This was an exciting baseball game. Far removed from the records at hand or the years of rebuilding at hand for both teams, this game had runs, powerful blasts, great defensive plays, and more hits than the Braves and the Yankees.
A few weeks ago Craig Edwards of FanGraphs wrote a post on the most (and least) exciting team in baseball, leaning on Win Probability and the Leverage Index heavily, as well as his own creations - the “Horror Score” and the “Exhiliration Index”. I’ll skip the details: between their poor record and a multitude of blowout losses, the Mariners have been near the bottom. At the start of June, in fact, the Mariners were the second-least exhilarating watch in baseball. The only team below them? The Orioles.
By their powers combined, the two dullest entertainers in the league flipped the script tonight, combining for 19 runs, a 10-9 final tally, and a game made entertaining for its fans, oddly, by the fact that neither side truly cared if their team won or lost. The ideal game for the Orioles was probably something akin to what happened: several of their young, fringy prospects had great days at the plate, yet their stranglehold on the 1st pick in the 2020 draft was not challenged. For the Mariners, a win is slightly more important for posterity, and their success was borne almost entirely of strong performances by players who could be around in a year or two. In a year of competition this would’ve been a night of tension. Instead it was, at worst, annoyance at Mike Leake.
The pique with Leake began in the 1st, as he gave up four of his eleven hits, ceding Baltimore a 3-0 hole. He was a victim of a thousand cuts tonight, but managed his best FIP in a start since May 14th, as every grounder found a hole, every liner looped over a defender, and not a single fly ball left the yard. Despite yielding eight runs - six earned - in 5.1 IP, Leake left in line for a win thanks to an eruption of offense from all the right sources.
Mallex Smith - 3-for-3, 2 BB, 2 SB
J.P. Crawford - 3-for-4, BB
It was a perfect 1-2 punch at the top of the order, and set the table for the Mariners offense all night. Yes Mac Williamson dingered. Yes Dylan Moore put a ball in the bullpen. Yes Kyle Seager got his wRC+ over 100 with a bomb of his own.
But the players of the game were the two at the top of the order, splashing singles and wreaking havoc, looking like the players we hoped they could be when the Mariners traded for them. Crawford added a brilliant day on defense, turning a couple double plays and making a nice backhand play that any defender but Vogelbach would’ve converted for an out at first. Roenis Elías shut the door in the 9th and the Mariner took the win. It would’ve been an exasperating night in 2014, or 2015, or 2016, or... you get the idea. But this year, this night was a pleasure. A summer of nonsense like this, please.