Have you ever been stuck in that weird limbo between being awake and falling asleep, where your thoughts are so weird that they’re pretty much hallucinations, but you’re aware enough to recognize them? It’s like a delirious dreaming, but lucid. With a thick blanket of warm air saturating Seattle today, that’s how trying to focus on seven straight hours of baseball ended up feeling. Especially with the first three hours being as frustrating as they were.
The Mariners didn’t exactly need this game, but after the first game of this doubleheader, it sure felt like they did.
Félix Hernández has certainly had his moments this year, but it’s always hard to know which Félix the Mariners are going to get. He’s at the point where you could tell me he was going to give up eight runs in two innings, or one run in six innings. Either way, I wouldn’t exactly be shocked. Today’s Félix was sort of in the middle.
It’s a little bit surprising that Félix only gave up five runs in five innings. His command was bad, as evidenced by his two walks and two hit batters. The thing is, his stuff wasn’t great either. He’s not the sort of pitcher than can simply power through mistakes at this point in his career. Take this hard RBI single from Dixon Machado in the second inning.
When you’re throwing 94 MPH with a killer changeup, you don’t get punished as frequently. When you’re barely touching 90, you get punished a whole lot more.
For all the flack that Scott Servais gets, I was a bit baffled that Manny Acta let Félix go as long as he did. It was only five innings, but most of the damage was done in the fifth. It was obvious from the first inning that Félix didn’t have his best stuff, and he bullpen was as fresh as it’ll ever be after the off day yesterday and the light workload in the first game of the doubleheader, and the presence of Dan Altavilla as the 26th member of the bullpen. What’s the point of having a completely fresh bullpen if you’re just going to let the starter go an inning too long more times than not?
Fortunately, for as not-great as Félix was, Michael Fulmer was worse for the Tigers. The Mariners were only able to score one off of him through the first three innings, but after taking 31 pitches to get through the first and 35 more to get through the second and third, it was clear that it was just a matter of time before Fulmer would relent. And oh, did he relent to Ryon Healy.
Visions of a 2+ WAR first baseman are dancing through the heads of Mariner fans. Warning: the unfamiliar concept may cause confusion and delirium. Robinson Canó followed it up with a three-run blast of his own, and the Mariners were up 6-2.
Félix shenanigans notwithstanding, it seemed like the team was finally ready to just have fun today. In the seventh inning, any injury concerns with respect to Nelson Cruz were simultaneously exacerbated and assuaged.
Please come back, Servais. I love Manny Acta, but I would be happy if Nelson Cruz never tried to steal a base in his life again. That being said, I don’t know if I’d be this happy.
This steal would put runners on second and third base with nobody out. Kyle Seager and Ryon Healy both doubled, and suddenly it was 9-5. The rest of the game was just a mop-up, as James Pazos, Nick Vincent, Juan Nicasio, and Dan Altavilla each did their job and threw a clean inning.
The first game today was how the Mariners are going to lose a lot of their games. Not coming through with runners on base, giving up a few too many hits, and making a couple of boneheaded mistakes. It was easy to see Félix slated to pitch, watch his first couple innings, and get very nervous.
For all of that, this second game was how the Mariners are going to win a lot of their games. The starter will be shaky, but not so shaky as to completely implode. The offense will get stuff done, because every single hitter is a force to be reckoned with (pretend Jean Segura was playing, and not Andrew Romine). And the bullpen will (usually) be just fine. Especially if Dan Altavilla is a real pitcher again.
After the disgusting mess of the first game, this was one that I think the players and the fans needed equally badly. The Mariners go into tomorrow’s rubber match with James Paxton pitching, fresh off of the two best games of his entire career. For as frightened as I was three hours ago, it’s hard not to feel good.