Every team - even the very best - has a couple handfuls of games every year where they just look bad. Remember, this is a game of failure! Whether it’s rough defense, failing to take advantage of scoring opportunities, or a bullpen meltdown, these games happen, and shouldn’t be taken as an end-all be-all in isolation.
But MAN, losing that game sucked.
Wade LeBlanc looked sharp throughout his five innings of work, and showed a little uptick in velocity. Normally sitting at around 85-86 with his fastball, LeBlanc hit 87 at least once in every inning but the third, and didn’t issue a single walk.
Wade was also the beneficiary of (mostly) good defense behind him, with no play shining brighter than this double play started by GUILLERMOOOOOOOOOOOO
Although Teoscar Hernández drilled a solo shot off of him in the fourth, LeBlanc bounced back and almost immediately changed his fastball-heavy approach. Over his last eight batters faced, Wade threw just four fastballs out of 24 pitches, leaning heavily on his changeup and cutter while flopping in a slow curve every now and then. Dinger aside, LeBlanc was highly efficient over five innings, needing just 58 pitches and facing the minimum in all but the fourth. With Erasmo Ramírez on the DL for who-knows-how-long, the Mariners are going to need any competent pitching they can get, and LeBlanc has now delivered two straight solid starts.
Unfortunately, the bats picked a bad day to slump. Although Jaime García issued five walks, hit Kyle Seager, and overall looked very hittable, the M’s could only scratch two runs off of him (bless to Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger), and finished with just one hit with runners in scoring position despite ample opportunities. The first inning especially stung in hindsight, ending with Ryon Healy getting rung up with the bases loaded.
So the M’s couldn’t take advantage of a wobbly pitcher on a day where their starter was stretched out for five innings max? So what! The bullpen was fresh off two days of no activity, and Chasen Bradford successfully piggybacked LeBlanc’s last start. Why not try it again?
Leadoff double from Hernández aside, things started out well. Bradford had struck out Josh Donaldson (hahaha) and Dee covered a ton of ground to run down a fly ball from Lourdes Gurriel. All that stood between Bradford and the seventh inning was one Justin Smoak.
For all the guff Smoak ~rightfully got in his time with the Mariners, he was always adept at drawing a walk, running a 10.3% walk rate during his time in Seattle. That aspect of his game clearly hasn’t vanished in the years since, and it was this that chased Chasen. Bradford’s early exit meant that Nick Vincent had to navigate through four outs, which he was able to do with a little devil magic.
With just six outs left, Servais turned to Juan Nicasio for the eighth. While he’s been a little shaky lately, the inactivity of the last couple days should have helped to regenerate some stamina and maybe get that velocity back on track, right?
Yiiiiiiikes. The first pitch out of Nicasio’s hand tonight was at just 90 miles per hour, and he gave up five hits - and four doubles - all of them roped. Although a Heredia (love u) assist against Kevin Pillar saved him the ignominy of five straight doubles, Nicasio looked as hittable as he’s ever been tonight. While he still isn’t walking anybody, he’s had a rough week, and one has to wonder if his hold on the eighth inning has begun to slip.
Other than a pinch-hit single from Ben Gamel (!), the M’s bats went away with a whimper in the ninth. A stinker like this game directly following the jubilance of James Paxton’s no-hitter captures the duality of baseball really well, though, and tomorrow is just another game where anything can happen. Mike Leake goes against old friend J.A. Happ, and the baseball men will march on.