Sometimes, when looking at the odds for MLB games on FiveThirtyEight or Fangraphs, I’m shocked. Really? The Mariners had a 42% chance to beat the Red Sox with Wade LeBlanc on the mound? Are you sure it wasn’t 10%? Because (at least before the game) it felt like 10%. Likewise, in tonight’s game, the Mariners had a 62% chance of beating the Orioles. Seems low. I mean sure, baseball has a ton of variance and luck involved, but that much?
As we saw tonight, yes, that much. But when going from facing the two best teams in the American League to one of the worst, the talent gap is obvious. The Mariners couldn’t afford to make mistakes against the Yankees and Red Sox. They didn’t make many, but they did make some, and they couldn’t really recover. Against the Orioles, though? It seems like they can make as many mistakes as they want and still come away with a win.
The Mariners didn’t wait long to start making mistakes tonight. Mistake one: Wade LeBlanc hangs a pitch to Danny Valencia and makes him look like Manny Ramírez.
Thankfully, the Orioles are bad. That mistake was soon covered up by the Mariners capitalizing on Alex Cobb being bad. First with this Ryon Healy dinger in the second inning, and then with a string of hits in the third.
Mistakes two, three, and four: Wade LeBlanc gives up extremely hard contact to Mark Trumbo, Denard Span makes a slightly errant throw, and then Wade misjudges the ball while backing up.
Thankfully, the Orioles are bad. All of those mistakes were soon covered up by Alex Cobb continuing to be bad, allowing three walks and two hits to allow the Mariners to take a 5-4 lead.
Unfortunately, that brings us to perhaps the biggest mistake of all: mistake five. While Scott Servais has done a mostly good job as Mariners manager, he royally screwed up the eighth inning. The withered husks that are the Orioles have precisely three threatening hitters. And aside from Manny Machado, I am grossly expanding my definition of “threatening” to include “anyone hitting above .230”.
In the eighth inning, with the Mariners clinging to a one-run lead, it just so happened that the Orioles had all three of those hitters coming up in sequence. It was Manny Machado, Danny Valencia, and Mark Trumbo. You see what I mean when I say I had to expand the definition of threatening? Regardless, the opponent had their three best hitters coming up in the highest leverage situation of the game, and yet Edwin Díaz was nowhere to be found. Álex Colomé is no slouch, but in that situation you have your best reliever face their best hitters. Servais didn’t do that, and when Colomé blew the game, it was as much on Servais as it was on Colomé.
Again, thankfully, the Orioles are bad. Just a couple of weeks ago, the game might have been decided by that blown save. Just a couple weeks ago, Kyle Seager was floundering, barely able to buy a base hit. After saving the team’s skin last night, Kyle was given his second opportunity in as many days. He made the most of it.
After that, the Mariners would need innings of scoreless relief from Nick Vincent and Chasen Bradford before they were finally able to score the go-ahead run in the 11th inning on a Denard Span sacrifice fly.
It was finally the moment Scott Servais had been waiting for. Edwin Díaz time.
Hopefully, as players like Kyle Seager and Ryon Healy regress upward, it mostly cancels out the downward regression of the Mariners over-performers. Fortunately, with the June gauntlet out of the way, the Mariners don’t need the regressions to cancel all the way. Just most of the way.
As of tonight, the Mariners have no more games against the Red Sox. They have just three more against the Yankees, and they’re all at home. They still have series against the Royals, White Sox, and Padres. With all of that ahead of them, they’re now on pace for a 100-62 record.
Happy halfway point.