Wade LeBlanc was signed at the end of spring training. Projected as a long reliever to open the year, many questioned whether he would even be on the team come May. Though LeBlanc pitched well in several mop-up outings, it wasn’t until Erasmo Ramírez (oh yeah him) was sunk by injury and ineffectiveness that he got a shot in the rotation on May 3rd.
Exactly two months later, Wade LeBlanc signed an extension that could keep him in a Mariner uniform through 2022, and followed it up by pitching one of his best starts of the year. This season.
Trouble did start to bubble in the first, as David Fletcher led off the game with a single through the left side of the infield. Fortunately, LeBlanc got Mike Trout on a first pitch comebacker, and battled Justin Upton for a seven-pitch strikeout.
Albert Pujols worked a walk, but Andrelton Simmons rolled over to third, and Wade escaped without any damage.
The same could not be said for Andrew Heaney. Jean laced a one-out double into the left-field corner, and consecutive walks to Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz set the stage for Kyle Seager. Seager’s quietly been productive at the plate recently, running a 120 wRC+ the past three weeks entering tonight. Sure enough, he delivered:
Chris Young would have to exit the game after a gnarly trip getting to the ball, forcing Kole Calhoun - owner of a whopping 32 wRC+ - into the game. The Angels’ bad breaks didn’t end there, either, as Heaney dismissed Ryon Healy on three pitches.
Wait, why is that a bad break?
Ohhhhh, makes sense now. Heaney did bear down to strike out both Denard Span and Mike Zunino, and pitched very effectively over the rest of his outing, striking out ten through seven innings while showing great bite on his slider.
But three was all the M’s and LeBlanc would need. Wade’s changeup and cutter continued to complement each other, and the increased usage of his slow curve was on display again, deploying it early in a few counts to steal some strikes. A solo home run to Simmons off of a badly located cutter was his one mistake, and LeBlanc was masterful through seven innings, retiring his last eleven batters faced after the dinger. He only collected seven swinging strikes, but his pitch mix and strong command kept the Angels’ hitters off balance all evening.
His infield gave him some help, though. Check out this Mr. Fantastic stretch from Jean Segura:
Feast your eyes on this all-out play from Dee Gordon, who also swiped the 300th base of his career tonight:
And marvel at Ryon Healy, Picking Machine:
Álex Colomé worked a scoreless, if nerve-wracking eighth, giving the M’s had one more chance to tack on some more runs. Noé Ramirez took the mound for the Angels, and with a 2-0 count, Cruz sent a baseball to the Shadow Realm:
He sent this guy’s beer there, too.
While that was all they would get, it just set the stage for Edwin Díaz to inch further towards winning his bet with Scott Servais. Worming easy grounders from the bats of Pujols and Simmons, all that stood between the M’s and victory was one Shohei Ohtani, fresh off the DL.
After tonight’s victory, the Mariners stand at a full DOZEN games ahead of the Angels. Who saw that coming even six weeks ago? Though Oakland and Houston both won tonight, the team is still eight games up on a playoff spot, and look to push this streak up to nine games tomorrow afternoon. Mike Leake will be taking the hill against (checks notes) To Be Determined. I like those odds.
Go M’s. Go Wade.