Ugh. The first two weeks of the year were an unabashed joy to follow, but of course the Mariners weren’t going to play at a .867 clip all year. Of course regression was coming. Of course they weren’t going to put up bunches of runs each night. We know all this!
But man, aside from a couple of neat moments, this was an objectively bad baseball game.
Catch up on the game thread here:
Mike Leake did look pretty crisp in the first three innings, needing just 29 pitches to carve through Cleveland’s lineup. He allowed a leadoff hit twice, once to old friend Leonys Martín to begin the game and again to Jake Bauers in the third, but erased both on pretty double plays. Ross Detwiler would be proud. And hey, the Murph even gave him an early lead!
Unfortunately, everything began to unravel in the fourth. Martín again led off the inning with a solid hit up the middle, though he was gunned down easily by Tom Murphy (seriously this guy was one of like three bright spots tonight) with José Ramírez at the dish. A break! Ramírez continued to wake up by muscling a changeup into left, but Leake managed to coax a grounder from Jason Kipnis. Dee Gordon made a brilliant diving stop, effortlessly flipped the ball to Tim Beckham for the second out, and...
Okay, maybe asking for the best double play of the year was a little greedy. That’s a tough read off of the glove, Kipnis can run a little bit... that doesn’t change how infuriating it was to immediately give the lead back after this play. Leake absolutely grooved a 3-1 fastball to one-time Mariner (haha remember this offseason?) Carlos Santana, who easily laced a double into the right-center gap, and Hanley Ramírez (...seriously?!) drove him home exactly one pitch later. Auuuuuuuuuuugh. Beckham would later redeem himself a bit with a double into the left field corner, but with his bat coming back to earth and a few rough defensive games lately, one can’t help but start to glance down at J.P. Crawford hitting well in Tacoma.
To his credit, Leake righted the ship, and threw two more stress-free innings. With a lefty-heavy Cleveland lineup, he leaned on his changeup more heavily than I’ve seen in a while, and grabbed plenty of groundouts. As per usual, he issued zero walks, and was able to snag a quartet of strikeouts tonight. In all, it was a perfectly Mike Leake outing, which makes it all the more frustrating that Roenis Elías extended the gap by way of a Mike Freeman (!) single and a Leonys double in the seventh. Elías has been pretty reliable in the early going, every reliever has a bad outing sometimes, and we knew the bullpen was a weakness going into this year, but there’s something especially demoralizing about seemingly everyone not named Brandon Brennan imploding over the past five games.
To make matters worse, the bats couldn’t wake up despite making Shane Bieber work through six-plus innings. Both Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy worked walks off of him! I promise you we are not in the Twilight Zone. Alas, the Murphy hit in the third was the only time they were able to get to him, and Oliver Pérez, Neil Ramírez, and Brad Hand were able to mostly shut down the bats. Mostly.
The dinger streak lives! That was about the only thing that saved tonight from complete dumpster fire territory. Tom Murphy also notched a couple doubles in addition to his RBI knock, proving himself to be a capable backup. There were good things that happened tonight, but none of them came close to saving an overall disappointing performance.
At least tomorrow is another game, and a final chance to salvage at least one win in this homestand. Erik Swanson - who pitched well in his debut on Thursday despite what the box score says - will make his first big league start. That’s something! Cleveland is still a poor hitting team despite this recent outburst, too, and Carlos Carrasco has been the victim of both wretched BABIP luck and dingeritis to open 2019. Here’s hoping that those continue to bite him, and breaks finally start going the M’s way again. It’s a lot more fun when that happens, I promise.