Dominance appears in many forms. It can be conveyed with as little as a look, something symbolic like a piece of clothing or a badge, or sheer size and strength. In baseball, we see the occasional symbolic demonstration, but much of the machismo ethos of the sport centers around its core struggle between a pitcher and a hitter. 1v1, 27 isolation plays in a row, until things resolve.
It’s a thin mythos, of course. The pitcher is never alone, while the hitter knows they do not alone bear the burden of victory or defeat. But when we discuss domination for pitchers it typically centers around that most fascist of results - strikeouts. It’s reasonable - they are a trustier predictor of future success than any other result. Last week we saw Yusei Kikuchi truly dominate Cleveland, with 10 Ks in 7.0 IP, just three hits, and a single earned run. It was the most exciting start we’d seen to date, and a more encouraging one going forward than today’s.
But today Kikuchi succeeded in a different way, and that was brilliant to watch as well. The pitch counts by inning were laughable at a certain point.
15, 7, 7, 16, 9, 17, 9, 15.
Kikuchi wove through the Yankees lineup like an aged potter, pushing at the exact points he needed, no more, no less. He yielded just one run despite pitching in the infant’s cradle that is Yankee Stadium, carrying a no-hitter into the 6th inning and making the incredibly inadvisable choice to Let His Defense Work. In fact, the Mariners defense is not legally allowed to work in over a dozen states and territories, but New York apparently is not one of them. Despite just eight swinging strikes on 106 pitches, Kikuchi cruised to an easy victory, with his second straight 7+ inning outing. He did not flash the upper-shelf velocity he had last week after extended rest, but his comfort seems to only be growing.
Making things extra cozy for Kikuchi was the second offensive explosion of the week. After being stifled until the final game of the Cleveland series, the Mariners once again took some time to get the bats going on this road trip. Today there was no delay. Dee Gordon took the first PA of the game to slap a single into center and things were off to the races. Mitch Haniger walked, prelude to a strong game all around for him. A Vogelsac fly and another from Edwin Encarnación gave the M’s a 1-0 lead they would never relinquish.
In the 3rd, Mitch mashed a pitch at his shoulders.
He was joined in the seats by Encarnación...
...and Ryon Healy.
Healy in particular had a ball today, knocking a pair of doubles to push his league-leading total to 16. That number eclipses his season-long total from all of 2018. Often 10-run games are the result of an early blowout that leads one team to concede their efforts, but the Mariners scored in six of the nine frames they were given, with just Jay Bruce failing to reach base. It was relentless, impressive, and delightful. It was dominant. These are not the Yankees that the Yankees will be at the end of the year, but they’ve maintained their winning record by snapping up games from the underbelly of the AL thanks to fortuitous scheduling. Today the Mariners bit back.