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Chase de Jong controls lizard brain, Mariners win big, 8-2

Chase de Jong is 23/ and more composed than you’ll ever be/ this is a Taylor Swift song right?

MLB: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners
Fight or flight? Nah I think I’ll just jam on this PB&J thanks much
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

In teacher training we were often warned about not allowing our lizard brains to take over. “Lizard brain” is where fight or flight lives, the oldest and most primordial part of our brain, the part tasked with keeping us alive. It’s the part that makes us yell and throw things and generally behave like we belong on a cable reality show. When someone threatens you, the stem—the lizardy part—lights up like a Christmas tree, flooding your system with adrenaline. This can happen a lot if you have a high-stress job where people yell at you often, like teaching in an impoverished school district, or working a customer service line, or being an MLB pitcher. To defeat lizard brain, you have to be able to out-think it, redirect it positively; if not, you submit to the lure of adrenaline coursing through your system, and you become Angry Dad: The Movie.

Chase de Jong has mastered his lizard brain, at the ripe old age of 23 years old, by having a clear sense of the task at hand. Make the pitches, cover the innings, don’t walk people. He’s not thinking about striking the world out and covering his name in glory. He’s thinking batter by batter, pitch by pitch, getting through his outings in a way that helps the team. He’s also not dwelling on his past problems: when asked about his appearance in the 13th inning game in Houston where he wound up giving up the winning home run to George Springer, he chose instead to focus on how excited he was to make his major league debut.

Tonight Chase de Jong was very good, but he does not get his first major league win. That goes to James Pazos, who was the pitcher of record when the Mariners surged ahead. All Chase de Jong did was his job, and he did it in workmanlike fashion, if not with particular efficiency. He pitched six innings and walked no one, giving up four hits and just one run, on a towering home run to Joey Gallo. He only struck out three, because Chase de Jong doesn’t care about strikeouts; he just wants to get you out. It’s easier to keep the lizard brain tamped down that way, to not put yourself at the center of your own success. In interviews after, he repeatedly praised the excellent defense playing behind him and the work of his catcher, lost Earp brother Tuffy Gosewisch. Humility is your friend if you work in a profession where a lot of people yell at you. (Chase de Jong is kind of a goober, really. In his postgame presser, when asked about giving up home runs, he said, “I like Safeco. It’s a good place.”)

The offense, unfortunately, decided to imitate de Jong’s slow-and-steady performance, and was only able to scratch across one run against Martin Perez before a seventh inning that would see eleven batters come to the plate against three Rangers pitchers. Ben Gamel got things started with a single, and then Tuffy Earp’s sac bunt was mishandled by the pitcher Perez, leading to two on with no one out. Seattle’s Chief Sealth High product Keone Kela then ran into some tough luck when Elvis Andrus wasn’t able to come up with the ball on a Jean Segura infield single, and then missed his location on a pitch to the subsequent batter, Guillermo Heredia, to walk in a run. (Guillermo took that pitch right in the tricep. Please be okay, Guillermo.) The bad news here is the terrifying triumvirate of Canó, Cruz and Seager recorded no hits between the three of them, although Canó had a sac fly to get the Mariners another run and Cruz worked a walk to re-load the bases. After Seager popped up on a pitch middle-middle, things looked bleak for securing more runs. Enter Danny Valencia, hero. Yes, that Danny Valencia. Taylor Motter, especially hairy Kewpie doll, then did his best Mitch Haniger impression and doubled down the left field line before Ben Gamel singled to keep the train moving and bring the inning full-beautiful-circle. 8-1 Mariners.

Some other notes:

  • Segura carried the offense tonight with three hits. He has a wRC+ of 160, which is about 60 points higher than Brad Miller’s this year, and about forty points more than double Ketel Marte’s in 2015. Please stay forever, Jean.
  • Taylor Motter had an interesting plate appearance in the 4th. Perez threw him two pitches on the outside edge, one of which Motter fouled back, but the second of which he poked into left field for what missed being an opposite-field double by about a foot. Perez then came back onto the inner half of the plate and Motter smoked a double that smacked the bag at third. He’s definitely showing an ability to adjust and cover the whole plate.
  • James Pazos was again James Motherfreaking Pazos, working a shutdown inning in relief of De Jong where he struck out the side for the first time in his MLB career, despite giving up a dumb hustle double to Mike Napoli. He sat around 96 and didn’t overthrow, and while his slider command wasn’t excellent, he was still able to bury one to get Odor swinging.
  • Tony Zych worked a scoreless inning. He gave up a first-pitch-swinging single to Chirinos and walked Mazara, who showed some excellent plate discipline in laying off a pitch just at the bottom of the zone, but was able to get both DeShields and Andrus swinging.
  • Dan Altavilla was sharp in his first inning back after a short stint in Tacoma. Working in the ninth, he allowed a solo shot to Mike Napoli, who seems intent on ruining all my reliever narratives tonight. But the fastball Napoli hit out was 97 mph and in the upper-middle of the plate, and came in a 2-2 count with two outs. It was a “here, try to hit it” pitch and, well, Napoli hit it. I’m sure Altavilla wanted to strike out the side, having put down the previous two batters with authority, but he was able to finish off Choo after that with a flyout to secure the Mariners win.