As fans, we've watched with increasing anxiety over the past week as the Mariners position in the second wild card race dropped from being 2.5 games up (on July 21st) to two games behind (going into today). Do something, we screamed helplessly at our radios and televisions, gnashing our teeth in frustration. Please! Score some runs! You just have to score a few runs! But the Mariners seemed reluctant to heed our pleas, and continued to squander good pitching and opportunities to get a key hit with runners on base. For the last week, the beep, beep, beep of the Mariners alarm has droned on, growing steadily more persistent. And today, finally, instead of grumpily rolling over or lashing out at the snooze button, the Mariners bats decided to wake up.
Every starter got an extra base hit tonight, with the exception of Morales (unsurprising), Jones (unsurprising), and Cano. In fact, the seven extra base hits they collected is tied for the second highest on the season, behind only their 13-2 route of Houston at the beginning of July. Led by the bearded and beautiful Dustin Ackley, tonight's remodelled lineup made Lloyd look like Mr. Smarty Pants. Ackley's hot streak continued, as he pounded out three more base hits, and Taylor looked not-terribly overmatched batting second. Hart and Morrison each decided to take a break from either looking at strikes or swinging at garbage and smacked a double apiece. And Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino were Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino. In the fourth inning, the Mariners clustered four of these hits and a HBP to put four runs on the board. This would be all they needed.
In addition to all of tonight's offense, Iwakuma had another solid outing. He only threw 77 pitches in his start last week (although he did make it through seven innings) before leaving early due to fatigue, and I'd seen a few people express some worry about Iwakuma's health/stamina. But tonight he rebounded to throw 98 pitches, giving up only two earned runs over seven innings. He had good command of his stuff and avoided falling behind too many Indians hitters. Other than the fifth inning, where he gave up two runs due to a bit of unlucky sequencing (giving up half of his hits in the inning) and some less than stellar route-running by Jones, he kept the Indians off the scoreboard. He did seem to tire a bit in the seventh, pitching (dangerously) up in the zone and allowing three well hit fly balls, but he was able to strike out Chris Dickerson with a runner in scoring position to end his night without allowing further damage.
- In the first inning, Iwakuma issued a walk to Michael Brantley. This is noteworthy because it broke Iwakuma's string of five starts and more than 35 innings pitched without a walk. It was only his ninth walk of the season (and only his second non-IBB four-pitch walk). He's currently sporting a super shiny K:BB ratio of 94:9, which is the best among qualified starting pitchers in baseball.
A couple of commenters were grumblin' about the balls called during this at bat, but although Zunino did a pretty good job of framing pitches 2 and 3 (above), Vanover wasn't calling too many high strikes tonight. It was pretty clearly walk. Fortunately, Kuma's lack of command during this at bat didn't spill out and affect the rest of the game.
Trevor Bauer was pitching UP tonight. He does typically try and take advantage of the top of the zone, but several of his pitches in today's game were particularly wild (he hit two batters).
This shows that 12 of his pitches were well over six inches above the top of the strike zone. Yikes. Fortunately, the Mariners didn't chase too many of these high offerings and waited for strikes in the zone to punish.
- The Kendrys Morales reanimation experiment continues to get off to an inauspicious start. Small sample sizes abound, but after his first four starts with the M's Morales has gotten one single and has left 11 men on base. He does have two RBIs, but those came on a HBP and a (weak) sac fly. He looked extraordinarily lost at the plate tonight, flailing away ineffectively at pitches out of the zone and striking out three times. I would love for Morales to suddenly revert back to the 2013 version of himself, but this seems depressingly unlikely. If he wants to make an impact and help improve this team, he doesn't have a lot of time remaining to find his swing.
- To start the fourth inning, Kyle Seager beat the shift with a well-placed bunt up the third base line for a single. I'm not sure what the general consensus is among fans, regarding whether or not they want Seager to do this, but he was leading off the inning in a tie game so its was probably one of the best times for him to attempt it. Seager eventually came around to score on Corey Hart's double, so today bunting appeared to be a good idea. Also, as a result of his successful bunt, the Indians did not shift on Seager later in the game.
- Although Mike Zunino is a total stud, he has struggled considerably this year when it comes to hitting breaking pitches. His current batting average and slugging percentage against pitches classified as either sliders or curveballs (by PITCHf/x) are .139 and .323, respectively, and he's whiffing at more than 45% of the sliders that he swings at. With this in mind, it was nice to see him smack one of Bauer's sliders for a double in the second inning. You can do it, Mike! (I guess I should probably also mention that Zunino did strike out swinging at three sliders (missing all of them) in the seventh against Carlos Carrasco. Baby steps.)
Felix pitches tomorrow. Huzzah! Hopefully that game will be at least as enjoyable as today's.