Look, asking the Mariners to play a game even a fraction as exciting as last night’s near perfecto was a tall task. You knew this. I knew this. We all knew this! And yeah, maybe a series win from a team who hasn’t accomplished that in three weeks was a little much to ask, but it seemed doable going into tonight. Anaheim’s rookie starter was coming off of a really rough outing, Wade LeBlanc was back in his post-opener role, and they actually carried a lead for a bit!
But that’s not how this season has gone, now has it?
The opener actually worked very nicely tonight, with Matt Wisler firing a scoreless inning with two strikeouts. A leadoff hit from perpetual gnat David Fletcher the only blemish, Wisler leaned heavily on his slider, throwing it a whopping fourteen (!) times out of nineteen total pitches - in other words, nearly three-quarters of his offerings were sliders. He got Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton on consecutive strikeouts, totalling five swinging strikes between them, and generally looked like the best opener we’ve seen all season. Of course, we’re dealing with the tiniest of tiny samples here - Matt Carasiti looked like a solid option until he got blown up in his fifth open - but Wisler looked legitimately good tonight, and his slider-dominant approach could make him an interesting option against a righty-heavy lineup.
Once again, the offense star of the night was Omar Narváez, and I remain salty that he was snubbed for the All-Star Game. Narv notched a hit in each of his first two times up, scoring on a Dee Gordon sac fly in the second and smacking an RBI single in the third to bring home J.P. Crawford. In a wretched July in which the M’s have won three (3) games, Omar has been a consistent bright spot, and his approach at the plate and surprising power have been small joys all season.
The concept of holding a lead in two consecutive games proved to be too foreign, though, as Wade LeBlanc followed up two smooth innings with a bumpy fourth. Needing 28 pitches to escape, he loaded the bases with no outs on walks to Upton and Albert Pujols and an obnoxious seeing-eye hit from Andrelton Simmons. It could have gone worse, with a pretty 4-6-3 off the bat of Qole Qalhoun snuffing out the chance for a truly huge inning, but Kevan Smith (seriously what is it with Angel players and dumb spellings of common names?) immediately followed with a sharp single up the middle to tie the game. Bummer, dude.
The game was knotted for quite some time after that, but progressed at what felt like a snail’s pace; in fact, tonight’s game time was nearly an hour longer than yesterday’s. Despite LeBlanc, Sam Tuivailala (!), and Anthony Bass just one hit and one walk over the next four frames, seemingly every Anaheim hitter worked an annoyingly long count. The Mariners weren’t any better to watch at the plate, either, going hitless until the ninth and making not one but two outs on the basepaths in the seventh inning, with pinch-runner Dylan Moore getting caught in a rundown followed by a Mallex Smith pickoff about five seconds later. Good job, guys.
It was around this point I was hoping for no extras, and the baseball gods heard my wish after curling one finger on their monkey’s paw. With Roenis Elías in for the ninth, Dee treated us to by far the most exciting moment of the game:
Elías walked Chalhoun and got Smith on a lazy flyout for the second out, and who else was up but the spoilsport of last night, Luís Rengifo? Roenis worked to a 2-1 count, fired a 93 MPH fastball on the inner half, and wormed a pop up! A play in three acts:
Initially ruled an error on Roenis, this was later changed to a base hit, a scoring decision that feels harsh considering what happened right after. Fletcher continued his gnatiness by swatting a go-ahead single, and then Mike Trout was Mike Trout:
the homer streak lives tho
Aside from a third Narváez knock, the bats went away with a whimper in the ninth, and the Mariners fell to 3-10 in July. And we thought May was bad! Yusei Kikuchi will be on the mound tomorrow afternoon, hoping to right the ship against an Angels team that has scorched him all season. Would be really neat if he did.