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Mariners avenge their King, win 5-3

what a relief

Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images

I don’t think there was a sadder Mariners game in the past five or so years than August 7th, 2018. Watching Félix, our eternal King, get obliterated for eleven earned runs through six innings, during the worst season of his career, looking as lifeless as we had ever seen him, stung like very few baseball moments have. I steeled myself for a potential similar outcome for tonight, every pitch watched with my guard up.

Turns out he was totally fine!

Of course, some things about 2016-19 Félix have stayed the same, as after two quick outs, Willie Calhoun obliterated a meatball of a 3-2 pitch:

Oh, well. Félix got rookie Nick Solak on an easy grounder to end the frame, and the Mariners put up a trio of runs in the top of the second in hilarious fashion. Kyle Seager continued his absolutely torrid month by ripping a line-drive single, and after Omar Narváez lined out, a walk to Vogey and a base hit from Jake Fraley (!) set the stage for Dylan Moore. Moore worked a tough 3-2 count, but was robbed of a Jack Cust Special and had to settle for a bases-loaded hit by pitch.

owie :c

In stepped Dee Gordon, and he poked a 2-2 curve right to Danny Santana, who was manning shortstop in Elvis Andrus’s stead. Santana deftly stepped on second, fired to first, and...

Whoops! Fraley showed off some great heads-up baserunning, as well, scoring from second, and all of a sudden the M’s had a multi-run lead for Félix. Nice! Texas struck right back in the bottom of the frame, though. Félix again got the first two outs quickly, ringing up Logan Forsthye in the process...

... but Texas snatched a run back on back-to-back doubles from Scott Heineman and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, though that second one had a bit of luck dragons attached:

come on man

After a clean third which saw Félix open by throwing five straight curves (more on that in a bit), the fourth was again a little wobbly, with hits from Solak and Forsythe and a walk to Rougned Odor loading the bases with no one out for Texas. Thankfully, the next batter was Scott Heineman and his 26 wRC+, and three more curveballs later, he missed grounding into a triple play by one step:

Kiner-Falefa popped out to end the frame, and after a 1-2-3 fifth, Félix’s night was done. It wasn’t perfect - it was never going to be - but there was a lot to like here. The King threw 35 curveballs out of 87 total pitches; in other words, just over two-fifths of his offerings were bendy. No matter what happens, he probably won’t rack up many more strikeouts - he generated just three swinging strikes tonight, and all of his three Ks were looking - but Félix wormed eight groundouts out of the Rangers, and six of them came on the curve. It’s still a mild bummer that five innings and three runs from Félix is worthy of celebration, but tonight went better than I think a lot of us were expecting it to go, and for that I am thankful.

Alas, after the second inning the M’s bats went pretty quiet, save for a rocket of a double from Jake Fraley in the fourth:

Fraley has gotten off to a slow start in his Major League debut, going just 2-for-20 with seven strikeouts before his two-hit game tonight. He was former teammates with Rays’ Double-A pitcher Blake Bivens - whose wife, mother-in-law, and young son were tragically killed on Monday - and they and their wives were close friends. He spent Tuesday away from the team and was out of the lineup yesterday, and it has to feel good for him to have the best game of his young big league career on his first day back. He’ll be yet another reason to tune in these last few weeks of the season.

Taylor Guilbeau, Sam Tuivailala, and Matt Magill effortlessly held the Rangers to zeroes after Félix was lifted, and the Mariners had themselves a little ninth inning rally. Dee poked a base hit through the right side to lead off the frame, Mallex Smith worked his second walk of the night to go with two hits, J.P. Crawford successfully bunted them both over, and Austin Nola grabbed the lead:

So that’s why Scott Heineman is in the big leagues! I thought for sure that this was going to drop for an easy double, but he made a fine running catch to hold Nola to a sac fly. That’s okay, though! Kyle drew a walk, and Narv added on a bit with a flare into left to bring Mallex home. Insurance runs are the best runs. Magill was brought in for a second inning to close after an eight-pitch eighth, and had some help from Dee, who was money at second base all night:

After a two-out knock from Forsythe, Magill tussled with Heineman for nine pitches before finally blowing him away to seal the win.

Honestly, with the draft order looming, I could have taken or left the win. What mattered tonight is that Félix looked alright, and if he can keep this up through the rest of the year, he stands a good chance of pitching elsewhere in 2020. Assuming everything stays in line regarding the rotation (spoiler: it likely won’t), Félix is in line to start maybe five more games as a Mariner, and if all of them ended up similar to this one, I’d be thrilled for him. In the final chapters of the King’s reign in Seattle, that’s good enough, and each of these last rounds of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows should be cherished.