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A Tale of Two Games: One Was Fine, The Other One Really Sucked

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When it rains, it Swarz

MLB: Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees
this made my eyes burn so it’s going to make your eyes burn too, dammit
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

When I (Kate) studied in Rome, our professor told us not to cast aside the traditional Italian riposo, the extended lunch break/nap time common in Southern Italy and other countries where it’s too hot midday to be productive and healthy. “Eat a ham sandwich and take a nap,” was his advice to us, or, if we felt a little cranky, two ham sandwiches. It was, he explained, a way to wring even more out of our brief stay in Italy: to have due giorni in uno, or two days in one. (Or two sandwiches in one. Or four. I never mastered counting in Italian.)

Since the Mariners game today was split into two distinct halves, we offer you due recappi in uno. Unlike a languorous day spent near the Mediterranean Sea drinking limoncello on a fountain-studded plaza, this game was spent beneath the blackening skies of the concrete mausoleum known as New Yankee stadium. It is, we are saddened to report, not as good as a day beneath the Italian sun.

Part One: The Squandering of Opportunities (Kate)

When I studied in Italy, I had a foodie friend who kept a calendar of how many meals we had left to eat before getting on the plane back home. If anyone suggested just grabbing a piece of pizza on the way, she’d look at them with a horror-stricken expression, as if they had instead suggested rooting through the trash, or licking the cobblestones in the plaza, or maybe snacking on a newborn bambino, and would tap the calendar with one decisive finger. Frankly, the Mariners could have used her and her calendar tonight.

The Mariners had an opportunity to carry a larger lead into the riposo of this game, but were unable to capitalize on several scoring opportunities. Masahiro Tanaka and Marco Gonzales traded blows for the first part of this game, with Tanaka starting off with a scoreless inning, and Gonzales answering with a scoreless, hitless inning. The Mariners had an opportunity to open up the game in the second, with two on and none out after Domingo Santana took an eight-pitch walk (encouraging!) and Jay Bruce doubled to the gap (very encouraging!). But Tim Beckham hit into a fielder’s choice with Domingo running on contact and out at home (TOOTMINGO), and although Healy managed a sac fly to get the run home, the rally halted with Tom Murphy flying out. Overall, it was very much a “meh piece of pizza from a stand catering to tourists” kind of inning, when there was a Michelin-starred place right down the street.

Marco responded with a shutdown inning, but the Mariners went quietly in the third, and Marco had his first difficult inning of the day in the bottom of the third. It started with Gio Urshela, who should have been out on a called strike three, hitting a double. Two groundouts later and the game was tied. Gonzales was able to work around a little extra difficulty, after D.J. LeMahieu knocked a curveball that was at his ankles into center field, with a gutsy pitch to Luke Voit for Marco’s first swinging strike on the day:

The Mariners would have yet another chance in the fourth when Encarnación drew a walk to lead off the inning and Jay Bruce got a lucky double when Clint Frazier and Cameron Maybin each declined to catch the ball, but again, the Mariners couldn’t turn it into runs, with Tim Beckham and Ryon Healy both making outs in the air.

Marco Gonzales pitched very well today but was clearly a little affected by the rain in the fifth and sixth inning, as the normally sure-handed Gonzales made a pickoff error in the fifth; Cameron Maybin got greedy and tried to take two bases, however, and was thrown out at third to end the inning. The 2019 Mariners defense: Bad, But Not That Bad, Come On, Now. Gonzales was also clearly struggling to grip the ball in the sixth, as he walked Brett Gardner and then hit Luke Voit with a pitch. He gritted through, though, and posted another zero before the game was finally sent into a delay in the seventh.

Meanwhile, the Mariners went into the delay with the lead thanks to Edwin Encarnacion:

Which hopefully made up for the degree of misery our bright tropical parrot friend was experiencing on the field:

When you wish you had taken Vogelbach up on his offer to play first tonight

I hope Edwin had a nap and a nice sandwich during the rain delay. Two sandwiches, even.

Part Two: Well, This Sucks (Grant)

I’m not too proud to admit this: When I saw that the rain delay was going to force Marco out — and, even worse, that Cory Gearrin was warming up in the bullpen to replace him — I steeled myself for a painful capitulation, 45 seconds between each painful dagger to the heart.

First, of course, the M’s had to finish their half of the inning, which Tim Beckham did in ignominious fashion.

Next, as predicted, came the hitting onslaught. Singles from Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres gave the Evil Empire two on with nobody out, a precarious situation for sure when protecting a 2–1 lead. But a fielder’s choice and a 1–4–3 double play helped our own human rain delay escape with a tenuous lead.

One could be forgiven for assuming that things would be okay at that point, especially since the M’s tacked on two more in the top of the eighth. A three-run advantage is, generally, thought of as safe, especially for M’s fans who remember Álex Colomé and Edwin Díaz terrorizing opposing hitters at the end of ballgames last year.

But déjà vu happened all over again in the eighth, this time courtesy of back-to-back walks from Brandon Brennan. Even after a fielder’s choice picked up an out, I remained on edge, sure that Gary Sanchez was about to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short porch. Instead, Brennan unleashed three devastating changeups, each one more humiliating than the next.

Brandon Brennan atoning for his previous sins

A wild pitch on a spiked changeup may have spotted the Yankees a run, yes, but that’s far from the end of the world. Especially since Craig Kimbrel was coming in for the ninth inning!

leans over and listens to crackling static coming through a headset

I am being told that Craig Kimbrel doesn’t actually want to sign with the Seattle Mariners, and the Mariners aren’t exactly backing the Brinks truck up to his driveway. Which means that Anthony Swarzak, he of the 3.60 ERA and 8.04 FIP, would face the Bronx Bombers in the ninth.

Things weren’t going too badly — a line drive single from Torres was preceded by a harmless Frazier flyout — until Swarzak did this with his 0–2 pitch to Urshela:

And Gio, unsurprisingly, did this with it:

From there, of course, it was a fait accompli. A single, stolen base, and another single brought home the game-winning run just ahead of Omar Narváez’s tag, sending Swarzak home with his third blown save in six appearances and giving the M’s a .500 record for the first time since 0–0.

Baseball is magical, sometimes. Baseball is also dumb, too, sometimes. Today was a less fortunate sometimes, one that provides precious few moments of optimism. The bullpen is a mess; the defense, sloppy and imprecise at best. Outside of Marco, the rotation is riddled with question marks and #5 starters. If the Mariners want to make the playoffs in the next few years, they’ll need some Luke Voit or Gio Urshela development stories of their own; until then, however, we’ll be watching these guys dash our hopes and wonder, what if.