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Two innings doom the Mariners against doom-master Chris Sale

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Sale was excellent, Marco was merely pretty good, Mariners lose

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Boston Red Sox
according to the photo editor, the Mariners didn’t actually play in this game, so enjoy another picture of Chris Sale
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

I mentioned this in yesterday’s recap, but lately I am really into cooperative tabletop games (see: Pandemic, the Forbidden Island, Mysterium, etc.). I’m ultra-competitive by nature and hate losing, but also have a somewhat limited circle of friends who do not always appreciate being screwed over by aggressive gameplay. So the cooperative game is a good solution because the enemy becomes the game itself, and your friends your allies. The rough thing about cooperative games is that if the game is too easy to beat, it quickly becomes boring, so game designers make cooperative games incredibly difficult to beat. There are generally tons of ways to lose a cooperative game, but only a very narrow path to success. What’s that? Oh, just a little Segue puttering past.

Usually, things start well in cooperative games. Morale is high, resources are aplenty, and the whole game spreads out before you in all its glorious possibility. It’s easy to ignore the looming Death Spectre off in the corner. There are so many moves left, after all. For the first four innings, the Mariners hung tough thanks to Marco Gonzales, who mowed down twelve of the first thirteen Red Sox he faced. Dad-ard Span worked another Professional At-Bat and made sure the Mariners wouldn’t be no-hit by Sale today, and it seemed like this plucky little band of upstarts might be able to hang in there. Ah, the optimism of the first few turns.

I mentioned there are many ways to lose a cooperative game, and precious few ways to win. Sometimes, you lose a cooperative game because sequencing is stacked against you. The Mariners got a standup triple from Nelson Cruz (!) in the fourth, but it came with two outs. A one-out single from Ryon Healy in the seventh came right before Kyle Seager came up to bat against Chris Sale, which went about as well as you think it might, leading to Guillermo Heredia, which went exactly as you thought it...wait, he worked a walk? Aw, good for you, Guillermo. And here comes...oh it’s human Epidemic card Mike Zunino. All told, the Mariners mustered just four hits against Sale, compared to hahahahahaha 13 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox got a leadoff double in the fifth from Xander Bogaerts that just snuck down the line followed by an actual, real live Eduardo Nuñez base hit and then a Devers double on a pitch where Marco—who had been strong up to that point—badly missed his location. At the end of the inning, the total stood at 3-0 Red Sox, and that felt like all the Red Sox would need in order to win. They would get more, of course, because Bostonians are not exactly renown for their restraint.

Sometimes, you lose a cooperative game because the board is stacked against you, which is the case where the “speed-n-defense but maybe not the world’s most overpowering pitching” Mariners have to play in the bandboxes of the AL East. “Other teams have the same access to the short porch!” bleat Yankee fans, sensitive about the size of their park, but the fact is the big fly Yankees have an advantage at home in the way they’ve built their team out of baseball-bat-clutching golems. In the sixth, Mitch Haniger could have given the Mariners only a one-run deficit, but unfortunately hit the ball to the deepest part of Fenway. 103 mph exit velocity. 92% hit probability. Deep flyout. In the next inning Marco Gonzales would badly miss with a fastball to Mitch Moreland for a two-run home run, and that would be game for the Mariners.

Sometimes you lose a cooperative game because it’s just too damn hard. Whatever the opposite of an off day is, that’s what Chris Sale was having, coming out of the gates throwing 98-99. Recently I am into a cooperative card game called The Grizzled, in which you play as soldiers in the trenches of WWI. Uplifting, right? It’s one of the hardest games I’ve ever played, because after each turn you literally become demoralized, shifting cards out of your morale pile and into the “speeding towards your inevitable death” pile. (I believe there’s supposed to be some kind of metaphor about war in there.) That’s what seeing Chris Sale inning after inning felt like—surviving the turn, but shifting the morale cards away as the number of outs dwindled. Joe Kelly and Julian Barnes [ha, his name is Matt Barnes, not Julian Barnes, but I’m leaving my mistake in, enjoy this joke, the three of you who will get it] came in with more of the same high-90s heat to shut down the Mariners in the later innings and off in the dugout one could see the Mariners quietly packing up their stuff, looking for forgotten pieces on the floor. Make sure to get each one of those cubes, guys.

Good things:

  • Nelson Cruz hit a standup triple. It was with two outs and Ryon Healy would strike out right after chasing a pitch that was located in Kansas, but do not let that distract you from the fact that Nelson Cruz hit a standup triple.
  • Mitch Haniger continues to show an ability to adjust. After getting beat badly by Sale in his previous ABs, he put a really good smack on the aforementioned flyout. If it had only been a little to the right, I’d be writing a very different recap right now.
  • Aside from a mistake pitch to Moreland and the inning that got away from him, Marco looked really good. He collected seven strikeouts and induced some flat-out embarrassing swings from the Red Sox while walking no one. It’s important to remember that Marco, despite having been in MLB for years, hasn’t ever pitched on the stage of Yankee Stadium or Fenway (or in most AL parks, period); nor has he suffered the lengthy roadtrips that is the life of a Seattle Mariner. Today Marco sat down at the board as a first-time player with the deck stacked against him and held his own pretty well.
  • Chasen Bradford pitched a scoreless inning where he did not give up a pesky pole HR and struck out two batters. Nick Vincent also recovered nicely from his rough re-entrance off the disabled list, working a 1-2-3 inning.
  • The Mariners should get Jean Segura back this week, maybe as soon as Monday, which will provide an offensive punch the Mariners have been sorely missing, despite Andrew Romine playing the game of his Mariners career the other day. We miss you, Jean.
  • The Mariners are now 23 of the way done with their east coast road trip, after which they will not play an away game further than Colorado for the rest of the regular season. All the 10 AM games for the season are done, which is personally exciting to me, as it means I won’t have to rattle a tin cup around the bars of the LL. And, the TERRIBLE SCARY JUNE we were all worried about is almost done, as well. They’re 13-9 and would have to lose four of their next six against Baltimore and Kansas City to go .500. Also, holy cow, June is almost over.
  • Also, this happened. I’m loving Dad-ard Span more and more each day.

On to Baltimore, and then home at last. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to get back to the ballpark.