Well, here we are again. It seems like this has been a common theme in Mariners losses: they perform well at the plate but it never quite translates into the clutch runs that they need to pull out a victory. And while the Mariners are certainly better off than the A's when it comes to close games, they really could have used a win like one today to pull ahead of that .500 mark and make the march back up in the standings.
From the get-go, this game felt like a loss. Roenis Elias displayed some excellent command with the first batter, generating a three-pitch weak flyout off the bat of Jason Kipnis in which Elias was able to use his fastball to paint the corners of the plate. After that he started missing his spots, loading the bases in the first inning off of two singles and a walk. It was a bad sign for the young pitcher who relies on those borderline calls to get strikes. A Nick Swisher sacrifice fly ended up being all of the damage Elias would allow in the first inning, as he was able to paint his curveball brilliantly for the final out of the inning.
Elias' curveball certainly had the sharpness we're accustomed to seeing from the Cuban left-hander, but as you can see there, that pitch was probably a little bit low and took a nice frame from Mike Zunino to generate the strike-three call. That's how a good number of his pitches were early on today: well-placed but not quite close enough to be called for strikes.
The Mariners wouldn't put up much of a threat in the first after a leadoff single by Austin Jackson was erased when he got caught trying to steal second base. The Indians tacked on to their lead when Jerry Sands drove a mistake pitch into the stands for a two-run homer to give Cleveland a 3-0 lead. Elias escaped the second inning without allowing any more damage, and good ol' Robinson Cano put the Mariners back on the board in his first game back from the flu.
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Luckily for the M's, Elias was able to settle in after that and ended up keeping the Indians down until the sixth inning. Unluckily for the Mariners, pretty much everything else. The M's put some solid contact on pitches from Shaun Marcum, but were unable to take advantage of the most vulnerable pitcher they would face in this series as Marcum would throw 5.1 innings of two-run ball, striking out five and walking three.
Things got a little exciting for the M's in the seventh as they loaded the bases down 4-3, giving Kyle Seager a chance to repeat the magic from last Tuesday. Seager would ultimately strike out and the M's would fall to the Indians by a score of 4-3. While this game had many encouraging signs, a victory against likely the weakest pitcher they'll face in the next few days would have put them in a far more desirable position.
That being said, let's get into the bullet points from today's game:
- It might be a little early to consider him fixed, but Robinson Cano sure did look nice today at the plate. The second baseman wound up going 2-for-4 with a walk, a home run, and 2 RBI. Maybe a couple of days off was all Cano needed to reset himself and work on some things on his own. Even in the instances where he didn't get on base, he seemed to have that swagger and confidence at the plate we're so accustomed to seeing from him.
- Austin Jackson quietly had a nice little game today, going 2-for-5 and running long distances to make some catches in the outfield. It really is nice to have a real center fielder out there again.
- The Mariners performed excellently on offense in today's game, collecting 11 hits and drawing four walks as a team. The Indians, meanwhile, only had six hits on the night but had four runs to show for it. Every starter in the M's lineup collected at least one base hit on the night except for Nelson Cruz, who did have a walk. Make of that what you will, but it sure was nice to see some offense coming from everyone today.
- Kind of a meaningless stat, but it is interesting to note that no Indian batter had a multi-hit game. Today's game really was really just decided by a few clutch hits at the right time.
- Even in spite of the struggles the Mariners have had, they were still the most likely team to make the World Series in the American League this morning according to Fangraphs (the numbers have adjusted after tonight's game to favoring the Yankees, the M's next opponent).