For 6 1⁄2 innings this game was an exercise in faith. The Mariners offense had seen Joe Biagini once before and came up empty-handed, getting shut out on May 12th in Toronto. Tonight appeared to be a local showing of the same performance for most of the night, as Biagini’s lone blemish had come in the third with a pair of singles that resulted in a run only by the grace of Jarrod Dyson’s speed. The score was 2-1 and the raucous Blue Jays crowd was deep into a siege of the outnumbered home supporters.
Things were grim. And then they weren’t.
The barrel of Robinson Canó’s bat flashed like lightning and the ball struck the wall in center field like thunder, inches below the yellow line that separates certainty and mere possibility. Tonight, possibility became reality. Kyle Seager walked after a Nelson Cruz groundout, bringing up Danny Valencia who has been much maligned this year for his penchant for hitting the most beautiful double play balls you’ve ever seen. Joe Biagini’s fastball was 92.7 mph this time instead of the 93.1 mph it was to Nelson Cruz, and Valencia was ahead of it just enough to rip it left of Troy Tulowitzki and into left field. Canó turned on his private jets and slid safely home as Kyle Seager utilized some manner of sinister magicks to sneak into third base.
This is where the inning would have ended a few weeks ago. Tonight wasn’t a night of dominance, but instead one of small moments that made a big difference, and the small players at the bottom made the difference here. Mike Zunino drew a walk to load the bases, which gave Jarrod Dyson a chance to do just a little bit more.
In the top half of the inning he had done another little thing that came up huge. Giving full extension on a Josh Donaldson double in the gap, he just missed making a sensational catch. Outfield defense isn’t just about catches and assists though, and Dyson stopping the ball where it landed instead of snatching it from the base of the wall meant out number three and took another at-bat with a runner in scoring position away from Toronto. Without hesitation he fired the ball from his knees to Taylor Motter who, among a few strong defensive plays tonight, made a perfect relay to the plate to ground a flying Pillar.
When Dyson came up in the bottom of the inning, he did a little bit more once again. He ripped a single that scored one and also appeared to encourage Danny Valencia to believe being fast for a first baseman meant he was actually fast. Still, it was just enough.
The eighth added another run in spite of Scott Servais and his decision to bunt prior to the 3-4-5 of the order. Ben Gamel doubled on a nice line drive that made it all the way to the wall because José Bautista runs like his spine was encased in cement moments ago. Servais proceeded to have Heredia bunt, which he did a very bad job of. There are worse situations to bunt, but it was a bad call. A mere single most likely would score Gamel in that situation, and Heredia, Canó, and Cruz are usually good for at least one hit. Thankfully another small battle went the Mariners way, as Heredia reached second after a fielder’s choice from Canó and Cruz was intentionally walked, bringing up Kyle Seager. Facing LOOGY and living typo Aaron Loup, Seager stayed inside the ball and brought in the insurance run that swung the tide of emotion in the stadium back to its rightful place.
The pitch isn’t stellar, but taking 95.1 MPH the other way was a great piece of hitting from a star who hasn’t shined as brightly as we’re used to so far this year.
What was stellar was the bullpen. Sam Gaviglio survived 6.0 IP and threw a career high 102 pitches, only five of which generated swinging strikes. To say he was brilliant would be a lie, but what he was was enough. A José Bautista solo homer was the only extra-base hit he allowed, and when he turned the game over to Tyler Cloyd, the night was over. Cloyd allowed the Donaldson double in his first MLB appearance since 2013 with the Phillies, after a journey through Indy ball brought him back, throwing 91 mph and looking reasonable enough on the mound. Nick Vincent, well, fine, yes, good, three strikeouts in an inning is ideal I suppose, especially when one is Justin Smoak.
I am not sure at what point Nick Vincent will make me feel less than nauseous entering the game but tonight is not yet it.— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) June 10, 2017
Then it was Edwin. Then it was over. Although, with how he looked, getting a fly out from Ezequiel Carrera before fooling Ryan Goins and torching Pillar, it looked over the moment he stepped on the mound.
91 MPH slider. 101 MPH fastball. 4-2 final score, see you tomorrow. Little things are great, but even if it was magnified by being in attendance and hearing the fury of the Blue Jays fans screaming about Justin Smoak, this win felt plenty big.