Man. I don't know if it's because the Mariners were playing the (gross, terrible, despicable) Angels or if sitting nine games back at the end of June has simply instilled a frenzied sense of urgency or what, but that game felt super intense. There were so many opportunities for things to go horribly wrong... but then everything worked out! And the Mariners won. And the Angels lost. And, just for a moment, everything was right with the baseball world. Houston also lost tonight, so the Mariners are currently eight games back with 88 games to play.
This game, in large part, was all about the continued dominance of Taijuan Walker. Dude was on fire again tonight. Over his last six starts, he's 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA and has struck out 44 batters while walking only three. The only blemish during this period has been his propensity to make the occasional mistake pitch resulting in a home run. Tai has allowed five dingers over his last six games, which have accounted for six of the nine runs he's given up during this period. Tonight, Tai's splitter was particularly nasty. He threw the pitch 18 times and generated five whiffs. He threw seven electric innings and could regularly be seen slapping his hands and shouting into his glove with a mixture of excitement and confidence and determination. I love watching this young man pitch.
Relief pitching was also interesting tonight. After Furbush dispatched Calhoun to begin the eighth, Lloyd opted to go to Carson Smith to face Trout and Pujols. This left Rodney to pitch in a ninth-inning save situation for the first time since June 2nd. I imagine that most of our collective hearts were palpitating wildly as Rodney trotted out to the mound, but his outing proved to be fairly painless. He did give up a one-out single to Matt Joyce but then proceeded to strike out both Iannetta and Featherston swinging. Once his foes were dispatched, Rodney fiercely fired his arrow into the night sky... as if there was never any doubt. If Rodney has indeed gotten his groove back, that would be nice, but I don't really look forward to having to listen to the Smith vs. Rodney closer debate in the coming weeks.
Offensively, the Mariners managed three runs on nine hits. It certainly wasn't an offensive explosion, but they did more than enough damage to get the job done tonight. Brad Miller hit an equalizing double to score Mark Trumbo in the fifth inning, and then Nelson Cruz lined a double to right field to score Austin Jackson from first and put the M's up 2-1. They took this tentative 2-1 lead into the 8th inning, and then Robinson Cano did this:
Wow is right, Mike. Cano launched this ball an estimated 434 feet, deep into the right field seats. It's been a long time since he hit a ball this far (since 08/07/13, to be exact). Cano is finally maybe hopefully showing some signs of life in his bat. Over his last 10 games (41 PA), he's hitting .308/.317/.539. The Mariners desperately need him to get hot if they want to start making up ground on the Astros. Do it, Robbie.
And now a few bullet points highlighting some of the dumb calls made by the umpires tonight:
- In the bottom of the first, Taijuan Walker faced-off against Mike Trout. His first pitch was this:
- In the third inning, with no outs and Brad Miller standing on second, Mike Zunino squared around to bunt. He did this:
7.09 It is interference by a batter or a runner when: (i) He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball... Rule7.09(i) Comment: When a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation and nothing should be called.
- And then later in the third inning, Austin Jackson hit a grounder to Erik Aybar, which resulted in this:
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Seattle is back at it tomorrow afternoon at 4:15 PST. Here's hopin' they can finally start that long winning streak that they desperately need.