We all saw it coming. It was looming like thunderclouds on the horizon. There was no way the Mariners bullpen would be able to maintain such a low batting average on balls in play. It was just a matter of time before a single here, and a double there would start to push that figure higher and higher. Prior to this game, the relief corps had collectively posted the highest strikeout rate of any bullpen in the majors while also posting the lowest BABIP in baseball. Combined, that had allowed the bullpen to post the second lowest ERA in the American League.
Tonight, the Angels did their part to satisfy the regression that seemed to be inevitable. Three ground ball singles in the top of the seventh chased Nate Karns, who had held the Angels to just three hits in six innings. A sacrifice fly scored one and a bloop double off the bat of Mike Trout scored another, and the Angels had cut the Mariners’ lead from four to two.
After a Chris Iannetta laser shot home run in the bottom of the inning, the Angels chipped away again in the eighth. A solo home run off the bat of C.J. Cron and back-to-back doubles cut the Mariners’ lead to one.
In the ninth, two singles to right and a walk loaded the bases for Cron. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Steve Cishek jammed him with a fastball but he was able to dumb a bloop single out into no-man’s land in left center field, scoring two. All of a sudden, the Angels had the lead.
Let’s be honest, the 2016 edition of the Mariners has been really fun to watch so far. It’s a simple formula really: winning cures all woes. Add in a dash of Dae-ho Lee, a few walk-off wins, and healthy scoop of Robbie Cano and you’ve got a very entertaining ball club. But history has conditioned us to anticipate the worst, to worry about a game like this. With bullpens anchored by Fernando Rodney and Brandon League in the recent past, we should be accustomed to a late inning loss like this. This is the tension we live in right now: trying to forget what has come before while also learning how to enjoy this new thing that’s happening right now.
- The bullpen should be saddled with most of the blame but let’s not forget the 12 runners stranded by the Mariners tonight. They had the bases loaded on four separate occasions and scored in just half of them. Ketel Marte’s bases-clearing triple in the sixth was the offensive highlight and it felt like the game had been put out of reach afterward.
- In addition to his home run in the seventh, Chris Iannetta also drew two walks and added another single. With his walk-off home run on Wednesday, Chris is having himself a week.
Nelson Cruz and Leonys Martin provided the rest of the offense tonight. They also stranded the bases loaded on separate occasions tonight.
- Nate Karns turned in another good performance tonight. The three singles in the seventh marred his final line, but he looked dominant at times, particularly in the second and third innings. He’s managed to maintain a slight boost in fastball velocity that we’ve seen from his last few starts and his curveball has looked very sharp.
I noticed that Karns started throwing his curveball almost exclusively in the seventh inning. He threw just three fastballs in the inning and the rest were benders. It may have had something to do with the batters he was facing. Both Jefry Marte and Gregorio Petit had just been called up from Triple-A so maybe he wanted to challenge them with a real big league breaking ball. It worked on Marte but Petit was able to get a hit on a pretty good pitch from Karns.
Luckily for the Mariners, the Rangers lost to the Blue Jays earlier in the day so no ground was lost in the AL West. The Mariners are back at it tomorrow at 6:10 pm, as Hisashi Iwakuma faces off against Jhouyls Chacin.