There’s nothing quite like summer break. While I, and many others, haven’t had an actual summer break in a long time, most of us can probably remember the feeling. The feeling of I don’t have to worry about responsibilities for months! Usually I’m only pretending that I don’t have to worry about my responsibilities! Summer break was always so nice at first. Long days spent playing catch, going camping, sipping lemonade on the porch, climbing on the roof of your school and getting the principal to yell at you... I have to stop before nostalgia takes me.
As the days grow longer, and then shorter again, a feeling of restlessness would often creep up. It was easy to ignore at first, but over time the restlessness might turn into boredom, and the boredom into dissatisfaction. Eventually, I would find myself in a space in which I could not have seen myself two months prior: looking forward to school. When school would finally come, I’d be fresh, motivated, and ready to learn. It certainly helped that I’d be starting fresh, which made it much easier to lie to myself and say that I’d get A’s and B’s.
Unfortunately, the Mariners are not starting out with a fresh record. They are starting out in a hole. Fortunately, due to the putrid state of the American League, it is not a very big hole. Still, it’s a hole nonetheless. The Mariners are, however, starting out sort-of-fresh from a health perspective. Going into tonight, the bullpen was rested, the lineup was healthy, and every starter save Hisashi Iwakuma (who probably shouldn’t even be in the rotation) was available.
The Mariners, therefore, came into this game full of hope and motivation. That did not exactly translate into starting out smoothly. A few baserunners in the first couple innings were done in by untimely outs, and a botched Mike Zunino throw on a stealing attempt led to an early run for the White Sox. Despite the game still being very much within reach, it was easy to feel a twinge of panic.
Thankfully, this year’s Mariners are blessed with Good Hitters. A Mike Zunino walk (!!!) and a Jean Segura (<3) single led to this:
Paxton did have another few bumps, but ultimately limited the damage to just 2 total runs on 5 hits while striking out 9. He wasn’t the most efficient, as he needed over 100 pitches to go 6.0 innings, but the strikeouts more than made up for it. His velocity was where it needed to be, and his movement was as good as ever. Check it out:
The Mariners’ offense struggled the rest of the night. Besides a James Shields wild pitch scoring Jean Segura, the bats were silent. Even though they didn’t end up needing more than 4 runs, it sure would have been nice to do a little more against James Shields: bad pitcher. Still, I think we’ll all take what we can get at this point.
The other main storyline of the night was the bullpen. The results will give a slightly skewed impression, as the Mariners ran out their best three relievers (Tony Zych, Nick Vincent, and Edwin Diaz), who delivered three perfect innings with two strikeouts each. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the bullpen responds to the resignation of bullpen coach Mike Hampton. My guess is that it won’t make much of a difference either way, but maybe Nasusel Cabrera will trigger an Edgar-esque renaissance (probably not).
The second half of the season couldn’t have started off much better. Hopefully, as weariness, injuries, homework, and studying pile up, the motivation and freshness doesn’t wear off. It always did for me, these are professionals! The team’s playoff odds are still at 12% as of night, which is more than I would’ve expected at some points this season. Here’s to the just-as-fresh-but-much-less-talented remainder of the pitching staff performing well.