Reader, it has been so long since I started a recap before the game was over I’m not even quite sure I remember how. Last year this was modus operandi: it was obvious early on whether whatever starter we’d animated from Triple-A by putting a coin in his mouth and reading from an ancient scroll was going to be able to keep up with the MLB-caliber lineup he was facing that day (usually not). During those long, interminable stretches where Mitch and Jean and Pax and whoever else was hurt, it was standard practice around the ol’ Landing to fire up a document in the third and just start typing. Maybe, if the team was playing back east, you could still make it to the tail end of happy hour.
This year’s Mariners are very different, and thank goodness for that. With the exception of a few early-season blowouts, the Mariners have played close baseball games for most of the young-ish season. In addition to the well-documented one-run games, the Mariners haven’t had a contest decided by six runs or more since...okay, since the smackdown against Keuchel, but before that, you have to go all the way back to the last game of the Toronto series. That’s markedly different from the beginning of the season, where they played three blowout games in the first week alone.
Close games need to be watched closely, though, which makes writing during them hard. Unfortunately, today’s game got not-close in a hurry. Blake Snell didn’t have his best stuff today—his command was shoddy, and the Mariners were able to get hits off him. But they weren’t able to string those together in meaningful ways. An opportunity to get to Snell early fizzled in the first when, with two on and just one out, Seager almost hit into a double play, but managed to hustle his tar heels into first safely, allowing the run to score. Good, but not great. That would be the theme of the offense today: they would get some traffic on the bases, maybe score a run, and then the bats would whimper out.
For their part, the Rays made every break in their favor count. In the second, with the game tied 1-1, two seeing-eye singles and a parachute shot made it 2-1, a Sucre-fice made it 3-1, and then a groundout made it 4-1. Despite having given up hard contact in the first inning, Félix’s pitch mix wasn’t too bad in this inning, and the curve especially had some good hard bite. That makes what happened in the third inning even weirder: after getting two quick outs, Félix walked known pitch-chaser Carlos Gómez, using primarily his ineffective fastball. He then made what was either a mistake or a very, very bad decision on this pitch to Mallex Smith:
Michael Jordan just stop dot gif pic.twitter.com/cShfCfWAEx— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) June 9, 2018
Look, Mallex Smith is not exactly a power hitter, but he is a major leaguer, and that...is not a major-league competitive pitch. So that put the Rays up 5-1, after it was ruled a triple, and then Christian Arroyo jumped on a hanging change to get Smith in anyway. 6-1, and an unceremoniously short end to Félix’s day.
The Mariners did scratch back for a couple of runs—thank you, Nelson Cruz—while Roenis Elías mostly held the Rays in check, but every rally was quickly snuffed out. The Mariners were a putrid 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position, and seemingly every hard-hit ball found a glove. Some days it’s just not your day. It should be pointed out, too, that the Rays came into this game with the prospect of facing Seattle’s ace tomorrow, on an eight-game losing streak, and maybe had a little extra fire under them. This is the first game they’ve won against Seattle this season, and stretching back to last season, only the second they’ve won out of ten contests.
- Roenis Elías had a solid outing that shows how valuable he can be to this club down the stretch. He went four innings and allowed just two hits, one run, and gave up one walk while striking out three. Elías was well-known for his curve during his time in Seattle, but he’s actually doing more damage now with his changeup, which induces lots of groundballs, and his fastball, which has played up to mid-90s out of the pen.
- Mike Morin made his Mariners debut and despite walking his first batter, rebounded to collect two Ks.
- Jake Bauers got his first major-league hit, which makes me very happy for his family, and also that we no longer have to hear about when Jake Bauers will get his first major-league hit. Also Ryon was congratulating him after it happened and I love our big, warm, goofy first base boy. Also he had a great pick on a high throw from Segura earlier in the game (Healy, not Bauers. Bauers had some adventures at first base today).
- Jean Segura got hit on the hand by a 96 mph fastball from Blake Snell in the second, but appeared to be okay. All-Star voting is stupid, but it means a lot to the players, and Jean Segura deserves our support. You can vote for him here.
- Tomorrow is an early game, remember, but James Paxton is on the mound, which should make waking up for breakfast baseball a little easier.
- On a personal note, my good news is not having to recap another Snell-Félix game. In addition to this bunched-up scheduling meaning clubs see each other a bunch with no breather between, it also means having to write about the same matchups over and over again. Won’t someone think of the bloggers?