After what felt like a literal eternity of facing AL West teams and nobody else (thank the stars we don’t see the Angels for the rest of the year), facing the Tigers felt like a huge breath of fresh air. Yeah, Tim Beckham and Kristopher Negrón were manning the corners - 2019 continues to be the wildest - but we had a shiny new Tim Lopes at second base making his first big league start! Lopes had previously stood in the field for the ninth inning in yesterday’s contest, but he and his family still provided some #wholesomecontent in that brief time:
thank you Tim Lopes and fam for the greatest 60 seconds I could have asked for today pic.twitter.com/6WB5bm8rdb— Lydia Cruz (@TheLydiaCruz) July 24, 2019
It was a same plan, different man night for Wade LeBlanc, who again came on following an opener. After Matt Wisler delivered a sharp first inning preceding him on Saturday, it was Erik Swanson’s turn to open tonight, and he wasn’t sharp out of the gate, walking JaCoby Jones on six pitches. He rebounded to get Jeimer Candelario flailing on a fastball low out of the zone, and easily coaxed flyouts from Miguel Cabrera and Nick Castellanos to escape unharmed. Following a scoreless bottom of the first from Drew VerHagen (shoutout to commenter GrassRockFish in the game thread for introducing me to the term “camelcase”), Swanson looked even better in his second and final inning of work, notching two more strikeouts from Brandon Dixon and Niko Goodrum and sandwiching a flyout from Christin Stewart in between. Swanson’s fastball-heavy approach didn’t waver tonight - I counted only four pitches out of 31 total that fell under “offspeed” - but it seemed to have some extra movement tonight, and his command ironed out quickly after the leadoff walk. That’s now two straight opener games where the opener has performed well, which feels like a record. Hey, I’ll take that.
Unfortunately, LeBlanc also got bit by his first batter, though John Hicks did much more damage by cranking a changeup nearly 450 feet to left field.
Fun fact: John Hicks was a Mariner! Less fun fact: since latching on with Detroit in 2016, he’s put up a .416/.467/.683 slash line against Seattle pitching, and that’s not even counting his dinger and walk tonight. Why do they always get better, am I right?
Fortunately, because the Tigers are literally the worst team in baseball (seriously i’m just as shocked as you are that it isn’t the orioles), that was all they would muster, and the bottom of the third kicked off with a Tim Lopes walk! Whoo! That first official at-bat would have to wait. After a Mallex Smith popout, a base hit from J.P. Crawford and a walk by Omar Narváez set the stage for Daniel Vogelbach, who promptly hit a sure double play ball.
Turns out when you’re the worst team in baseball, you probably also play bad defense! What should have been the end of the inning was instead another bases-loaded situation, and exactly three pitches later, Tim Beckham went back to his April roots:
goodness GRACIOUS that bat flip tho
The rest of the game breezed by. Kyle Seager hit a home run against a lefty, Vogelbach smoked an oppo double, and J.P. reached base three times. All good things! LeBlanc threw six strong innings, with his only hiccup coming in the fifth, when he began the frame by allowing the first three hitters to reach. Fortunately, because these are the Tigers, he wiggled free surrendering just one run on a Candelario knock. Oh, and Drew VerHagen ended up being the latest name added to Mariner fans’ shit-list to lead off the fourth:
Lopes stayed in the game immediately after, and even stole a base and scored a run in the inning, becoming possibly the first player to score multiple runs before having an official at-bat (someone play index this pls - and pinch running doesn’t count). He managed to get one more turn at the plate, hitting a routine first-pitch grounder to finally get that AB in the books, but was replaced by Dylan Moore in the seventh. Per Greg Johns, Lopes was unavailable postgame undergoing concussion protocol, but Jen Mueller painted a more optimistic picture, reporting that he was walking around just fine and that the helmet caught most of the blow. Phew! Here’s hoping it’s just his jaw that’s a little sore.
July has been, for lack of a better word, a miserable month for the Mariners, Mike Leake near-perfecto aside. Tonight was just their sixth win of the month, and that’s after going 4-3 the past week. Yikes. In a step-back/rebuild/whatever you call it year, wins like these are always rare, and to cap it all off, every Mariner hitter except Negrón reached base. Sorry, Kristopher. Yusei Kikuchi goes tomorrow, and hopefully will be able to keep the anemic Detroit offense in check after struggling again his last time out. Consecutive series wins sounds pretty rad. Let’s shoot for that, huh?