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An accounting of several brothers in Mariners 11-9 loss to the Dodgers

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The biological brothers lived up to the hype tonight, and a few other brotherly duos, of a sort, took center stage.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

So often, the narrative we enter a game with doesn’t deliver. Baseball’s usual 162 game duration lends itself to large sample sagas, but a single game storyline is a bad bet. And yet, with weeks of leadup, Kyle Seager and Corey Seager delivered dueling banjoes, combining for a 5-for-8 night with a homer and walk each, Kyle’s cheeky stolen base, and a whole lot of goofing around.

The Seagers have a dynamic it’s easy to appreciate. Both Kyle and Corey are All-Stars, and Justin topping out in AA despite missing out on recruiting and some athleticism after literally breaking his back in high school. In the spirit of brotherly love, competition, conflict, envy, and commiseration, I’ve identified a few other sets of brothers between the Mariners and Dodgers whose relationships emerged during the M’s 11-9 loss today.

The Stellar Twins - Cody Bellinger and Kyle Lewis

On July 13, 1995, two future big league outfielders were born. They both grew up strong, and tall, a pair of 6’4 sluggers chiseled from the side of a mountain like a pair of Greek gods. The left-handed one became a pro in 2013, feeling out the game at its higher levels straight from high school. He shot up through the minors, bursting onto the scene two years later with 30 homers in High-A, then another dominant showing as a mere 21 year old in Double-A the year after. By the next year, the Dodgers couldn’t keep him down, and Cody Bellinger crushed 39 homers as he struck out a bit too much, showing so much promise and earning Rookie of the Year. In 2018, even better, as his numbers slipped a touch, but he remained excellent, and most impressively, he played 162 games, posting every day for his star-studded club. The next year, he carried them to regular season dominance, and took home a well-deserved MVP.

The other young man had a future just as bright. He starred in college, and was drafted with the promise of being a future star. Instead, as his twin was laying waste to the Texas League in 2016, Kyle Lewis suffered the knee injury that threatened to waylay his entire career. By the end of 2018, Bellinger had more PAs in MLB than Lewis had in his entire time as a professional, and he’d struggled with both High-A and Double-A. By 2019 he made the bigs at last, in time to see his “brother” lock up the MVP, but at least Lewis finally showed his potential. And tonight, as he has all of this year, Lewis showed he’s still a phenom too.

At the 0:33 point in that clip, you can hear someone joke to Lewis, “that’s not a single!”. I want to bump elbows with that dugout teaser, and then demand royalties, because it’s almost exactly what I said to the screen as I watched Lewis’ blast soar over the fence. Lewis has ambushed fastballs, been treated to breaking balls, adjusted and sprayed them, and now is ambushing fastballs again. He’s earned the respect of pitchers, and yet he’s still punishing their mistakes, and even spoiling their successes. His stardom has been delayed, and it may yet be more cometic than his meteoric twin, but right now it’s beautiful, and the sky has room for both if they can reach it.

The Brothers Stuck Between - Ross Stripling and Justin Dunn

In our series preview this week, I described Ross Stripling as the quintessential modern Dodgers pitcher. Like Julio Urias and erstwhile Doyer Kenta Maeda, Stripling would be a surefire rotation piece for at least 20 clubs. But L.A. has the brains, clout, and depth to be choosy, and Stripling’s entire career has been spent bouncing between starter and reliever. It’s not a bad gig, and Stripling’s made much of it. However, nights like tonight are how he ends up as a placeholder instead of a certainty. Stripling got into trouble early, filling up the zone against a surprisingly locked in M’s lineup. He surrendered two in the first on a flurry of hits and some shoddy defense, then got knocked into next week in the third by Lewis, Seager, and a certain glove-first first baseman. Considering the depth of L.A.’s starting pitching prospects, to say nothing of their pockets, this may be the last few chances he has to show he’s more than a tweener, as younger, more dynamic pitchers nip at his heels. It’s a future Justin Dunn should take heed of in hopes of avoiding it.

Dunn had a tough task ahead of him in a lefty-heavy Dodgers lineup, made no easier when he took a liner to the chest from Corey Seager (which he still caught!) after a leadoff homer by Mookie Betts. Dunn would later note the soreness in his ribs seemed to impact his slider in the second inning, but the past was written. At present, assuming Dunn doesn’t need an IL stint, Seattle and Dunn are both best served by working through it. A career isn’t set at 21.2 innings, after all, and if Dunn can find his bearing as a starter he’s a more useful contributor than anywhere else. But the future looks murky, and if starting is Dunn’s goal, he’s headed closer to Stripling’s trajectory with his struggles thus far. Dipping velocity, loss of command, and regressed secondaries are the signed, sealed, and delivered paperwork for the bullpen, and Seattle’s stable of young starters are only going to get closer to threatening his spot.

The Reverse Parent Trappers: Austin Barnes and Austin Nola

Before today’s game, staffer Tim Cantu asked if the Dodgers would swap any of their starters tonight, one-for-one for 2020 only, for any of the Mariners nine. We were ready to issue a consensus no, before Barnes and Nola were brought up. Both are athletic catchers, with enough versatility that they’ve spent a decent chunk of time at multiple infield positions throughout their careers. The Austins even were teammates for a good while, drafted a year apart by the Marlins and teaming up at every level from Low-A through Double-A. Nola’s even managed to outhit Barnes as a big leaguer, despite his “brother” Barnes having parts of six years in The Show to Nola’s now-barely two (we do not recognize Aaron in this exercise). Nola’s bat shone tonight, though he was set down late in Seattle’s last attempt at a rally, but Barnes earned his keep by hoodwinking home plate ump Quinn Wolcott into a far larger zone than Nola could swindle. The called strikes chart shows where things went awry for Seattle, for Matt Magill’s ill-fated 7th inning in particular.

Full game called strike numbers
Baseball Savant

Nola was, on the whole, a solid backstop tonight. While he’s had trouble with teams running on him, he coaxed excellent outings from Anthony Misiewicz and Taylor Williams, and helped Taylor Guilbeau and Brady Lail out of jams with good blocking and framing. But a combination of Barnes and Walcott stonewalled Seattle tonight, strange as it sounds in an 11-9 slugfest. Barnes and Nola have much in common that makes both great parts of a big league club, but tonight the more established twin edged his little bro.

The Sage and the Apprentice - Mookie Betts and hahaha just kidding

The Mariners do not have a theoretical relative to Mookie Betts, it brings me no joy to report this. This wasn’t a gem of a pitch from Dunn, but his changeup had better shape and a touch more bite than it had in recent outings, and Mookie rudely offered naught but negative reinforcement. Be cool, Mookie.

The Unlikely Role Model - Max Muncy and Evan White

Our final fraternal pairing is one of frustration and acceptance. Muncy was never a nobody, but the 2012 5th round pick was famously waived by the Athletics, spending a year in Oklahoma City retooling his swing after being claimed by the Dodgers, and returning to the bigs to add 100 points to his wRC+ from his last big league crack, going from 62 to 162 with positional versatility for kicks. Muncy strikes out a fair bit, but he walks aplenty, and takes great joy in the many dingers he doles out. His emergence was unexpected, still shocking, but ultimately vital to his club as they extended him at a relatively bargain rate, freeing them up to invest heavily elsewhere.

Evan White might never have looked at Muncy as a role model. He may never still. Both players have come to relative success in different paths, but White’s night in Chavez Ravine is a glint of promise that his early struggles will not be the defining path of his career. The White Claw was present on defense as usual, stretching to ensure a few key plays at first, but at the dish he made the contact we’ve all been wondering would ever come. First, off Stripling, on the type of fastball he’s swung through several times this year, letting it travel and trusting his bat speed to put it out all the same.

Then late, on 95 up in the zone, down in the count after Barnes stole a strike well off the plate to put him at 1-2:

White’s numbers on the year still look poor, because they have been. He’s looked overmatched at times, frustrated at others. Tonight, and over the past couple days, at least, instead of chopping and popping his contact and whiffing his mistakes, he’s barreled his contact and chopped and popped his mistakes.

If that continues, his path to success is as clear as Muncy’s now looks. But the early days of development get murky, and there are times nothing looks right. Working, adjusting, and improving can get Evan White to where the Mariners want, and arguably need him to be. Tonight we saw a glimpse of that.