It didn't come out until after the contest ended in his post-game media session but, earlier this afternoon, Scott Servais had a talk with the "leadership" of the Seattle Mariners. It wasn't do-or-die, but it was time for a switch to flip. Last night, the M's let a mediocre and slumping Pirates team walk all over them. They've turned a corner since the huge slump of mid-June, but they're still not out of the weeds yet. They're not back to form, dominating teams and waltzing through series wins like they were so many pebbles on the street. However, despite September not being yet here, these games all weigh the same. It's time to start winning, a lot.
And that's just what they did tonight, beating the Baltimore Orioles 5-3 in a game that felt a lot more lopsided than the final score shows. And really, that feeling is due mostly to Taijuan Walker, who made his first start since coming out of the rotation from a "foot injury". While sciency-type pictures and shapes confirmed that in Tai's foot there was NO REAL DAMAGE and he is BIG BABY who would be asked to SUCK IT UP if this were the 1980's, well...well he did just that. Claiming to have pitched through the pain all outing (welcome to your mid-20's, buddy) Tai was back to his early season form that had me saying "Hello, this pitcher is a good as Jake Arrieta right now with a much more reasonable strand rate." I was wrong then, and am wrong now, as always. However, Tai was throwing an easy 95 MPH with the fastball and the off-speed stuff was locating well enough to keep a lot of bats missing balls. When he missed, he missed down, until the seventh inning when his velocity dropped and he left one up for Hyun Soo Kim to tater for a solo shot, and then with one out, a Chris Davis single finally got the Scott Servais Hook out. For his part, Walker started with three perfect frames, and ended with five strike outs, no walks, and only the single earned run in six and one-third innings.
Some of that was thanks to the handy, dandy, well-oiled glove of Kyle Seager.
What a lad he is.
Speaking of Kyle, the offense did that thing we are now sort of expecting them to always do, scoring four runs off of Chris Tillman and chasing him early in the fifth inning. A Seager RBI double in the first held the lead until a fifth-inning Seth Smith Dad Bazooka Joe Bomb put the M's up 3-0. The rest of the scoring was done, and somehow I checked my notes and this is true, by two fielder's choices off the bat of Dae-Ho Lee in the fifth and seventh. It was the sort of offensive and pitching combined performance that wasn't utterly unstoppable, but more than enough to grab a win that we had become accustomed to pre-injury bug. Winning the first game of the series is a big relief, and if Lou Piniella, commerical superstar, taught us anything in 2001, it's "Just Win Series". He forgot the thing about the "World Series" but that comes with time. Winning is always made easier, though, by Seth Smith Big Boy Blasts.
It's tough to snap a team on a hot streak, and the O's were smoking hot, having won seven on the trot coming into Safeco tonight. With the Kim blast in the seventh, they set the June record for home runs at 56. That's a shitload of bombs in one month. And the O's showed that offensive strength late. After Edwin Diaz finished the seventh like the vengeful cowboy upon a skeleton horse he is, Joaquin Benoit pitched the eighth in his most recent attempt to lose his role. After doing his obligatory walking of the first batter, Benoit would allow two singles after a line out by JJ Hardy before getting pulled for Steve Cishek, who was asked to complete a four-out save. Cishek would allow another single, shortening the M's lead 5-3, but strike out Chris Davis to end the eighth. His nearly perfect ninth was only blemished by a Mark Trumbo single.
Really, though, what defined this team before the June Slump, was that almost every night someone stepped up. Chris Iannetta, Leonys Martin, Nelson Cruz, Robbie, Ketel, Kyle, Kuma, the list goes on. Every night, someone seemed to take the game on their back. Well, folks, despite the above monster jack by Seth, tonight was Leonys Martin's night. Take in and appreciate the player who Jerry Dipoto acquired for James Jones (and that is it now).
Oh my and
Oh my, again.
Personally, I really like how this team matches up against the Orioles and I expect good returns from this four-game stand. It's the O's, the Astros, and another four against the Royals before the break and I think the M's have a great chance to set themselves up for a post-Break run at a playoff spot. June sucked, we all stood and witnessed. That shit is over now. This team is back to nightly heroics. It's time to just win, baby.
Happy July, y'all.