The best players in tonight’s game were Wade LeBlanc and Mike Zunino.
Zu’s contributions were two-fold. Offensively, his performance was a sight for sore Northwestern eyes. A breaking ball deposited in the left-field seats opened the scoring at 1-0 in the top of the 4th. Seattle’s issues w/RISP would rear their head again today, but seeing Zunino, Cruz, Seager, Healy, and Haniger all check in with XBHs in the past two games is a ray of diluted sunshine after the ghastly offense Seattle has subjected us to of late.
Zu would finish the night 3-for-5 with two of the hardest hits of the night. Defensively he nailed a runner stealing early on, and was an able first mate in navigating an inventive strike zone from home plate umpire Ryan Blakney.
Wade LeBlanc ho-hummed his way to 6.1 IP with just one run allowed (cashed in by his traitorous bullpen), four K’s, one BB, and a whole mess of soft-contact. Texas has been one of baseball’s better teams at the plate recently despite a down year overall. Seeing the Rangers swing wet napkins against LeBlanc’s varied fare was encouraging, particularly considering Wade’s struggles with results on the road this season.
LeBlanc’s K of Joey Gallo in a 3-2 count with a fastball directly down the middle may be the latest installment in one of my favorite running series’, but what made his evening stand out was what shines in all of LeBlanc’s best outings. He doesn’t escape trouble: he plans ahead like a savvy traveler and avoids it all-together. When LeBlanc left the game with one out in the bottom of the 7th and a runner on first, no baserunner had reached second base.
The most impactful moment (Bad) was Adam Warren’s ill-fated HBP in a 3-2 count to load the bases and conclude his disappointing outing.
This game had no need to be so nerve-wracking. Warren was gifted a 3-0 lead thanks to a Ryon Healy double and a Cameron Maybin RBI single, along with Dee Gordon’s unfortunate GiDP at the hands of a legitimately spectacular play by Rougned Odor. While LeBlanc likely had some still in the tank, I will usually not fault a manager for going to their bullpen early if they have a pen worth trusting in. Theoretically, Seattle does.
Unfortunately, Wade’s gift would be disregarded, as Warren’s command was absent from the jump.
That walk led to a double, which birthed an errant slider off the hand of Robinson Chirinos and induced what felt like 45 replay reviews, pitching changes, and 33-second holds before the pitch in the inning. Neither Warren nor Zach Duke could find the zone, and the two newest Mariners pitchers squandered LeBlanc’s laid-back afternoon. By the time Álex Colomé could grind his way out of the bases-loaded jam, it was tied again at 3-3.
The most jarring realization was that whoever designs bats for Jurickson Profar doesn’t seem to care for him, as showcased by not one, but two instances of near-game-winners that faded in the muggy Texas air.
This was Colomé’s worst pitch of the night, and also his 28th, one shy of his season-high. It’s fortunate it was then he erred, and no sooner. Sam Tuivailala would also be the beneficiary of Profar’s dead wood in the bottom of the 11th, with a fly that carried more than expected but juuuuust shy of a crushing blow to Seattle.
The most relieving moment was when Ryon Healy made up for Jean Segura getting caught stealing.
Jean Segura might need a break, but Seattle is in little position to give him one. The engine at the heart of Seattle’s sustained performance in Robinson Cano’s absence has sputtered over the past month, and his speed has suffered too. His caught-stealing in the top of the 12th was his 9th in 25 attempts this year. Mercifully, his partner in “we know you’re better than this, any day now”, Mitch Haniger, resolved to stop the bleeding. A double down the line, a Nelson Cruz lineout, and an intentional walk to Kyle Seager put the game in Ryon Healy’s hands with two outs. He hit a hard ground ball as he has so many times this season.
Against all odds, it was not directly at a defender.
Haniger breezed home, Edwin Díaz made it work without his best stuff, and Seattle escaped the night with a win. This was a game the Mariners could have easily lost. For over six innings they were the clearly superior team, yet they failed to put it away offensively yet again and again. Texas is an inferior team, recent sweep of Houston notwithstanding, and to cede ground on an off-night for Oakland would have left a terrible taste, even if a roughshod victory. If Seattle makes the postseason, this win will be just as much a part of it as their walk-off thriller to sweep the Angels in June, or the 12-4 trouncing they laid on Cleveland back in late April.
But they could blow someone out one of these days. We wouldn’t be mad, honest.