The first Friday night at T-Mobile Park started off as a raucous repeat of Thursday’s fun, but ended in all-too-familiar bullpen implosion. It was something most fans expected to witness at some point this season, but were perhaps hoping to make it through four or five games or so before it happened. Alas, these are the World Series Champion Red Sox for a reason and we all knew this Mariners bullpen was like the truck in “Sorcerer” anyways, so here we are.
But hey, let’s talk about some good stuff first. Yusei Kikuchi threw a solid and efficient six innings of work, despite being squeezed a bit by the home plate umpire, as was Nathan Eovaldi. Kikuchi kicked it off with a 1-2-3 first inning while working quickly between pitches and pounding the zone. Xander Bogarts got Kikuchi with a solo shot in the second inning, but Yusei stayed cool and K’d his way out of the inning, aside from a single from Scott Travis.
There was also this extremely nasty pitch to Scott Travis before he singled.
Yusei Kikuchi, Nasty Back Foot Slider.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 30, 2019
[Undoubtedly a nasty pitch, but honestly, I just wanted to work in the "Very Crafty" clip from the Mariner's commercial. https://t.co/HNYMl3QjIG] pic.twitter.com/HTnNJ7etu2
Kikuchi cruised through the third and fourth innings by nabbing a bunch of outs on ineffective contact for fly outs and ground outs. He gave up a couple singles to open the fifth inning and then gave up a run on a double play, but got out of the inning. JD Martinez would also snag a solo shot off Kikuchi in the sixth inning, but he K’d his way out of that one and that was the end of his stateside debut. Final line: 6 innings, 4 hits, 2 earned runs and 5 strike outs. Pretty good!
Oh yeah, and the Mariners offense casually scored six runs like it was no big thing. Mallex Smith led the game off with a home run, followed shortly by another absolutely violent solo shot by Domingo Santana.
Omar Narvaez also checked in with his first Mariners hit, a home run that squeaked over the right field corner wall. This team will absolutely hit and be fun to watch a lot of the time, so keep that in mind when I talk about the last two innings of this game.
In the sixth inning, Colton Brewer took over for Eovaldi, somehow managing to get some PTO from his day job at Aslan Brewing in Bellingham. He threw four straight balls to Mallex, Dee Gordon grounded out, and then Mallex majestically stole his first base of the season.
But then Haniger struck out, Santana walked (reached base four times tonight!), and Jay Bruce grounded out.
In the seventh inning, Matt Festa came in and gave up no runs and Tim Beckham did this:
Friends, the eighth inning took about an hour to unfold and it is where things started going off the rails.
Zac Rosscup and Corey Gearrin teamed up for some serious bullpen shenanigans. Rosscup gave up a solo shot to Christian Vazquez to make it 6-4. Gearrin replaced him and proceeded to take about 35 minutes to throw 18 pitches. He lucked into a strikeout of JD Martinez, loaded the bases, and then participated in one of the more unlikely double plays I’ve seen in a while.
I will admit to having a decent feeling about Hunter Strickland coming in after that miraculous escape from the eighth inning and thought he’d just casually shut the door on the Red Sox, but it was pretty clear from his first few pitches that something was off. A meeting on the mound with trainers more or less confirmed that, yet Strickland insisted on staying in.
Strickland said he couldn’t get loose and started feeling tightness in the back of his shoulder that contined to build— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) March 30, 2019
He induced a grounder to Healy, but RyOn threw home to get the lead runner instead of trying to double up Jackie Bradley, Jr., which might not have been possible. It’s hard to say. Either way, Mitch fucking Moreland came up next and hit a pinch-hit 3-run home run to take the lead, 7-6. And just like that, yesterday’s dreams and good feelings came crashing down in a heap. We’d all been reading the tea leaves and had been seeing visions of the 1997 Mariners, they of a million dingers and a catastrophic disaster of a bullpen, but you always hope to be wrong and/or blissfully ignorant until the wholly predictable outcome actually happens.
Well, “they are what we thought they were.” And that’s fine, right? 2019 is not supposed to be a contending year, so we’ll take the good with the bad and keep looking toward the horizon, that sweet, sweet higher-draft-pick-lookin’ horizon, and just enjoy some fair to middling baseball along the way.