Nobody can predict the game of baseball.
Oh, sure, advanced stats have helped us strip away luck and delve into the nitty-gritty. And, yes, if you spend enough time scouting players and watching games, you’ll make some observations that will certainly give you insight to this beautiful game.
But there’s no foolproof way to understand what’s coming. Long before this game’s thrilling conclusion, there were a number of intuitive predictions that seemed obvious, but my hit rate was scarcely better than Ben Gamel’s BABIP. Read on to see the obvious and not-so-obvious.
#1: Ariel Miranda will struggle against the Tigers.
On paper, it was a bad matchup for Ariel Miranda.
A southpaw with a propensity to allow prodigious blasts going up against a righty-heavy lineup? That could only spell trouble for the Mariners.
And after Miranda allowed two early homers to Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton in the first two innings, it was only fair to be a bit queasy about what was to come.
But the 28-year-old steadied himself like a veteran and wound up with a super-quality start, throwing seven innings and allowing just those two runs. He left the game with a 3-2 lead courtesy of a first-inning Nelson Cruz double and a solo shot in the 2nd from Taylor Motter. Though Miranda recorded just three strikeouts, he managed to induce plenty of groundouts (8, compared to seven flyouts) to keep the Tiger sluggers at bay.
#2: Umpires (namely C.B. Bucknor) aren’t actually very good at their jobs.
Let’s take a look at C.B. Bucknor’s strike zones from today:
Two spots really stand out to me. For starters, the lefty strike zone just misses a boatload of pitches that frankly aren’t close to being balls. And the righty strike zone doesn’t appear to have much consistency along the bottom of the zone. It was a horrendous night for C.B., and even the beat reporters weren’t having it.
It's like a 4-year-old's etch a sketch. https://t.co/fKNQpUGJBU— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) June 21, 2017
The umpires left much to be desired in other ways as well. Mitch Haniger appeared to pull a nifty move to steal second back in the third, but even after a lengthy replay review, the Powers that Be decided to uphold the original call that Haniger was out. You be the judge.
The image that will forever remain in my head, however, is from the 9th inning. Instead of a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play, Edwin Diaz was robbed because C.B. Bucknor blinked...and missed a strike right down Main Street.
Maybe this is a thing that happens to umps/catchers often, but Bucknor's eyes were 10000% closed when he just made that trash ball call. pic.twitter.com/NtGNyTaqpd— Andrew Rice (@Andrew_Rice) June 21, 2017
#3: Ben Gamel will, at some point, slow down from his torrid start.
I suppose, technically, the jury remains out on this one. I can’t imagine you need reminding that a .464 BABIP is completely and thoroughly unsustainable, and that Mr. Gamel will not appear in his current destroyer of worlds form for the rest of his career, or even really the rest of the season.
But, I’ll be damned if it isn’t a lot of fun to watch.
He was 3-for-5 today, with a first-inning double and a homer in the 7th that became a sorely-needed run just a half-inning later. The most impressive part of that home run, other than the sheer distance to deep center, was the at-bat itself. Gamel battled to last for eight pitches before depositing the ninth over the fence.
And because I wouldn’t dare not show you the dinger itself...
#4: Dan Altavilla is a poor choice to pitch in a close game.
This seemed like extremely poor bullpen management from the get-go. Altavilla entered in the 8th with a 4-2 lead. After a four-pitch walk, Diesel Dan recovered with two very nice strikeouts of Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera, both of whom were caught looking. But a two-base wild pitch and the meatiest of meatballs gave the Tigers the two runs they needed to tie it up.
(Side note: this team needs one more reliever that doesn’t cause me to have my heart in my throat when they pitch. I’m okay with Diaz, but outside of him, I find it hard to trust Vincent/Cishek/Altavilla/Zych for various reasons.)
#5: He may have started out in a slump, but Kyle Seager still remains a good baseball player.
With the game knotted at four apiece in the 9th, the Mariners failed to take advantage of a leadoff single from Our Lord and Savior Mike Zunino when Scott Servais asked Taylor Motter, he of a nice solo shot back in the second inning, to lay down a sac bunt. He popped it up, and the next two at-bats resulted in a strikeout and a groundout (sandwiched around a hit-by-pitch). Alas, ear wax.
But in the 10th inning, Kyle was Simply Seager. It didn’t take much time: Nelson Cruz battled to draw a leadoff walk, his pinch-runner advanced to second on a wild pitch, and Seags then ripped a liner to right field to bring Tyler Smith home and win it for the M’s.
Sure, he hasn’t lived up to his normal production this year, with a wRC+ of exactly 100. But it’s far too early to dismiss him out of hand, and if the Mariners want to make the playoffs this year (the fan base nods so vigorously our heads almost fall off), he needs to be his consistently excellent self.
Great game. Great win. Go M’s.