No shortage of pixels have been spilled on these pages on the the inevitability of expiration, and the combined stress and simplicity that recognition can lend life. For as scary as the concept of death can be, the places the dead are entombed are often remarkable, stoic, and beautiful. A cemetery is a somber place, but also one of repose and respect. Even an unkempt graveyard has a wild charm of sorts. As someone who loves time spent in a park more than nearly anywhere else, the potentially macabre company doesn’t disrupt the peace of the experience.
No night at the ballpark is better suited to match the vibe of a crypt than a 12,697 attended 9-0 drubbing at the hands of the second-worst team in MLB. Yusei Kikuchi is one of the few pitchers who generates a spark during his outings, but against the Royals today he was in terrible form. His fastball command was poor, the velocity was 90-91 mph, and Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler took advantage. By the time Kikuchi departed he’d been tagged for six runs, struggling to locate his offspeed and looking as dispirited as I’ve seen him in his short MLB career.
Kikuchi acknowledged post-game that he could tell he wasn’t in sync. For a pitcher with as much pre-release funk as Kikuchi, his issues have often been and continue to be mechanical over physical. Despite their gaps in age and experience, it’s not hard to see a reflection of Justus Sheffield in Kikuchi, trying to consistently refine their motions to harness undeniable talent. Tonight was another poor showing for Kikuchi that saddles him with a 5.15 ERA thru his first 16 starts. The second half may yield better days, and these struggles are best trudged through in 2019, like so many of this team’s maladies. That they came tonight in front of the 8th-smallest crowd of the year in a lost season makes it only mildly less aggravating.
Kikuchi could have been immaculate, of course, and he’d have found himself hard-pressed for a victory tonight. Despite loud contact and a number of well-hit balls with runners on, the Mariners didn’t muster a run. To lead things off, J.P. Crawford and Mallex Smith sent fly balls to the wall in right-center in sequence, both to no avail. In the 2nd, Tom Murphy and Dee Gordon each reached base with one out, but Mac Williamson lasered a liner directly at Merrifield for an unassisted double play. No further threat emerged, as Homer Bailey ground out just the fifth outing of 2019 for any pitcher with over 120 pitches. 90-91 offered Kikuchi, 94-96 countered Bailey, and the difference tonight was nine runs. The Mariners and their fans were buried early and stamped down for certainty. Tonight’s game was done early, now we may rest.