If you got a cursed vibe from this game before it even started, I can’t blame you at all. It was bad enough that the infamous Blue Jays series kicked off, but they had to play in these jerseys?
Whoever made the decision that these would be worn for Players’ Weekend should have to answer for their crimes. But hey, Justus Sheffield was making his first career start, Jake Fraley was making his home debut, and Toronto was throwing out a pitcher that Seattle hit pretty well the last time they faced him. Maybe an exorcism could happen?
Alas, the first few innings were anything but, and I surprised myself with how frustrated I got watching them. Sheffield needed a whopping thirty-seven pitches just to get through the first inning with two runs scoring, though some poor BABIP luck and a baffling Kerwin Danley strike zone certainly share some of the blame. I mean look at this:
The inning wasn’t without some silver lining, though: despite subpar fastball command, Justus’s slider was on point, and he made Vlad Jr. look absolutely silly for the first out:
After a painless second, the Mariners struck back. Omar Narváez led off the frame with one of the more Omar Narváez home runs I’ve seen all year...
And after Jake Fraley smoked a single into right field for his first big league hit (!), Dee Gordon tripled him home, though he would have been meat at the plate if not for:
Thanks, Randal Grichuk!
Alas, Justus’s struggles continued, and he gave the lead right back in the third on a Teoscar Hernández knock. Toiling like Hephaestus all evening, he needed 86 pitches just to get through four complete innings, walking three and letting a trio of runs cross. Four out of twenty-two hitters he faced worked at-bats of at least seven pitches, and a stingy zone did him no favors. That being said, his slider looked beautiful throughout, and his fastball hit a healthy 96 a few times. It can be hard to remember that Sheffield turned 23 just three months ago, and although his first start in the bigs didn’t have a pretty line, there were some good nuggets sprinkled in each inning. Here’s to him getting the ball every fifth day from here on out and developing at the big league level.
Kyle Seager also reminded us in the third that he is Boss:
And J.P. Crawford hit an absolute rocket in the fifth to snatch back the lead once again:
The launch angle on this dinger was a puny 18 degrees, the second-lowest by a Mariner all season. After a bit of a slump, Crawford’s had a pretty great week, and his plate discipline stayed solid with a walk tonight. He’s been a consistent bright spot since coming up for good, and should be a blast to watch for years to come. Hooray for good trades!
Alas, because nobody seemed to want to actually win this game, Toronto tied it once again in the sixth. Well past the two-hour mark at this point, Zac Grotz allowed Reese McGuire and Bo Bichette to reach first and third with one out, though Mallex contributed a truly egregious bobble in right.
Matt Wisler came on to put out the fire, and after a gorgeous strikeout of Derek Fisher, Vladito struck with the infield hit to end all infield hits.
Yeah, this game was still cursed. Grichuk would harmlessly pop out to end the frame, and then the real fun* began. Dee led off the bottom of the frame with a double, Mallex reached on a sac bunt, and after a J.P. groundout moved him to second, the game s l o w e d to a crawl. Austin Nola and Kyle each worked a walk off of our sweet putto Sam Gaviglio, taking back the lead and prompting a pitching change. Narv worked a third straight walk off of a fresh lefty in Tim Mayza, but not before a wild pitch brought a second run home:
Daniel Vogelbach went down on strikes, and Toronto made a second pitching change, this time bringing in Neil Ramírez to face off against Tim Lopes. Lopes would work his second walk of the game (side note: the guy has a .379 OBP in the bigs and is running a K-rate of right around 15%. He’s been fun), but not before a third run crossed in equally embarrassing fashion:
Fraley would be robbed of a second hit by a nice sliding catch in center from Hernández, but honestly, this bottom of the inning lasted a literal half-hour. It’s okay that it didn’t go on any longer. Sam Tuivailala, Anthony Bass, and Matt Magill finished up the last third of the game with no damage, and the Blue Jay faithful were denied a victory. Man, that tastes good. Félix makes his return tomorrow against a Wilmer Font/Brock Stewart (whomst??) tandem, and I’d be a big ol’ liar if I told you I wasn’t nervous as hell. But y’know, this game, cursed vibes and all, managed to be pretty fun. Let’s hope the King and his Court can keep some of that magic going.