The Seattle Mariners were unlikely to win today’s game. FiveThirtyEight gave the M’s a 46% chance of winning today’s game, which feels generous after the fact. Sometimes a game is complex, with layers of intrigue and missed chances and great plays and moments that stay with fans hours after the game. This was not that type of game.
If you squint really hard, you might see a moment where it could have gone differently. Following Ariel Miranda’s early exit, an already strapped bullpen was asked to cover for a sub-par start by a replacement level starter, Vidal Nuño entered a 3-1 game in the bottom of the 5th inning. He recorded two quick outs, and then gave up a first pitch single to Todd Frazier, who apparently watched the way Jimmie Foxx swung growing up, and decided he was just gonna do that every time.
Then Justin Morneau, grumpy old baseball dad, and lookalike of my freshman year roommate Clayton, hit a dang triple on a curveball he was all the way out on his front foot on.
Much like Clayton, Morneau runs as though his hamstrings are moments away from giving up the ghost, but the casual fly ball he hit was deposited perfectly out of the range of the Mariners’ shift. 4-1. Two outs, and plenty of opportunity to limit the damage. Damage, however, was not limited, and neither were dingers. Avisail Garcia and Alex Avila took big ole bites out of a hung changeup and a middle of the plate fastball, respectively, and it was 7-1.
José Quintana was very good, as he has been all year. He relinquished his first and only walk in the 8th inning and needed just 104 pitches to go 7.2 innings. The Mariners scored three runs, which is not good enough to win, but they allowed nine runs, which is more than enough to lose. Leonys Martín was the only Mariner starter to produce a positive WPA.
The Mariners started their #5 starter against one of the five best starters in the American League, and the game played out roughly as it could have been expected to be. I saw a lot of “We Miss Wade” during this game, and while LeBlanc has a face that everyone and their mother could love, Miranda, even with a shallow outing tonight, has been at least equal in value this year.
Prior to today’s game, Miranda had been at least a bit better than Wade, and his youth and repertoire make his prioritization understandable. That Miranda is the 4th or 5th starter on a team with a good enough offense to make the playoffs is a much larger problem. That Taijuan Walker and Nathan Karns have have been on and off the DL and inconsistent when healthy is a much larger problem. There are only so many contingencies a team can reasonably be expected to have, considering what this regime inherited.
That they are still just two games out of the Wild Card is incredible, and should almost feel like house money at this point. Blog Goliard had a zenful post last week on how this season compares to Mariners’ history, and in my conscious life the Mariners have had eight seasons where they were even remotely playing meaningful baseball in September. This will be the ninth, and that is enough for me right now.
Hopefully Tai can figure it out. Hopefully Miranda can go more than five innings soon, because he has looked absolutely solid in stretches. Dan Altavilla looked very good and touched triple digits, because Triple-A is overrated and pitching is silly. Kyle Seager is back and didn’t want Shawn O’Malley to get any funny ideas after last night.
This team did not quit, but they did get beaten very badly anyways, which is sometimes what happens, especially when you are 17/20ths of the way through twenty straight days of baseball. August is coming to a close, and the next two weeks will determine whether we will be excitedly watching Dan Altavilla and Dan Vogelbach for the present or the future in late September.