One of my favorite quirks of this Mariners roster is that only one player signed by Bill Bavasi’s front office remains in the organization - tonight’s starting pitcher Erasmo Ramirez. Seattle’s limbo of chasing an elusive playoff berth with a roster committed to the peak of ownership’s taste makes every game of this season feel vital in a way a more established organization (and a more sated fanbase) might not require.
But tonight was relaxing, and a reminder that not every win need be stressful. Seattle’s comfortable victories have been few and far between in 2018, even as they once again sit 17 games over .500. The 3rd inning tonight was reminiscent of the 6th inning of Wednesday’s 9-7 loss, where Seattle’s Canó-infused offense seemed to remember hard contact can be directed places other than at an eager infielder’s glove.
It started with former leadoff hitter Dee Gordon, whose bat has felt far more palatable in the 8th and 9th spot, and whose glove was on full-display the inning before with a stellar diving catch. With the infield drawn in anticipating a tapper from the soft-hitting Gordon. Instead, A.J. Pollock and Steven Souza Jr. were treated to a workout as Dee clobbered a ball as far as he’s hit anything this season, doubling to deep right-center. After Erasmo Ramirez struck out while givng the type of swing at the plate that leads coaches to pivot and instead discuss what a high-character player he is, Dee took a chance.
Now you see him...
Now you don’t.
It’s the type of risk-reward play that has made Gordon exciting and exasperating in Seattle, and unfortunately it’s been more of the latter, particularly since his broken toe in late-May. It worked about as well as anyone could’ve imagined.
The risk was not insignificant, but it wasn’t without calculation. Zack Godley, while a typically adept pitcher, is at best an uncomfortable fielder. His penchant for throwing errors and reluctance to throw pickoff moves borders on Jon Lester-adjacent. The error Gordon forced granted Seattle a 1-0 lead that would soon swell to 4-0. Mitch Haniger singled for the second time on the night, the first of four straight hits. After a line drive single from Robinson Canó and a well-placed grounder from Jean Segura, Denard Span kept the train moving with a double past Paul Goldschmidt. It was this hit that solidified a reminder of how easy it can be when good contact finds a hole, as Seattle had made look so easy through the first month of the season.
For months this hit has found a glove, inches to the left in the waiting arms of one of baseball’s top 1Bs. Instead, a double, a 3-0 lead, which would be stretched to 4-0 on a Kyle Seager sacrifice fly.
Mitch Haniger and Mike Zunino would accentuate excellent days at the plate with solo homers, with Zu muscling a two-strike pitch nearly 400 feet to right-center in that remarkable way that reminds you he is a special talent, exasperating as he can be. That was tonight’s story, too, of a team with the chance to fulfill their potential, for a night at least, making it easy. Erasmo Ramirez befuddled an ostensibly potent Diamondbacks offense, with just one earned run through six easy innings. Despite a pair of throwing errors from Jean Segura and Dee Gordon which much more deservingly lay at the feet of inexperienced Robinson Canó’s inconsistent picking form, Erasmo’s form since returning from the DL has looked far more like a competent rotation piece than the disasterpiece he was between DL stints this spring.
The once-assumed bullpen trio of Nick Vincent, Álex Colomé, and Edwin Díaz handled Arizona’s order with ease, with five Ks, no runs, and just one baserunner between the three of them. While Díaz took the headliner with his franchise-record 49th save, inching just one away from a snazzy new Scott Servais haircut, it was Colomé whose appearance most stuck in my mind.
Donning his amusingly brusque “The Horse” Players’ Weekend Jersey, Colomé broke the heart of Arizona’s order. A perfectly placed cutter snuck inside the hands of a helpless David Peralta for out number one. Feeling himself and his best pitch, Álex ran it back out there against Paul Goldschmidt. Then he did it again. And again.
Three cutters, three flailing swings. Why can’t they all be that easy?
A 6-3 win means the Mariners keep pace, which is not as exciting as gaining ground, but just as vital. Not every game for Oakland will come against the hapless Twins, and not every game for Seattle will come against a quality team like Arizona. Tonight was encouraging. It was relaxing. And it was hopeful.