After Friday night’s incredible, game-winning five-run rally, the Mariners came into tonight’s game ready to pull out all the stops. And pull them out they did, both in the batter’s box and on the mound.
James Paxton came out hot with the fastball-curve combo and started the first inning by striking out Leonys Martín. Much has been said about Paxton’s ability to throw heat as he goes deeper into his starts, but I love seeing that happen within an inning. In the first, every single fastball he threw increased in velocity, starting at 93.4 mph and ending with a 97 mph fastball that Nicholas Castellanos fouled off. But balls hit foul, like eagles, don’t faze the Big Maple. He followed up that fastball with an 88 mph curveball to end the inning with a strikeout.
Ready to jump on the offensive in the bottom of the first, Dee Gordon hacked at Mike Fiers’ very first pitch and flew out to right field.
The internal monologue started there. “Come on, guys! You’re playing the Detroit Tigers! What’s going on? I ain’t too proud to beg, but please take some pitches! This old heart of mine can’t take another loss to the Tigers.”
I was shut up really quickly by Jean Segura in what followed.
Segura took seven pitches and signed, sealed, delivered the eighth one over the wall in left center field, putting my doubts and my Motown puns to rest. Next, Mitch Haniger singled and soon after, Nelson Cruz was hit by a pitch. Thank heavens for elbow protectors, but unfortunately, nothing was to come of these men being on base, as Kyle Seager flew out and Ryon Healy grounded out to end the first inning.
Surprisingly, Paxton did run into some trouble in the second inning. He gave up a home run to Victor Martinez to start the inning and issued a five pitch walk to John Hicks right after, but he was not going to be let go so easily. After Niko Goodrum flew out, Hicks attempted to steal second, but the only second he was able to get was the second out of the inning. Paxton began to regain his form and ended the inning but getting Grayson Greiner to ground out.
With the game tied at one run apiece, Ben Gamel was set to leadoff the bottom of the second with hair-flipping panache, and rightfully so. In the month of May, Benny Ballgame’s been hitting .325/.413/.475, and tonight, he decided to add his first home run of the season to those numbers.
Not wanting to be shown up by anyone else, Jean Segura tripled soon after Gamel’s homer. Mike Zunino, who had made it on base due to a throwing error by Tigers third baseman Niko Goodrum, was able to score from first off of Segura’s triple. Everyone was having fun, the crowds were cheering, and the score was 3-1, M’s.
Later, in the fifth inning, Paxton allowed a quick double to John Hicks and a single to Niko Goodrum. Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner followed with a sacrifice fly to center and the Tigers were on the board with two runs. With the Mariners having only scored three runs at the time and Goodrum in scoring position with only one out, worry began to settle in for all who were watching the game.
All except for Mitch Haniger.
Jose Iglesias hit a high foul ball that would have stayed foul if a mere mortal were playing right field. We all know that the HANIMAL is no such thing. James Paxton did not allow a single hit after that play in the fifth inning.
Other than a triple by Guillermo Heredia in the fourth, the Mariners’ bats quieted down significantly throughout the game’s middle innings. Tigers starter Mike Fiers was relieved by Artie Lewicki after throwing 100 pitches and issuing a walk to Kyle Seager in the sixth, and the Mariners remembered that they were here to have some fun.
After Seager’s walk, Ryon Healy broke his 0-13 dry spell with a sharp line drive single. Ben Gamel flew out, but resident good boy Mike Zunino hit an RBI single to score Seager and advance Healy to third base.
Heredia followed that up with a walk that might as well have been intentional. Isn’t if fun to know that on any given day your number nine starter can hit 1.000, garner two walks (both on four pitchers), and give you some of the best outfield defense in the American League?
Dee Gordon, who you can find in the dictionary under the term “Best Sport,” hit an RBI double on a ball that hardly left the infield because Dee Gordon can do Dee Gordon things.
Jean Segura, again not one to be shown up, decided to join in on the action by hitting a sacrifice fly that scored Heredia. M’s were up 7-2. Segura ended his night going 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs and a run scored.
After all of the amazingness the Mariners produced offensively, James Pazos began to warm up in the eighth as Paxton was reaching 104 pitches thrown. Just as you thought a reliever would come in to top off the game, Paxton was up on the mound in the ninth, needing only 13 pitches to finish his second complete game of the season. He pitched the entire game and allowed only three hits and two runs, walked only one batter and struck out eight.
Therein lies the beauty of this team. Every Mariner reached base tonight, except of course for Paxton who was shutting down the Tigers on the mound. Every Mariner contributed something to the win. With Gordon back at second base and all of the shifts and changes to the team after Canó’s unfortunate depature, games like this are necessary. They are more than just wins, they are morale boosters, and proof that this team is exactly what it should be; an amazing sum of great players.