Those who follow the Mariners are no strangers to nostalgia. The team’s marketing department has forever shoved commemorative promotions down fans’ throats, and most fans are themselves likely guilty of re-watching The Double a few too many times.
The dirty secret of Mariners fandom is that, while we all pretend to love reminiscing about the good old days, it’s even more fun to reminisce over the bad old days. Remember Blake Beavan? How about, uh, Ryan Langerhans? I’m sure Don Wakamatsu put that guy in the two-spot a few times!
What I mean to say is that we’re all a lot more comfortable with failure. We know how to act when it’s happening. We know what jokes to make. We know what coping mechanisms work, and which don’t. As we all learned from 2018, fans don’t know how to enjoy themselves when the team starts winning. The discourse about run differential and leverage? Exhausting. The discourse about how many errors Mallex Smith can fit into a 60-game stretch? Hilarious.
Speaking of run differential, the Mariners got started early in their quest to minimize their scatter luck. Evan White looked at six straight pitches in the first inning to draw a walk off of a shaky Lance McCullers. Kyle Seager followed that by ripping a middle-middle fastball for a double. Kyle Lewis drew a walk of his own to load the bases for Austin Nola, who promptly drove the first pitch of the at-bat into the ground for a double play.
The most notable thing about this game was probably that it was Taijuan Walker’s first real MLB game since early 2018. It started out worryingly rough, as Taijuan required 24 pitches to labor through the first, and it could have been a lot worse if Yuli Gurriel hadn’t grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Fortunately, Taijuan was able to settle into something of a groove for the next couple of innings. He needed just 25 pitches combined to make it through innings two and three, and induced mostly soft contact with a strikeout thrown in. The M’s lineup didn’t do him any favors, but it wasn’t the lineup that ended up being his undoing. Like in yesterday’s game, that was courtesy of the defense.
The fourth inning started inauspiciously enough. Gurriel hit a quick dinger before Taijuan plunked Carlos Correa, setting the stage for Josh Reddick. Taijuan induced a soft liner from Reddick into right field, an easy play for most Major League outfielders. Right? Right?
Wrong. Wrong. Correa was forced to hold at second, but it didn’t matter. Kyle Tucker quickly smacked a line drive double to right, driving in Correa and ending Taijuan’s day, though not before he cast a despairing glance in Mallex’s direction.
It was a pretty quick pull for Taijuan, who had thrown just 67 pitches. Still, I don’t think anyone can fault Scott Servais for his desire to be cautious with Taijuan (and the rest of the staff) as he comes off of injury and with only an improved preseason to get into baseball shape.
Brandon Brennan quickly allowed both inherited runners to score, putting the game at 5-0. With McCullers firmly in a groove on the other side, the game seemed fairly out of reach. The Mariners did not, in fact, come back, partially due to yet another mistake from Mallex in right field.
Thankfully, the youngsters did manage to give the Mariners at least a little bit to be happy about before the game ended. J.P. Crawford hit two (!) triples, and Kyle Lewis homered in his second straight game to start the year. It wasn’t the holy-shit-no-doubter that yesterday’s was, but that it was to the opposite field is encouraging in its own right.
After that, though, the Mariners were retired quickly and quietly on their way to a 7-2 loss. It was the second of what will likely be many in a shortened season, but hey, we’ve been here before. It’s comfortable, once you get used to it.
Some closing thoughts and notes:
- Taijuan’s velocity was sitting around 92-93 MPH for most of his outing, touching 94 MPH at one point. For a guy coming off of two serious arm injuries, that’s encouraging at the very least.
- Evan White has struggled at the plate to start the season, with five strikeouts in eight plate appearances. It’s a negligible sample, though, and he did flash his famous glove that has had scouts drooling in the minors for years.
- Dee Gordon had a very nice play of his own in left field.
- Bryan Shaw touched 97 MPH at one point in his scoreless inning. He’s unlikely to be a part of the Mariners’ future, but hey, they could get a minor piece for him at the deadline if he plays well over the next month.
Yusei Kikuchi will take the hill for the Mariners tomorrow. His performance will be just one more important thing to watch as we evaluate the Mariners’ hopes and dreams for the future. The scoreboard isn’t one of those things. That being said, it would be nice to take the zero out of the Astro’s loss column.