Take a minute and let this soak in: the Mariners are one Hunter Strickland implosion away from being undefeated, having faced two teams that were both in the playoffs last year.
Feel that feeling of beautiful, undiluted calm? Let that wash over you. You’ll need it.
Catch up on all the action in the game thread here:
Today Wade LeBlanc took the rubber for the series finale against the Red Sox and it wasn’t the dominant performance he had against them on ESPN—also known as The Greatest Day of My Entire Life—but it wasn’t terrible either. Wade himself admitted he wasn’t crisp, and with that plus a fairly tight zone, he surrendered an uncharacteristic three walks. Also not helping Wade: Ryon Healy making a poor throw on what should have been an inning-ending double play in the first, bringing the inning to a close with the Red Sox staked to an early 3-0 lead.
After allowing Rick Porcello to mow through them 1-2-3 in the first, the Mariners offense got to work in the second, with Jay Bruce leading off with a double that just missed going out. Omar Narvaez followed with a nice piece of hitting on a running changeup to put runners at first and third with none out (I love Mike Z, but he couldn’t hit a running changeup with his car). Tim Beckham worked a full count but struck out looking, and then Ryon forgot it was daytime and popped out on the infield, and things started to look a little grim as Daniel Vogelbach walked to the plate and almost immediately fell into an 0-2 count. To our large son’s credit, he dug himself out and worked a walk, setting up Dee Gordon for a two-run single. Healthy Dee Gordon is a beautiful thing.
The Mariners left the inning still trailing by a run, but had forced Porcello to throw 40 pitches. Wade would hold off the formidable Boston offense in the third, setting up the Mariners offense to do some more damage against Porcello. A leadoff sun double from Haniger (featuring an aggrieved J.D. Martinez literally yelling at clouds) and a Jay Bruce walk would set up runners on the corners for Omar Narváez, who, having earlier eaten up and enjoyed Porcello’s changeup, decided to order the slider off the menu this time:
It’s so hard for restaurants to make it, but I really hope Porcello’s continues to serve up such delights. Alex Cora chose to leave in Porcello, who then walked Beckham, gave up a single to Healy, and walked Vogey, giving Deeeeee an opportunity for a grand slam no just kidding, he’s healthy but let’s not go nuts here. Dee hit a sac fly that JD Martinez, still smarting from his brawl with the sun, made an absolutely terrible throw home on. 6-3 Mariners. An RBI base hit from Mallex Smith was the final insult, and Porcello was lifted at 73 pitches, giving way to Brian Johnson, who promptly surrendered a double down the line to Haniger scoring two more runs. 9-3 Mariners.
Sadly, because nothing can ever be easy, Wader Tot gave up a three-run jack to Martinez in the fourth, drawing the Red Sox ever closer. Jay Bruce did his best to answer back with some breathing room in the bottom of the inning:
But because seriously, nothing can ever be easy, Nick Rumbelow gave that run right back on a solo HR to Betts when he came in to relieve Wade in the sixth. Meanwhile, the Mariners couldn’t get anything across against the Red Sox bullpen, despite putting runners on the bases in every inning. Matt Festa tossed an impressive 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts, then got two quick outs in the eighth before struggling a little to close it out. With two runners on and the tying run up, Roenis Elias entered and threw some straight fire to Rafael Devers, getting him to fly out to Domingo Santana.
And then the ninth. Since we’ve seen the bullpen struggle to protect a four-run lead, what hope does a piddly little three-run lead have? Not much when put in the hands of Cory Gearrin, at least not today. Gearrin is assuredly not as bad as he looked today, where he struggled to throw strikes and walked the bases full, but it’s a reminder why most teams don’t do “closer by committee.” The ninth inning is a cruel and unforgiving place, a place where yips live and most successes are forgotten almost instantly, but infamy lives forever. Chasen Bradford came in to battle the ninth-inning demons, and walked in a run, although as he said in his postgame interview: “did I, really?”
Nevertheless, Bradford rebounded to strike out Christian Vazquez and then turned his attention to Jackie Bradley Jr. Coming into this at-bat, JBJ was 2-for-3 against Chasen with a home run, “off my fastball,” said Chasen in his postgame interview. “So I wasn’t throwing him that.” Instead Chasen started him off with a changeup for a called strike before eventually inducing this nice, low-stress groundout:
Also, how cute is Jay Bruce’s little skip there? I too, felt like skipping. Once I finished all the vomiting, of course.
Chasen himself admitted to having some nerves: “Yeah, I couldn’t breathe there for a minute...it wasn’t the easiest of situations, but that’s part of the game.” However, in his postgame interview he seemed less impressed by his first career save and mostly mad about the 3-2 pitch for the walk (“it was a strike,” was the first thing he said to Servais after coming off the field). Also apparently his clubhouse celebration was a sundae with chocolate syrup and ice cream, by which I mean his teammates made a Chasen Bradford sundae out of him. Sorry Chasen! But I hear the ice cream is good for the beard follicles. Besides, ice cream seems to be the best way to handle the stress of the late innings this year. Load up your freezers, everyone. It’s a long season.