This was an awful game and Lloyd maybe didn't make the best decisions and I really don't like bunting most of the time and my Twitter feed was full of football stuff even though the Seahawks didn't have a draft pick today and oh my god how does this team lose 3-2 against the Astros? It is the end of April and your Seattle Mariners currently sit five games out of first place in the AL West... behind Houston!
Baseball can be so weird.
First, to focus on the positive(s)... James Paxton, everybody! He looked pretty great tonight. He successfully located his changeup (13 of 18 pitches for strikes), his fastball really started to zip along in the later innings (hitting 97 mph twice!), and he generated five whiffs with his curveball (in 19 pitches). Paxton seemed confident all night and only allowed seven baserunners to go with his seven strikeouts over seven frames of work. He definitely pitched well enough to win most contests. Although he did give up two "earned" runs, those runs were scored like this:
Run number one
Austin Jackson and Seth Smith both 100% forgot how to be major league outfielders and let what should've been a fairly routine fly ball out drop right in between them for a "single".
- A stolen base.
- A walk.
- A weak groundout to third.
- A groundout to second.
Run number two
- A walk.
- A single, followed by an awful throw from Seth Smith to third base (a good throw probably would've gotten Valbuena by a wide margin).
- A groundout to third.
If you look closely, you may be able to find a few things in common between how these two runs were scored.
Walks. Bad outfield defense. Groundouts.
Paxton probably could've helped himself out by not issuing free passes in each of these innings (both were to Luis Valbuena, which is extra frustrating), but those were his only two walks in the contest. However, if the Mariners outfield defense in today's game had been even semi-decent, there's a good chance that neither of those runs would've scored. Paxton didn't really deserve his fate today, but sometimes baseball is terribly cruel and unfair and scoffs at all of your hopes and dreams.
On the other side of the ball, the Mariners had eleven hits. That's a lot! They also had the leadoff man on base six times and were 4 for 13 with RISP... yet somehow they only managed two runs. And one of those runs came when Nelson Cruz grounded into a double play with no one out and the bases loaded! Disappointing. Seager did follow with an RBI single (because that's what bosses do) to put the M's up 2-0, but Seattle wouldn't score for the remainder of the game despite having nine more baserunners. It was painful to watch.
To make things worse (maybe?), the Astros also struggled to cash in on their scoring opportunities for the majority of the game, going hitless in their first 11 chances with RISP. Large stretches of this game were akin to a pillow fight where most of the players forgot to bring a pillow and either stared vacantly at each other from across the field or stretched out face-down on the infield dirt for a three hour siesta. This was a game that the Mariners very easily could've won (even though they didn't really deserve to), and it's the type of game they're going to have to win more often if they want to make it to the postseason.
The Mariners failed to achieve victory tonight for lots of reasons. We should all be smart/savvy/experienced enough to realize that no game is won or lost on a single play, but two things that really bothered me about tonight's performance by the M's were:
Bunting in the ninth inning doesn't make the most sense for a couple reasons. 1) Brad has been swinging the bat pretty well lately and had already demonstrated good plate discipline with two walks earlier in the evening. 2) Even if the bunt is successful, you have to choose between Ackley facing Sipp or Weeks/Ruggiano facing Neshek. Neither of these are particularly good matchups and Ackley ended up embarrassing himself against Sipp.
- Bunting in the tenth wasn't so bad, but if you aren't confident that one of your 2, 3, or 4 hitters can come through with a big hit... well, that's just kind of a bummer. Of course, Austin Jackson has proven himself to be a fairly accomplished bunter, so it's not really a bad call to ask him to lay down a sacrifice, but man oh man was that bunt miserable.
(Please feel free to argue the merits of bunting down in the comments.)
2. This garbage pitch by Dominic Leone to Houston's best hitter with the winning run on second.
This was RIGHT over the plate. It was pretty much the definition of a meatball. What an awful offering from Leone! But if you watch the replay, you'll notice that he didn't even seem to miss his spot! He threw it right to where Zunino's glove was. Maybe they thought they could sneak a get-me-over fastball past Altuve...? This seems like a bad call and it did not work and it made me very sad.
Today, the Mariners are losers. Hopefully that is not the case again tomorrow. Get it together, M's.
A couple quick bulletpoints:
- In 2014, Feldman allowed the most stolen bases out of any starting pitcher (35 SB in 42 attempts). Among Mariners baserunners tonight, Austin Jackson was the only player who tried to take advantage of this; he swiped two bases and was caught stealing once. In a game where the Mariners clearly had trouble scoring (but often had a runner at first), I'm a little surprised that Lloyd didn't call for a few more stolen base attempts.
- In the bottom of the third, Jose Altuve led off with a double and made it to third on a George Springer groundout. With two outs and Evan Gattis at the plate, Paxton threw three filthy curveballs in the dirt, eventually striking out Gattis to end the inning. If Zunino weren't behind the plate, I have a lot of trouble believing that Paxton would've thrown those pitches. Mike might be scufflin' with the bat, but he is so valuable behind the plate. He lets Felix throw his changeup, Iwakuma throw his splitter, and Paxton throw his curveball whenever they want, regardless of the situation. That's such a benefit to those pitchers. Thanks, Mike (but seriously please find your hittin' boots soon).