After a sleepy loss to the Orioles yesterday, in which Baltimore played arguably the best game they’ve played all season defensively, the Mariners reasserted themselves against the cellar-dwelling O’s with a dominant 13-3 win. In the game thread, Zach noted that J.P. Crawford and Mallex Smith had a rough go of it in yesterday’s loss, with just one hit between the two of them. Today the pair bounced back to combine for six hits, one walk and no strikeouts, with five RBI. The heavy lifting was done by Crawford, who had his best game as a Mariner thus far: four hits, including a home run, four RBI, and some sparkling defensive plays.
It’s hard to recall looking at the game chart, but there was a time when this game was close, and Crawford’s first hit came at a critical juncture. Yusei Kikuchi came out of the gates looking shaky again, needing 20 pitches to get through the first inning and giving up two walks and a homer on a hanging curve to Trey Mancini. Crawford, hitting in the two-hole today, immediately tied the game up with this shot:
The second inning wouldn’t be any better for Kikuchi, who needed almost thirty pitches and surrendered another run despite getting some help from Crawford on a slick 6-3 double play. The Mariners again rallied in their half of the inning to tie the game again, although they could have had a bigger inning if it hadn’t been Mac Williamson at the plate with the bases loaded and no outs, who grounded into a double play.
Thankfully, Kikuchi—as he has several times this year—settled in and had his first 1-2-3 inning in the third. The Mariners batters saw an opportunity to get ahead against Baltimore starter Gabriel Ynoa, who had taken some damage but no real critical hits. It could be argued he didn’t take any in the third, either, as the Mariners instead chose a strategy of “death by 1000 paper cuts,” racking up eight runs on three walks, a HBP, a sac fly and six singles off Ynoa and his replacement, Matt Wotherspoon, apparently taking a break from scaring the Scooby-Doo gang at his grandpa’s amusement park. The Mariners did have a chance for a big hit with Daniel Vogelbach up with two on and two outs, but Vogey couldn’t quite get a handle on the pitch, much to his dismay:
Staked to a comfortable lead, Kikuchi was able to cruise through the next three innings, surrendering just one additional run in the sixth after giving up a leadoff double. At that point the Mariners were ahead 12-2, though, thanks to a two-run Mac Williamson home run that was an absolute laser (111 mph exit velo). Because they like nice round numbers, the Mariners would tack on another run in the seventh on a (who else) J.P. Crawford sacrifice fly. The Mariners probably could have done even more damage in this game—they were just 6-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left a carton of eggs’ worth of runners on base—but a win is a win no matter how lopsided. Salting away a dominant win is also good before the Mariners head out on what will undoubtedly be a tough road trip: they have to face Milwaukee, and do so without the benefit of the DH, and then go to Houston to play the Astros. That’s like swallowing motor oil with a bleach chaser, and I’m not looking forward to it. But this season is a lesson in taking your lumps and looking towards the horizon, and it was very gracious of the Orioles to allow J.P. Crawford to show a little glimpse of the star he could one day be with regular playing time and a healthy season. So far that looks like a 128 wRC+ and 1.0 fWAR racked up in about 100 ABs, which looks pretty, pretty good indeed.