoff baseball there has been few periods of relevancy beyond the first few months of the season.

That has changed, however, and the club’s decision-makers need to do what’s best in terms of their chances to end their postseason drought.

[pullquote]The club is carrying 11 relief pitchers right now and Thursday’s game is as important a game the club will have played up to that point since The One Where Rachel Tells.[/pullquote]

The Mariners, a half-game off the Wild Card pace and coming off a 10-1 shellacking at the hands of the Astros Saturday, have eight games remaining entering play Sunday in Houston. They’re slated to start ace Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton twice each, with Taijuan Walker and Chris Young scheduled to get one start apiece. But if the M’s wish to maximize every opportunity to claw their way into October, Young should not be handed the ball in Toronto Thursday, despite what present plans may be. The only scenario where Young should make his next start is if the Mariners win their next four games and both the Royals and Athletics lose all four of theirs, handing the Mariners a three game lead with four games left.

Roenis Elias does not appear to be an option having left his last start early with what may be a flexor bundle injury, but the club has plenty of arms to use. My choice? My choice has posted a 2.45 ERA, 3.15 FIP and owns a K/9 of 8.95. That’s right, Bobby Bullpen.

Young threw 623 competitive pitches a year ago, all in the minors, and just under 2,200 in 2012. He’s been through multiple surgeries, several stints on the disabled list and here he is, 28 starts, 162 innings and 2,650 pitches into a successful 2014. Perhaps it’s catching up to him. Perhaps he’s just in the midst of a cold streak. The Mariners can’t chance it.

Rather than expecting Young to provide a reasonable foundation to begin the game and waiting until he creates a hole from which the club has to climb, the M’s should use the bullpen from the very first inning of the game. The club is carrying 11 relief pitchers right now and Thursday’s game is as important a game the club will have played up to that point since The One Where Rachel Tells.

The opposing starter scheduled that day, rookie Marcus Stroman, is fully capable of shutting down the Mariners lineup for six or seven innings. He went the distance in a three-hit shutout versus the Cubs earlier this month and whiffed seven Yankees in six solid innings at Yankee Stadium in his last outing. Seattle isn’t bloody likely to jump all over the right-hander and cannot afford to serve up four or five runs the first two times through the Blue Jays’ lineup.

Young has allowed three or more runs five times since he tossed seven shutout innings at the Baltimore Orioles July 26. The 35-year-old is a great, great story and is a big reason why the Mariners are where they are. But he hasn’t pitched well with any consistency for two months and is a terrible bet to stifle Toronto’s power.

When Thursday comes, give me Wilhelmsen and Dom Leone for two or three innings each, Carson Smith for 3-6 outs, then reassess the situation after the fifth or sixth inning. Brandon Maurer, Lucas Luetge, Erasmo Ramirez, Joe Beimel, Charlie Furbush, Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina and Fernando Rodney can manage the final 3-5 innings without crippling the bullpen for the final three games of the season.

If halfway through the contest it’s a blowout in either direction, utilize Ramirez in a garbage role. Otherwise, it’s matchup for half the game or more.

Young has done his job for this baseball team. He’s earned his paycheck several times over during his 28 starts. Fact is, he’s simply not the team’s best option anymore. Not with 11 alternatives occupying one the league’s deepest bullpens. Not when every game, every inning and every single pitch is as crucial as they have become — thanks in part to Young’s efforts.

Welcome to meaningful baseball in late September, Seattle Mariners. Now act the part and put your best foot forward.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

11 Comments

  1. It’s all your fault! Haha, I’m kidding. Paxton admitted after the game that he was too amped up — likely due to pitching in Canada for the first time in seven years — and he couldn’t get settled. Not to generalize, but that’s a common rookie/inexperienced player mistake. Next time around I don’t think it’ll be an issue for him.

    But tonight’s loss certainly does put the M’s in some dire straights, doesn’t it. At least with Felix pitching tomorrow the bullpen should have a chance to recover a little bit, but with Walker and ??? starting the next two games, they could be taxed by the weekend. It’s not an impossible week ahead, but it’s going to be very, very tough.

  2. I think I jinxed Paxton tonight. God damn it.

  3. This thread is about pitching and there have been some poor outings of late, but this teams woes all start and end with the offense. They have to find some way to get a consistent offense on the field next year. That being said, I’m thrilled to be watching meaningful baseball and not talking about who we’re going to draft next year! On September 23rd! Go M’s

  4. Two words…HOUSE MONEY!!! Yes it is frustrating the team has not taken advantage of this incredible opportunity to make the playoffs, but none of us thought we would be in this position. We had way too many holes to fill in one offseason. So Mariner fans, enjoy the ride, hope for the best, you are playing on HOUSE MONEY!!! Anything more is a bonus…

  5. Listen,

    I’m just as surprised as anyone with the M’s success this year and I’m over the moon for it. I was just stating that I think we will be on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff. God I hope I’m wrong. I would love nothing more then Paxton pitching us to a W in that wild card game. I think we would beat the A’s with him on the hill. I love our future and I think Paxton wins a CY in the next couple of years. With him Felix and Iwakuma at the top of the rotation our future looks bright, especially if we can sign VMart, Cabrera or Yasami Tomas to hit behind Cano. If we can sign one of those bats and have Cano, Seager, FA in the heart of our order, along with emerging Ackley and Taylor I think we can actually have a decent big league lineup built around the best staff in the bigs. Then if Peterson or another prospect emerges, it’s gravy.

    But this years playoff hopes look dead and I’m afraid the Astros are the team that cooked our goose. Hope I’m wrong and we can take 3 of 4 in Toronto and be tied with the Royals heading into the three game series against the Angels. Maybe they will rest some of their players and we can catch a break or two.

  6. Edman. You hit it on the nose….we are still playing and we are playing for something. We have assets coming to us soon in the next few years, that my fellow fans , is exciting.

  7. I’m not sure if it should be Young or Iwakuma that loses a start. It’s a tough choice. Both have struggled.

    rjfrik, I think it’s a little disingenuous to declare what you said recently, when I’m sure you gave the Mariners no hope of coming anywhere near winning half their games, at the beginning of the season. I’m not a fan of artificial gloating.

    Regardless, it’s nice to be talking about the wildcard, during the last week of September.

  8. This article pretty much sums up what I said yesterday after Young’s start. You just can’t risk a guy that home run prone pitching a must win game in Toronto.

    At this point, the M’s probably have to go 5-2 to get in. I’m not sure they can do it, but they have a better chance with a bullpen start on Thursday.

  9. The starters need to be on a short leash going forward.

    And we need to stop giving Morales ABs. At this point, I’ll settle for Endy as the DH.

  10. Mariners are screwed. I called it back when we lost back to back games to the Astros. And now, again, they lost back to back games to the Astros. You just can’t expect to get to the post season losing to bottom dweller teams like that. Iwakuma and Young are imploding. I just don’t see them getting there even with the A’s free fall. Says something about a team when they can’t take advantage of the biggest free fall in the history of baseball.

  11. There’s a very good chance Stroman misses that start with a six game suspension looming. It could be a battle of the bullpens.

    Seattle needs to be a full 2 games up on the Royals OR A’s going into Saturday in order to save Felix for the Wild Card game. Otherwise Walker and Young will be the only ready SPs for the one-game playoff.

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