When you picture a seven run blowout, you picture a mostly relaxing game. The hitters go off, the pitching is solid, and it’s just an overall enjoyable experience. It’s the kind of baseball game that one waxes nostalgic about.
The Mariners really needed a seven run win. Leading up to this game, each of their had been by a margin of one or two runs. Thanks to a 10-1 defeat to the Giants on Tuesday, their overall run differential was in shambles. Though it was easy to see them sitting at 5-1 rather than their actual record of 3-3, it was also easy to squint and see them at 0-6.
The Mariners got their seven run win, yet they somehow managed to make it more stressful than any of their previous wins on the year. I won’t complain, but this one was just a little scarier than it probably needed to be.
A big reason it was scary was the tension associated with watching a game being played in 20 °F weather. It was a bit unsettling to watch 35 year old Robinson Cano bundled up like this, and shake his hands after every play just to keep blood in them.
That, combined with the first three innings. José Berríos breezed through the Mariners’ lineup, recording three perfect innings and doing so while throwing only 31 pitches. Berríos threw a complete game shutout in his first start this year, and he looked like he might do the same thing today after one trip through the lineup.
Meanwhile, on the other side, Mike Leake had to labor like an ox just to get through three innings unscathed. His first two innings required over 40 pitches to get through and, though he managed not to give up any runs at first, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the Twins would break through.
After weak contact after strikeout after weak contact, Jean Segura poked a ball weakly down the third base line. Miguel Sano charged at it and tried to make a Kyle Seager-esque play. He failed horrendously, because he is Miguel Sano, Bad Defender, and not Kyle Seager, Good Defender. Segura ended up at second base, and from that point on, it seems like Berríos’ spell was broken.
Robinson Cano immediately singled Segura in. After a Mitch Haniger popout, up to bat came Kyle Seager. Like he does seemingly every year, Kyle has had a rough start, to put it lightly. There have been some rumbles about his hitting. That, coupled with the all-around shaky start to the game, made this sweet on like five different levels.
It’s becoming clear that, RISP disasters like Thursday’s notwithstanding, this is a team that will score runs. Their rate-limiting steps, so to speak, will be the depth of the starting pitching and the efficacy of the bullpen.
Hoo boy, though. The bullpen. Scott Servais pulled a happy-hour-with-coworkers move in the sixth inning, sending Mike Leake back out in a classic case of Two Too Many. Leake promptly allowed back-to-back doubles to left field.
It was at this point that the Adventures of the Bullpen began. Issue 1: Our heroes are called upon in a time of need -- starter Mike Leake has allowed run, and is in danger of allowing another. Can Marc Rzepczynski save the day?
Can Captain Scrabble stop the bleeding? He easily strikes out Logan Morrison, but a switch hitter is coming up! He phones back to headquarters for back-up, but Servais has nobody ready!
It would have been really hard for Scrabble to miss the target much more badly than he did on that pitch. At this point, Servais had seen enough and brought in Dan Altavilla, who promptly retired the next two batters to end the inning.
The seventh inning was somehow more stressful.
Nick Vincent struck out the leadoff man before giving up two singles and a walk to load the bases. It was just a two-run game, and with a red-hot Eddie Rosario coming up, it felt like the Mariners were already losing. Vincent got pulled, and in came Juan Nicasio to stop the bleeding.
It was just nine pitches, but each of them felt like pure agony. Rosario succumbed to a strikeout relatively easily, but LoMo fouled a few off that looked like trouble before Nicasio finally got him to pop up.
Kyle’s two run home run was his play of the game, and it was worth about 0.19 WPA. This catch was somehow worth nearly as much at 0.14 WPA. It’s hard to overstate just how impressive it is to be able to cover that much ground and then make the catch at that angle, all while communicating with Heredia in left field. It was the defensive play of the game.
Fortunately, the Mariners had at that point decided that they’d tortured the fans enough. For as hard and excruciating as the first seven innings were, the final two looked as easy and relaxing as baseball can look.
They loaded the bases easily, and Ryon Healy took the most hanging sinker in the history of hanging sinkers and deposited it in the left field gap.
Guillermo Heredia hit a home run later in the inning, and a 5-3 nailbiter was suddenly an 11-3 laugher. It seems somehow fitting that winning a seven run blowout was one of the more terrifying games thus far.
For as bad as things could have looked, they look incredibly good right now. The Mariners are back on the right side of .500. They have a chance to take the series tomorrow. And nearly every player who had been struggling — Seager and Healy especially — did something really good today.
Tomorrow, Marco Gonzales faces Lance Lynn in a battle that will not only decide the series, but which will stoke the fires of Bad Discourse on the team’s offseason decision making. Here’s to Marco making the front office look smart.