It’s tempting to say that the Mariners are currently living out their own version of a glorious Groundhog Day, in part because they pretty much are. The team was 17-6 in their previous 23 games going into today, which also happens to be since they lost Robinson Canó. Of those 17 wins, 12 were by just one run. It defies logic, and it’s felt like they’ve played the same enjoyably close game over and over.
Of course, for every team that wins, another must lose. The Rays are currently going through their own Groundhog Day, except theirs is the one that takes place in the Shadow Realm. Which makes sense, because Florida is basically the Shadow Realm of the United States.
When you combine the “I think they actually might not be able to lose” vibe that the Mariners are currently riding with the “Are we sure this is a professional baseball team?” vibe that the Rays are giving off, it’s like an unstoppable force meeting an extremely movable object.
Tonight, Marco Gonzales was the unstoppable force. The story of his 2018 revitalization has been the development of his cutter. It, along with his changeup, has proven to be a reliable pitch with which to get outs. Tonight, he was as deadly as he’s been all year.
After giving up a lead-off single, a quick double play and a ground out began a string of seven straight batters retired by Marco. He finally ran into some real trouble in the third inning, when he loaded the bases off of a couple singles and just barely hitting C.J. Cron with a pitch. The Mariners here elected to expend one of their extremely-valuable six mound visits (hereafter referred to as “MVs”), but the sacrifice paid off.
You think Marco is hyped on his new cutter?
As Marco was putting on this show of dazzling movement and extremely dreamy biceps, the offense was doing their part to support him as best they could. A frustrating first couple of innings finally gave way to runs in the third, when new-newest roster addition Daniel Vogelbach cracked a single down the first base line.
That probably should have been a double, but whatever. He’s part of the team again, for like two day. See?
The rest of the game went about as predictably as possible for the Mariners offense. They scored more runs, because they’re a pretty good offense. They left a lot of runs on the table (they went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position on the day, and ended up stranding seven runners), because they’re not that good an offense. And, most importantly, they scored just enough.
It really didn’t have to be as close as it was, because Marco Gonzales pitched his damn heart out after getting out of that third inning jam. Aside from giving up a home run to Daniel Robertson in the fifth, his outing was defined by forcing hitters into weak contact by locating his pitches and mixing them well. I think that Mike Zunino probably has to get at least some of the credit here for calling the game, but that isn’t to take anything away from Marco.
I mean, how is this fair?
For as good as Marco was, it couldn’t last forever. He was finally pulled after 7.1 inning pitched and 103 pitches. He’d only given up one earned run at the time he left the game, but Álex Colomé had something to say about that.
Oops. Álex Colomé is still a fantastic pitcher, which is why it was a little bit disheartening to see him yanked right after this when facing his former team. It was also a little bit disheartening to watch Edwin Díaz come in and promptly give up two singles to put runners on first and third. Edwin ended up getting out of it by forcing Carlos Gomez to pop out, but that was only the eighth innings.
Vidal Nuño mowed through the Mariners lineup for the fourth straight innings, which put Díaz back on the mound almost immediately. He broke Shiny Prospect Jake Bauers’ knees on a slider, and then did the same thing to Slightly Tarnished But Still Okay Johnny Field. Unfortunately, because nothing can ever be easy, Díaz hit Joey Wendle with a pitch, putting the tying run on first and the winning run at the plate.
And then Joey Wendle did something very questionable. The kind of decision where, even when you and all of your friends are trashed, at least one person has the brain power to say “Hey, maybe let’s not tip over the dumpster behind the chocolate factory and hope something edible falls out!” Well, the Rays have been playing like they might be more than trashed, which would explain the decision to run on Mike Zunino while Edwin Díaz is throwing 97 MPH.
So concluded another weird win for a weird team in the mist of a weird season. It was terrifyingly close and comfortably easy at the same time, which I guess is the best you could ask for from a Mariners game. It feels a bit greedy to ask for it for every Mariners game, but hey, I won’t complain.
If ever a game were representative of the Seattle Mariners 2018 season, this was it. At least, the part since losing Robinson Canó. Before losing Canó, the Mariners were clinging to life with a shaky bullpen and a shakier rotation. Now? They’re thriving, mostly off of the backs of that same bullpen and rotation. Take a look.
With or Without You
|Before Losing Canó||After Losing Canó|
|Before Losing Canó||After Losing Canó|
|22-17 (13th)||18-6 (1st)|
|4.69 (12th)||3.89 (19th)|
|4.61 (17th)||3.01 (2nd)|
Maybe Wade LeBlanc will come crashing back to Earth, and maybe Mike Leake will end up somewhere between his April performance and his May/June performance, but Marco looks for real. And more and more every day, this team looks for real.