The Orioles and the Red Sox are separated by an ocean of talent. The latter is inarguably one of the three best teams in baseball, can punish pitchers up and down the lineup, and boasts a formidable pitching staff anchored by this era’s Randy Johnson. The former... well, let’s just say that Manny Machado’s batting average is higher than his team’s winning percentage.
Man, is it so much less stressful to play against these guys.
Dee Gordon and Jean Segura drove up Kevin Gausman’s pitch count right out of the gate, seeing seven pitches each. While Segura managed a hit through the left side, he would be gunned down trying to steal second, though one has to credit Jonathan Schoop for a fantastic tag:
It was a shame, especially because Mitch Haniger roped a double into right field three pitches later that Jean would have easily scored on. No runs crossed the plate in the first, but Gausman needed two dozen pitches to get out of it. James Paxton countered with just fourteen, and ended the frame by making Machado do this:
Unfortunately, the good feelings evaporated an inning later. Danny Valencia - making his first appearance against the M’s this year - cheated on a 3-2 fastball and obliterated it:
Valencia, as you may recall, racked up exactly 500 plate appearances as last year’s primary Mariner first baseman, and was a polarizing figure among the fanbase. While he was clearly more defensively adept than Adam Lind, the two turned in very similar offensive campaigns, with Danny’s 95 wRC+ just edging Lind’s 92 mark in 2016. We know they don’t always get better when they leave, but still. Darn.
Mark Trumbo continued the ex-Mariner parade by hitting a single to left immediately after, though he would be cut down at second via a Schoop fielder’s choice. Chris Davis went down on three pitches (really, pitchers should only get partial credit for a strikeout against him at this point), but Tim Beckham smoked a first-pitch fastball into right field. Schoop raced home from first, Mitch and Dee executed a perfect relay, Mike Zunino made the tag, and...
BOOOOOOO. Zunino immediately signaled to the dugout to take a look, and the right call thankfully came to light. Schoop was ruled out, and James escaped the second without any further damage. Hey, sometimes replay gets it right!
The M’s failed to score in the third despite hits from Guillermo Heredia and Segura, but in the fourth, Gausman left a splitter up to Kyle Seager, who didn’t miss it:
By hitting his fourteenth dinger of the year, Seager took the team lead for extra-base hits at 33, a fact that I was shocked by. While Kyle’s struggles this year have been mighty conspicuous, the power hasn’t been a problem, and his glovework is as good as ever. He’s still on pace for a three-win year, and if this is bad Seager, I can live with that.
While Paxton cruised through the fourth and fifth innings (with a little help from a Valencia TOOTBLAN), the rails started coming off in the sixth. Caleb Joseph led off the frame with a hard hit the other way, Trey Mancini infuriatingly snuck an 0-2 curve through the hole at shortstop, and Adam Jones checked in with a base hit up the middle. Guillermo made an excellent throw to keep Joseph at third, but trouble was in the air with Manny Machado lurking at bat. On a 2-2 count, James hurled a 98 MPH fastball in the lower half of the zone, and Machado thankfully hit it right to Dee:
The run from third would score amid a cascade of boos raining down on Machado, who had a shot of beating out the throw to first had he not slowed to a saunter. Paxton dismissed Valencia on four pitches to end the frame, and finished his outing with a 1-2-3 seventh. He leaned heavily on his fastball today, using it about two-thirds of the time. The curve showed good bite, the cutter generated some silly swings, and James induced fifteen swinging strikes en route to a ten-strikeout outing. After his effective but inefficient start in New York, it was great to see Pax go deep today, and I’m more and more sad that I can’t make it to his Canada Day start on Sunday.
Alas, the M’s were still trailing. Some of that patented late-inning magic would be required, and Dee Gordon got them off on the right track against submariner Darren O’Day. Lacing a ground ball down the left-field line, Dee sprinted to second in about seven-and-a-half seconds. He fast. Jean laid down a good-looking bunt that O’Day couldn’t handle, getting to first while O’Day’s hamstring got mad at him. He would exit the game due to injury, with the O’s tabbing flamethrower Tanner Scott to put out the fire.
He may as well have poured gasoline onto it. After walking Mitch, Seager strode into the box. Quickly putting him in an 0-2 hole, Scott gifted the hangingest of hanging sliders, and Kyle pounced:
That was all they would get, but it was all they would need. Álex Colomé and Edwin Díaz wrapped up the game with two scoreless innings, although the ninth could have been a lot dicier if not for a great adjustment from Mitch on a Trumbo fly ball:
Edi rewarded him with the seal of approval.
One easy groundout later, the M’s walked off the field victorious. The Angels were stomped by Boston early today, falling behind Oakland in the process. The seven-game lead on a playoff spot is intact, and tomorrow Wade LeBlanc faces a popular offseason target in Alex Cobb. Boy, am I thankful we didn’t throw a ton of money his way. The Mariners are in a good position to take the series, and with the schedule softening up, snatching as many as they can is imperative. They can do it.