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Mariners vanquish Angels, umpiring crew, win 3-1

Taijuan Walker pitched like an ace for his sixth start in a row and the Mariners overcame some sketchy umpiring to beat the Angels.

All smiles.
All smiles.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

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:

    Clearly, that is a strike. More often than nine times out of 10, an MLB umpire will call that pitch a strike. Unfortunately, Clint Fagan is an MiLB call-up (and he acted like it tonight). This, of course, is just one pitch. Umpires mess up calls all the time and it's silly to get too upset. But Taijuan was facing Mike Trout! Who is really good! So a missed call is just that much more of a bummer! After a 1-0 count, Mike Trout has hit .331/.466/.608/1.074 in his career. Those are some absurd numbers. However, after an 0-1 count, his OPS slips by 222 points and his slash line is an embarrassing .283/.339/.513/.852. (Mike Trout is unreal.) Blowers oftentimes talks about how one pitch can change an at bat and, unfortunately for Tai, that definitely proved to be the case today. Trout would homer two pitches later to deep right field. Fortunately for the Mariners, that would be the Angels only run of the night.
  • In the third inning, with no outs and Brad Miller standing on second, Mike Zunino squared around to bunt. He did this:

    After he bunts the ball, things get a little squirrely. Mike initially takes a step towards first base, but then stops after Iannetta pushes him out of the way. It seems pretty clear that Mike's hesitation is caused by the fact that he doesn't want to get in the way of the catcher. Once Iannetta is in position to field the ball, Mike resumes his jog towards first. However, Clint Fagan, being the big ol' noob that he is, signals batter interference. As a result, Mike is out and the ball is dead and Miller has to return to second. Intuitively, this seems like an iffy call. And when you go and read the rules, it seems even worse. Maybe I'm not understanding this all the way, but here is an excerpt from the official rules that appears to cover this scenario.

    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.

    Mike certainly doesn't appear to intentionally do anything to impede the play, and only the most egregious contact should result in interference in this scenario. You all are free to discuss this in the comments, but I'm surprised that more wasn't made of this call during the game.
  • And then later in the third inning, Austin Jackson hit a grounder to Erik Aybar, which resulted in this:

    Except Jackson was called out. So then Lloyd challenged. And then the MLB umpiring "brain trust" in New York decided that this evidence wasn't conclusive enough for them to overturn the call. Instead of being tied 1-1 with a runner on first and two outs, the inning was over and the Mariners still trailed 0-1. And we all wept. Fortunately, the Mariners would eventually exact their revenge and win the ballgame. But that still doesn't excuse the ineptitude of the officials tonight.

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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.

Go M's!