Today is one of those perfect Seattle days: the sunlight is sparkling off the Sound, the sky is Easter-egg blue, and the mountains look like frosted cakes in the distance. I hope you did an outside, fun thing today, and are reading this recap because you were out enjoying your environs, wherever they may be.
Today’s game was an inverse of Friday’s matchup, this time with the Mariners putting up the fireballer with spotty command, and the Cardinals using the methodical, plodding pitcher. Things didn’t start out great for Paxton: he started out Matt Carpenter and his Beard of Doom with a sequence of fastballs that gradually climbed the ladder to work Carp (the fish, why are they always so annoying) into a 1-2 count, then deposited a changeup on the inside corner that home plate ump, AAA callup Carlos Torres, did not call a strike. Pax then threw some middle-middle stuff and Carpenter smoked it into CF, which might have been okay except Leonys Martín didn’t like his sunglasses or something and lost it over his head. Leadoff triple. Paxton then struggled to locate his fastball against Aledmys Diaz, who turned on an outside corner fastball for a ground rule double, giving the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead. Paxton came back to strike out Matt Holliday on three pitches, then blew a fastball past the dangerous Stephen Piscotty (batting .468 with RISP!) for another K, but then walked Brandon Moss before getting Jedd Gyorko to fly out to center. The damage was limited to one run, but Paxton’s pitch count was already in the 20s by the end of the first.
The Mariners, to their credit, rallied back to tie up the game. Ketel led off with a smash up the middle which feels to me like 90% of the hits he’s gotten this season, but a quick check with Bill Petti’s spray chart shows he’s actually been pretty good about distributing his hits. Guti followed with a base hit that sent speedy Ketel to third and you’d think this would be a good feeling, with Canó/Cruz/Seager coming up and just one out. But alas, the June slump continues for the heart of the order, and Canó struck out, while Cruz managed to leg out what could have easily been an inning-ending double play, allowing Ketel to score from third. Then Kyle...oh Kyle. Part of it was, Kyle had a putrid day on both sides. There seemed to be a special Kyle Seager strike zone that extended approximately into Bellingham. But also:
The first inning doesn’t always set the tone for a game, but it sure seemed to here. Paxton had spotty command and struggled to keep batters off-base; García wasn’t especially effective, but the Mariner hitters failed to punish him for mistakes. This story is getting very tiresome. I would like to return it to the library and get another.
The Cardinals could have been ahead by 4-1 in the second inning, but Franklin Gutierrez has carried our happiness before and he will do so again:
Death to Flying Things lives. Paxton would come back to get a strikeout of Aledmys Diaz to end the inning and keep the Cardinals from scoring. It could have been worse. It would get worse.
Again, the Mariners were able to get to García quickly in the bottom of the second. Dae-Ho Lee led off with a double he punched into the right field corner and Martín legged out an infield hit to put runners on the corners with just one out. Shawn O’Malley, playing today in place of Seth Smith for his superior ability to hit lefties, then turned on an inside fastball to hit a ground-rule double. The ball bouncing out wound up costing O’Malley an RBI, however. After a truly atrocious at-bat by Ketel where he went down on three pitches that had never even heard of the strike zone and caused Blowers to put on his disappointed dad voice, Guti worked a pro at-bat to earn a walk, loading the bases for...Robinson Canó. Remember when that felt like a good thing? Canó swung at the first pitch he saw. It went right to Matt Carpenter, who is not exactly an elite defender. Please come back soon, good Robi.
Paxton managed to work a relatively clean third, with just one walk and a passed ball putting Piscotty at second, but kept the Cardinals off the board. In the Mariners’ half of the inning, Nelson Cruz fouled off a 91 mph fastball right in the lower middle of the plate that last year he would have crushed for a home run, but then García decided to throw him the exact same pitch and Nelson did not miss this one. Seager hit into the shift for feels like approximately the one millionth time this season but then Dae-Ho punched a pitch he’d just seen called a strike into center field for a base hit and things felt like they might get started again. Dae-Ho is delightful, certainly, but his ability to respond to the strike zone and diagnose pitches is getting to be one of my favorite things about him. Unfortunately, next up was Chris Iannetta, Unluckiest Mariner, and he got into a ball that sounded good off the bat but then just kind of died. Poor Chris. He hit the ball hard all day today and had nothing to show for it. Martín walked on four pitches and García’s command looked like it was maybe taking a drive to Alki. He then threw a wild pitch to Shawn O’Malley that backup catcher Fryer scrambled after and meanwhile DAE-HO COMIN LIKE A FREIGHT TRAIN TO THIRD. He was initially called safe, then the ruling was reversed, and I call shenanigans. That would have made every highlight show in the land, MLB, what are you trying to do. So despite making García throw a ton of pitches, the Mariners could only scrounge up one run in that inning.
In the fourth, the Cardinals went quietly, but the Mariners did the same, and in the fifth, Paxton melted down. Or the defense melted down. Or the sun melted what was a beautiful banana split into an unrecognizable pile of sludge. After Paxton got Carpenter to strike out on a high fastball, Diaz sent a double into center field that was in Martín’s glove for a second, and then it wasn’t. Matt Holliday managed to loop a pitch that was off the plate and down into RF for an RBI double. Then Piscotty had an excuse-me swing drop just fair into the corner for another double. Paxton was throwing gas in this inning, hitting 100 mph several times, but the Cardinals hitters are good enough and strong enough that they were able to respond. Then Brandon Moss got bored of the doubles and hit a triple and a Let’s Go Cardinals chant started up and if you want to stop reading the recap here you can, because you kind of know how this goes. Kyle did that thing he does sometimes where he bobbled a Jedd Gyorko grounder, allowing another run to score, and I don’t know who he picked that up from, maybe at school or daycare or something, but it’s gotta stop. When the carnage finally stopped it was 5-3, Cardinals, and this time the Mariners would be unable to answer back despite a leadoff double by Canó. How many leadoff doubles have the Mariners squandered this year? How many RISPs must a man leave on base before you can call him a Mariner? These are the eternal questions.
I hope you didn’t stop reading the recap because there is one more good thing to tell you about, and as always, it is a Guti thing. With the Cardinals leading 6-3 (Matt Carpenter swung at exactly one pitch in his five-pitch plate appearance against Donn Roach, who came in to replace Paxton in the sixth, and it was a homer), Franklin Gutierrez stepped up with Martín (infield hit) and Ketel (looper into LF) on. Dave Sims: “they keep a-knocking, you gotta let them in at some point” and I was just in the process of rolling my eyes when
What did we do to deserve Guti?
But the baseball gods giveth and the baseball gods taketh and this time they tooketh in the form of Nick Vincent—you’ll remember him from making that nice catch of Guti’s home run into the bullpen—giving up home runs to two-thirds of the bottom third of St. Louis’s lineup. Nick Vincent might have a dinger problem, you guys: he’s allowed 7 home runs in about 36 innings of work. That’s...not great. Also not great: the Mariners would fail to score any more runs, while the Mariner bullpen gave up...I don’t know, I honestly quit counting. Diaz gave up one, because throwing 98 is great but when you throw it middle-middle to Matt Holliday he’s going to do something with it no matter what speed, and Nuño gave up...two more? I think that’s right. Like I said, I sort of watched the last few innings staring longingly out the window, because at the end of the day I’m a fan of a team that plays in the loveliest part of the world, and I’m lucky enough to live there, so I’m going to go have a beverage, feel the sun on my face, look at the water, enjoy the series win against a tough team, and maybe pretend the game ended after the sixth inning. Hey, it works for soccer, right? I hope you all enjoy the rest of your day and the off-day tomorrow.