The theme of last night's Mariners Mondays was young pitchers (in this case Mike Montgomery and Taijuan Walker) pitching back to back shutouts against the San Diego Padres. There is a bit of slippage in terminology here; Montgomery carried a no-hitter through 7 innings (!) on his way to his second complete game shutout of the season (!!), while Walker was visibly frustrated when he was pulled after just 6 albeit excellent frames. Perhaps the true theme of the evening was excellent pitching performances buoyed by bursts of offensive efficiency, a tale of 2015 privation. I don't write TV copy for living. This might be why.
Game 77, June 30, 2015
The First Inning
These back to back complete game shutouts from Mike Montgomery were so weird. So weird. This game started with a groundout up the middle that almost dinged MiMo and a walk to Derek Norris. This doesn't have the makings of a good start, but then Alonso sends a double play ball right to the first base bag, Logan Morrison (hi!) tosses it over to Brad Miller (oh hey!) and whiz bang geez, MiMo had skated out of a jam. If you recall, when MiMo threw his complete game shutout against the Royals, he had a similarly rocky start, giving up two singles and then plunking Mike Moustakas, before settling down, working his way out of a jam of his own making, and casually tossing 8 more innings of shut out ball.
Montgomery's role on the 2016 roster will be something to watch going into Spring Training. Jerry Dipoto has said he'll come to camp a starter, and the old adage goes that you should never engage in a land war in Asia or dismiss a lefty without first trying them in the ‘pen. These two starts were the highlight of MiMo's season. It got much worse from here. But there is obviously talent wrapped up in that lanky frame.
The Third Inning
Brad Miller pops out. Oh Brad.
Mike Zunino DINGER. Mike gets a fastball right down the middle and it goes far. Like, really far. Thank you, Mariners Mondays. This makes up for the at-bats we had to watch last week. Ian Kennedy is probably still mad about that meatball. Mike is probably still happy to have punished a mistake.
LoMo fouls one off his foot before ripping a triple. That might be an allegory for his entire season. LoMo made Edgar Martinez very happy.
Well done, LoMo /clap clap/ You're not going to score, because Mariners /clap clap/ But we love you /clap clap/ At least for now /clap clap/.
The Sixth Inning
Mariners Mondays elect not to show us the 3 run 4th because they would prefer you experience mystery and wonderment. How did those runs get there? Was it a home run (partly)? And who hit it (weirdly, Brad)? A Mystery Mariner (No, it was Brad)?
Kyle grounds out quickly. He didn't want to steal Mike's thunder. Because he loves his friend. What a Sweet Prince. Nelson pops out in the infield and yells CUPCAKES. Just kidding, he did a loud swear. Seth Smith is also out. This was definitely the inning to show.
Aaron Goldsmith and Mike Blowers are praising Montgomery and the instructional league platonic ideal that is the 10 mph difference between his 91 mph fastball velocity and his 81 mph changeup velocity. MiMo is such a good boy. The game action is relatively routine, with MiMo getting Kemp on a ground out and Norris to strike out swinging, and it is only when the inning concludes that you realize MiMo has a no-hit bid going.
Bottom of the Seventh Inning
Solarte sends a ground rule double over the wall to end the no-hit bid. I understand why ROOT chose this game. MiMo had a no-hitter going through 7. We need to be reminded that there were actually good things in 2015, even if the good things will eventually shake off signs and get demoted to Tacoma and makes us stare into the middle distance. But watching an almost no-hitter without the stress of each out was bizarre. Baseball games are special in that the action on the field determines each contest's pace and rhythm. Unbound from the pressures of a shot clock or a timed down, it breathes as much as the players' skill allows it, sometime frenetic, sometimes lazy, sometimes tense. No-hitters are typically stressful affairs, particularly Mariners no-hitters, which normally feature one run. This game was still an almost no-hitter, and still a win, and definitely a complete game shut out, but having it chopped up like this makes you aware of the beats that are missing. We might remember an event like a grand slam, or be aware that a particular pitching performance was good, but sustaining the emotional state of an almost no-hitter after all these months is harder, and vaguely unhealthy. We didn't get nearly enough tense speculation from the booth, or wandering shots over to MiMo in the dugout as he waited to pitch. If you don't suffer a mild cardiovascular event during an almost no-hitter, is it still an almost no-hitter? Kind of?
The Ninth Inning
The Mariners tack on another run in the top of the inning. And then in the bottom of the 9th, Derek Norris lines out to Cano. One out. A change up gets Alonso to strike out swinging. Two outs. The Good Upton walks, and we can see rustling in the dugout with MiMo at 112 pitches. But lucky 113 proves to be enough, with Solarte flying out to right. MiMo is king, at least for the day.
Game 78, July 1, 2015
This wasn't on the Mariners Monday broadcast, but FYI Lil Jon threw out the first pitch of this game. Turn down for what? Not the Padres, certainly.
Bottom of the Secong Inning
I said last week that part of the appeal and the strangeness of these broadcasts is revisiting players who are no longer with the team. This week's strangeness was all about a someone who is on the team. Because in the bottom of the 2nd, we are treated to Goldsmith and Blowers riffing on the (then) recent departure of one Gerard Peter Dipoto from the Angels. You know Jerry? Tall guy? Good face?
Charismatic cult leader? Likes to trade? Goldsmith notes the consensus at the time: "Dipoto is a very good general manager, Scoscia is a good manager, but together, they're not good."
In the game action, Tai strikes out Upton looking, as if knowing that sometime in the future, Mariners Mondays would rebroadcast this game, Jerry Dipoto would be his GM, and he could serve as the exclamation on this conversation and, potentially, his general manager's future.
Bottom of the Fifth Inning
Still tied 0-0, Tai strikes out the always amenable Venable (sorry) swinging and sits the side down in order for the fourth time in 5 innings. Pitching performances chopped up like this can be tricky to gauge, but this one was a beaut. Tai leaned on his fastball, but made effective use of his change up. Goldsmith and Blowers talked about how quickly his fastball gets on you, attributing it to an incredibly smooth delivery and the effectiveness of the change, which allows enough deception and ambiguity to be dangerous. The Padres batters no doubt agreed.
Top of the Sixth Inning
CANO IT. Cano sends a ball over the fence the opposite way into the waiting hands of a fan in a Sonics jersey. He shall forever be known as Sonics man. I hear he is opening a chain of restaurants in the San Diego area. They will sell salmon, coffee, and a propensity to complain about traffic and real estate prices.
Bottom of the Sixth
Tai strikes out Shields and Kemp swinging, and then gets Norris to fly out to center. It's a 1-2-3 inning (again) for Tai. McClendon and the trainer made their way out to the mound earlier in the game, and while nothing seemed wrong, Tai would leave it there, with a final line of 1 hit, 6 innings, no runs, no walks and 7 strike outs. It was a clear case of Lloyd being careful with his young pitcher, who was surly about the exit, as young pitchers are wont to be. At FanFest this past weekend, both Tai and Scott Servais remarked that Tai won't be on a pitch count this year. Performances like this make you excited at the idea of him being let loose.
Top of the Seventh
The Mariners add a run, but Dustin Ackley TOOTBLANS at home, denying them another. Because time is a flat circle and our base running was a gosh darned mess in 2015.
Top of the Eighth
Quackenbush! Quackenbush! Quackenbush! (Base hit for Cruz)
Quackenbush! Quackenbush! Quackenbush! (Kyle doubles!)
Quackenbush! Quackenbush! Quackenbush! (Jackson sac fly to scores Cruz)
Miller! Miller! Miller! (Miller strands Kyle at third)
Top of the Ninth
Mike Zunino draws a walk.
Seth Smith reaches on an error on an attempted force out and Mikey scoots over to 3rd. A LoMo sac fly brings home Mike, and then a double from Robbie brings home Seth. Cano had 4 hits and 3 RBI in this game. And then Nelson Cruz hits a towering two run homer to score Cano. It was Nelson's birthday. Happy birthday from the future, Nelson.
Wilhelmsen makes quick work of the 9th, the Mariners leave San Diego with two wins on the back of two very good pitching performances, and then make moves at the trade deadline to make the playoffs. Many of those things are true.
Next week, we'll be treated to a Last At-Bats Wins Montage, which sounds awfully fun.