I know everyone’s pretty high on this game right now, so I don’t want to be a downer. Still, here goes: anyone remember this game? If you don’t want to click, it was the seventh game of the season, in which the Mariners blew a 9-3 lead in the 9th inning to the Angels, dropping to 1-6 in the process. Obviously, things are a lot better now.
That game was a microcosm of the first half of the season. In that first half of the season, only three teams had bullpens worse than the Mariners’. The starting pitching would either put the offense in a hole, or somehow gut out an effort that would just be spoiled by an increasingly frustrating bullpen. Edwin Diaz was struggling, and eventually pulled from the closing role. Hell, everyone was struggling, except maybe Nick Vincent and James Pazos.
But now. Now, over the last thirty days, only one team has had a better bullpen than the Mariners. That same squad, plus or minus a few guys, has gone from bottom of the pack to being virtually tied with the Yankees for the most reliable ‘pen in all of baseball. The offense was fantastic yet again tonight, but they’re old news (God, imagine saying that five years ago). Tonight, in a real nail-biter, it was all about the bullpen.
The game couldn’t really have started out much better. Nelson Cruz (remember when he had a ~30 day home run drought?) started off the scoring in the 2nd with a screaming line drive over the left field wall. Later that inning, Leonys Martin knocked in Danny Valencia with a flare to right field. The 3rd brought a series of several more hits and several more runs, all capped by Martin’s second flared RBI single. He got a bit lucky today, but I think we’ll take it.
On the flip side, Erasmo Ramirez made his return in a Mariners uniform... and was actually performing well? I always loved me some Erasmo, but he wasn’t ever that great. So when he struck out 4 of the first 6 that he faced, and made it through 3 easy and scoreless innings, it felt weird.
Unfortunately, 4th inning reminded us of partially why Erasmo wasn’t that great. He gives up dingers. After giving up 2, Ramirez was pulled for Casey Lawrence. This was probably always the plan, as Ramirez wasn’t expected to pitch for long in this game. While it’s likely that none of us really had much faith in Lawrence, the offense was able to just keep producing.
First, Mike Zunino doubled. Not just that, he doubled off of a curveball! Of course, it wasn’t a curveball that curved very much. But still, it was technically a curveball, which is big for Mike. Just let him have it.
The Mariners followed that up with a Danny Espinosa walk and a Jarrod Dyson RBI single. You’ll see what else Jarrod did later, but when that guy gets on base consistently, he becomes ridiculously valuable to this team. Robinson Cano hit a follow-up double to the gap, and there was never any question that Dyson was going to score from first.
So the Mariners had an 8-3 lead. And I was just talking about how amazing the bullpen has been. Well, the part of the bullpen that’s been amazing has been the not-Casey-Lawrence part. Three extremely hard-hit balls in a row resulted in two singles and a dinger, and just like that it was a 2-run game.
The 7th inning saw some cracks began to show in the actually-good part of the bullpen. Tony Zych came in and beaned Adrian Beltre, balked, and then allowed a single to score a run. He was pulled for a James Pazos that came in and immediately beaned Joey Gallo. What was Scott Servais to do? If only there were some monster to which he could turn.
Nick Vincent came in and threw three pitches, got three strikes, and got them out of the inning. He would stay in through the eighth. Even Nick Vincent, however, was not to be invincible. No, he gave up a single to Shin-Soo Choo, and the Rangers put the speedy Delino DeShields on for Choo. It was just a 1-run game. And then, with 2 outs, Nomar Mazara hit a flared single to center. Going on contact with 2 outs, DeShields was sure to get to third base, putting the tying run just 90 feet from home.
With a throw that literally could not have been more perfect, Jarrod Dyson got the Mariners out of the 8th. He put the game into the 9th, which means he put the game into the hands of Edwin Diaz. Which, these days, means the game was over.
Not really fair when you can throw two of those right after throwing 99 MPH, is it?
So no, the bullpen isn’t perfect. They showed some cracks, and they got bailed out by some scatter luck and also by Jarrod Dyson. Regardless, it feels for the first time like the offense doesn’t have to do it all by themselves. Yes, this team is just two games over .500. Still, if the offense can keep hitting, this bullpen is showing that more often than not, they’ll translate a lead into a win. That’s pretty scary for the rest of the league.
Ariel Miranda tries to get the sweep tomorrow at 5:10 PM. See you there.