Mariners hold on as the Astros fall back to earth

MY LIEGE - Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners improved to 14-15 with a win over the Astros on Sunday.

Well the Mariners snuck one past the Astros today, which is pretty exciting because wow, hey, sports are supposed to be intense! You aren't really supposed to know who is going to win the game at any point, right? When Damian Lillard hit his three with .9 seconds left to advance the Blazers on Friday, I just about had a heart attack. Glory! Sports! When the Spurs blew the Mavs out by 30 points in their game seven today, I took a nap. Boring. Bad sports. So in a way, today's nail-biting Mariners win was good sports! Hurray!

But in another way, it wasn't quite so great. I mean, a win is a win, sure. Especially when you get a win in a game you started Willie Bloomquist, batting second, put John Buck behind the plate, and had Brandon Maurer pitching into the middle innings. The weird thing is that we can't even really complain too much about these guys--Buck somehow went 3-4 today with two doubles. His time behind the plate wasn't disastrous (or wonderful either, but beggars cant be choosers). Willie Ballgame? An RBI double. Did his thing in the field. And the Mariners won!

Ah yes, so now lets look at Brandon Maurer. Can you guess what happened today with Maurer? Of course you can! Because it was the same thing that always happens with Brandon Maurer. And I don't say this to knock the guy: he legitimately has something wonderful that crumbles to pieces at either the first sight of stress or the sixth inning, whatever comes first. Today, it was the stress.

Maurer coasted through the first three and a half innings, despite a leadoff home run to Astros' left fielder Alex Presley. See, that's fine, because when you hit a dinger, you aren't standing on base, tapping Maurer on the shoulder and shaking him to his core. Maurer got to two outs in the fourth with only two strikeouts, but was aided pretty well by Minute Maid's football field taped on to its outfield. A few towering fly balls, a few grounders, absolutely servicable. I did this last time, but we'll do it again today just to illustrate how incredibly textbook Maurer can be.

Here's Maurer getting Jose Altuve to pop out in the third inning with one out:

Screen_shot_2014-05-04_at_3.31.53_pm

If he isn't hitting his spots, he's getting damn close to them, and mixing his pitches in together well. Then--BAM. Stress. With two outs in the fourth, Maurer gave up a double to Presley, a sngle to George Springer, and an RBI double to Chris Carter before getting out of the inning. He came right back in the fifth, still terrified, and gave up a home run to Jonathan Villar. Then he walked Altuve, who owned the at bat from the image above. How was Maurer, here now, back through the order?

Screen_shot_2014-05-04_at_1.10.04_pm

Ahhh yes, ye old faithful. Maurer has a role on this team, I'm convinced of it. I'm not sure it's what he's doing now, today, though. Still, he gets the win on the day thanks to an explosive third inning off the aforementioned John Buck and Willie Bloomquist doubles, and a Robinson Cano triple that rolled its way into that weird outfield corner bubble thing out in left field.

It's weird seeing Buck snag two doubles, but I'm still convinced he isn't as terrible at the plate as he has shown previously. Behind the plate? Yeesh. It's weird that a few years ago Buck was known as a bit of a defensive-minded catcher. So far this year he's shown an absolutely terrifying inability to frame the corners, almost as if no one ever told him he has the power to influence calls with post-pitch glove placement.

Saunders continued to show that he need to be the team's leadoff hitter going forward, with two hits, which should have been three with an absolutely towering fly ball in the eighth that would have been out in any other ballpark, but of course, the worst team in baseball thought it would be a good idea to keep that little mountain thing in deep center that enters a new zip code. Speaking of leadoff hitters, Almonte was sent down to Tacoma immediately following the game. He came in and stole a base in the ninth, and welp...that's it for now. Some think James Jones is on his way back up, and I think that makes the most sense.

Another interesting little bit of the game came from two perfect innings from Tom Wilhelmsen. Tom came in and threw all fastballs, except for one curve that missed way off the plate. I'm pretty sure that he was told to just go out there and locate his pitches, and not worry about mixing anything in, which is exactly what he did. He got out of the sixth and seventh with about 30 fastballs, which only really works if you are playing the Astros. But whatever gets your confidence up, right?

Remember when Tom was one of the best relievers in the game? That 12-6 curveball that broke knees, followed by some 99 MPH heat? Tom would come in during the ninth and you could start cleaning the coffee table up because the game was already over, and you knew it. When Tom gets out of trouble today, you finally breathe for the first time in ten minutes, and realize that sports are hard, damn hard, and fleeting too. Tom used to be bad, and then he was out of the game, and then he was really, incredibly, magically good. Now he isn't really good anymore, and he comes into leverage situations instructed to just throw fastballs to get his confidence back. I hope it does. I really do.

Speaking of bizarre bullpenning over the past few days, Danny Farquhar had to close out the game with a 6-out save in the eighth and ninth innings. Charlie Furbush came in the game during the eighth and promptly gave up a single and ground-rule double to Castro and Dominguez, and was promptly pulled for Lord Farquhar. LLoyd had mentioned that Medina and Rodney would be unavailable today, so it meant that Farquhar was going to be in it to win it.

It was intense, to be sure. Farquhar made it interesting in the ninth with a one-out double to Altuve and a full-count RBI single to Castro to bring the Astros to within one. But Farquhar retained his composure and got the Mariners out of the game, possibly because LLoyd looked out through the dugout fence and saw his team's best reliever on the mound, but probably because he realized he didn't really have anyone else ready to pitch.

So be excited: We've all been stammering for more time on the mound for Farquhar, and LLoyd all but threw up his arms in grief today and said FINE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, HERE HE IS. But you know what? He isn't pitching against the A's tomorrow. Josh Donaldson is going to come up to the plate in the eighth with two outs and two on, and LLoyd is going to walk out of the bullpen and send in Yoervis Medina. So...you get and you give, or something. I don't know. I'm not sure if that expression even applies here, but goddamn we need some new relievers.

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