April Fools Day, a time designated for jokes and happiness, was a few days ago. Tonight’s loss, unfortunately, was neither a joke nor a happy experience. For your reading convenience, I have broken down the pain and suffering into three miserable categories.
After tonight’s dandy of an outing, the Mariners have struck out 42 times in 33.2 innings against the 23-year old hurler. Entering the night, Seattle’s modest slash line against McCullers was .196/.297/.289. Today was more of the same, as the Mariners managed just five hits in 27 plate appearances.
The Mariners looked slightly impatient early, chasing McCullers breaking balls in the dirt en route to a pair of first inning strikeouts.
Here’s Mitch Haniger’s first at bat:
Similarly, Nelson Cruz waved at a ball in the dirt in the opening frame:
That set the tone for a relatively antsy game at the plate for the Mariners. Aside from a 22-pitch fourth inning, McCullers efficiently worked through Seattle’s lineup, throwing just 66 pitches in the other five innings of his start.
In total, the Mariners struck out 11 times on Tuesday night, eight of which were swinging. McCullers’ big fastball and effective curveball had the Mariners on their heels all night. When Ken Giles came in to slam the door, he did a fantastic job getting hitters off balance as well. His first eight pitches were fastballs, all of which read 95 MPH or more on the gun. His fastest pitch was a 97.9 MPH high heater that he blew by Mike Zunino.
After a Dyson double, Giles decided he was tired of throwing fastballs and threw a slider, which induced a bounce out off the bat of Jean Segura. To that point, he had thrown eight fastballs in nine pitches. Now down to their final out, the Mariners sent Haniger to the plate. Most likely looking for a fastball, he swung over the top of a slider in the dirt. Giles followed that with two more sliders in the dirt. Two swings and two misses later, the Mariners fell short for the second consecutive night.
NOT VERY HARD CONTACT
The balls the Mariners did put in play were not hit particularly hard. Two of the Mariners’ seven hits were doubles: one of which was a grounder down the third baseline, while the other was a well-struck liner to right field from Dyson. Any other player probably only gets a single there, but that’s what speed do. The lone RBI of the night (and of the season) was a swinging bunt off the bat of Danny Valencia that Alex Bregman couldn’t get to in time.
Aside from a Leonys Martin line out and a Cruz fly out to right field, the other 25 Mariner outs came via strikeout or groundout. Seattle had plenty of opportunities, but were unable to come up with hard contact when needed. Consequently, they left 17 runners on base and finished the night with one hit in 10 tries with runners in scoring position.
THE SHORT PORCH
The short porch was never fun to begin with. Imagine how much less fun it was when fun police deputy Brian McCann opened scoring with a solo-shot to left. The only other run from the Astros came off the bat of Marwin Gonzalez, who also took a shortcut to dinger city with a fly ball over the left field fence.
Perhaps more frustrating is that both Astro round-trippers came off good pitches. Gameday says that McCann’s came from a pitch in the middle of the zone, but on TV it looked like it was a slider low and away. Here’s the location of Gonzalez’s home run off Hisashi Iwakuma:
*It’s worth noting that this was a splitter as well
No doubt taking a second consecutive loss to start the season hurts, but not every moment of tonight’s game was sad:
- Iwakuma, after a not great final start of the spring, looked in control today. In six innings of work, he threw only 83 pitches and allowed seven baserunners.
- Dan Altavilla looked great in his inning of relief. His fastball topped out at 98 MPH and he notched a punch-out against George Springer with a nasty slider.
- Zunino showed off his arm, throwing out two attempted base stealers.
Highly regarded philosopher “Big Sean” Anderson admitted that he took an L last night, but bounced back the next night. So if the Mariners took an L on consecutive nights, how much stronger must they bounce back tomorrow? We’ll all find out tomorrow at 5:10. Until then…