Throughout the course of the past few days the realization that this MLB season could be coming to an abrupt and surprising end has begun to finally sink in for me.
Sure, I had seen the tweets and read the articles about the Marlins over this past week. And while the words I read were all equal parts scary, frustrating and sad, I pushed those feelings aside at the end of each day, settling in to the kind of nightly ritual that outweighs even the most important and historical events.
It was fine and it was ethical because this was my escape, a true place of momentary comfort throughout the course of almost every day, a true lather, rinse, repeat kind of thing.
Under the spell of baseball I have found myself cheering on the hot starts of young building blocks like JP Crawford and Kyle Lewis and chastising my friends for attending large social gatherings with the same incredibly hypocritical fervor.
17 games have been postponed in 10 days.
3 teams have confirmed cases.
Two players chose to opt out from the season.
Today a staff ace was ruled out for the season due to a Covid related heart issue.
Yeesh. It does not sound like this system is working as it should.
I will spare you all from a diatribe against the current state of the MLB today and the morality of playing baseball right now (or any sport for that matter) and instead point you all to what I did before tonights game.
I read and re-read and re-read again an article from our editor here at LL, stopping at this part every time:
So after reading Kate’s incredible words, I pulled it together and I forced myself to appreciate tonight’s game as if it was game 7 of the World Series, and boy, for most of it that was a really easy thing to do.
Yusei Kikuchi looked really good tonight which was very fun. While his velo uptick this far has been great to see (he was routinely hitting 96 throughout his start and hit 97 a few times) the new use of his cutter (which looked great tonight), improved control and a not so coincidental much improved swinging strike % are other great reasons to think that we could continue to expect performances like his tonight much more frequently from him.
His first inning would set the tone for the rest of his night, striking out Marcus Semien and getting Matt Chapman to popout before striking out Ramon Laureano on a beautifully placed 4 seamer.
To the joy of Yusei and all of us watching along at home, he didn’t have to take on the A’s alone and had the help and moral support of his fellow starters throughout his second appearance of the season.
As they did last night, members of the Mariners rotation are cheering on tonight’s starter, Yusei Kikuchi. pic.twitter.com/oTFdiDPHmU— Corey Brock (@CoreyBrockMLB) August 2, 2020
To the joy of everyone, Kyle Lewis quickly extended his hitting streak to 9 games on his first AB (thats a hit for every game played for those stat savvy folks following along at home) with a neat broken bat soft drive up the middle.
Kikuchi kept it going in the second, retiring the side in order with K’s hand pitched to Mark Canha and Chad Pinder, the latter via his aforementioned killer-cutterTM (trade mark pending). Yusei was looking sharp having retired the batters in order through the first two innings.
After an uneventful 2nd batting wise for the M’s, Yusei would get Kris Davis to popout (he is 1-16 this season by the way); however he would allow a Stephan Piscotty single that was nearly picked off on an amazing play by the super stretchy Evan White:
This is the kind of situation YK might have faltered in last year; after giving up a close hit you could have seen his control worsen and rapidly walk someone, or even worse, leave a ball floating over the middle of the plate for a HR of extra base hit. Yet this year is clearly nothing like that of yesteryear: this YK is calm and refined. Sean Murphy would hit a bouncer up the middle infield:
To me, this play is this year’s Mariners squad. While it is one of the prettiest double plays I have ever seen, it is equal parts wonky and awkward. The toss from Shed to JP is smooth but also a bit off, Shed makes the toss a little late needing to twist his body as JP is almost past him. In a hurry and with Piscotty already sliding to the bag, JP has to rush his throw and jump over Piscotty at the same time. At this point Evan must rush to the infield dirt, ready to catch the one bouncer off balance just before Sean Murphy gets to the bag. It’s clunky and nearly every step of it is off one way or another, but it works nonetheless.
Fired up by this defensive play, the M’s would follow it up with their only truly successful inning offensively for the evening. After a Dylan Moore fly out, JP would get the rally started with a softly hit liner up the middle to claim first (he was batting .500 hitting leadoff going into this game which is awesome) Nola would hit a similar drive up the middle allowing each to move up a bag before Kyle Lewis would take a walk to load the bases. This would be KLew’s first walk of two for the evening which is really promising considering that one of the glaring weaknesses in his breakout cup of coffee with the M’s last season was his ability to take balls and get on base without big hacks. Seager would take the lid off the scoring jar, with another softly hit liner to score JP and Nola. Meanwhile, K Lew was getting into a one sided shoving match at 3rd with Chapman:
Matt Chapman out here throwing better blocks than the Seahawks o-line, am I doing the cross-sport rivalry thing correctly pic.twitter.com/IpV4PcxxQB— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) August 2, 2020
I’m not sure why Servais didn’t choose to challenge this as this seemed like a pretty blatant push off the bag to me? Ah well, we scored 2 runs, this won’t come back to bite us later right?
For YK in the fourth is was more of the same dominance that we had seen through three, striking out the first two with his slider and getting the final out of the inning to groundout to JP.
The side would ground out for the Ms and YK would go back to work on the mound walking Mark Canha on 4 pitches but being able to bring it in to put away Matt Olson on an especially impressive four seamer. JP would continue his defensive showcase with an unassisted double play to retire the side. At this point YK had faced the minimum amount of batters through five innings!
In the bottom of the fifth JP would reach first on an error before trying to steal second which he should have had due to an umpiring gaffe that was never fully addressed:
I am sorry to this man Chad for catching some spikes but also I thought you couldn't block the base like this? pic.twitter.com/GZliJkldQJ— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) August 2, 2020
In the sixth Yusei would get in and out of a jam again, giving up a single to start the inning before regaining composure to put away the next two on strikes and getting Chapman to groundout and end the inning.
This would be the end of YKs day; he would finish with a near dominant line of 9 strikeouts, 1 walk and 3 hits through 6 innings of work.
The M’s side of the 6th would go down in order continuing a less than ideal theme in the back half of this game.
In from the Bullpen (oh no the bullpen?!) was Nick Margevicius who after striking out his first batter faced would promptly allow a ground rule double and a two run homer to Chad Pinter to tie the game up.
Wow, isn’t this bullpen... uh.... exciting (I’m trying so hard I really am)
Maybe the M’s bats to begin to click again in the seventh?
No. Evan, Marmo and Shed all go down in order, sweet.
After an uneventful 8th and top of the 9th, it appeared as though the Ms would rally to take this game and extend their win-streak to 4.
Austin Nola would single and be pinch ran for by Dee Gordon, Kyle Seager would draw a walk and after a Kyle Lewis strikeout, Evan White would draw a walk showing patience and poise in a big moment for the youngster to load the bases. This was a terrific AB that Evan fought through and really held his ground, super. Up next, because we can’t truly have anything nice, Marmo and Shed would each strike out to send the ballgame to extras.
Cool, right? No. Nothing is cool.
There is an Oakland A on second to start the inning. Why, do you ask?
To score more runs and appeal to the youths Covid-19, deal with it.
Grossman promptly hits an RBI double to bring the magic man on second home.
Shed Long would start on second for the M’s and he would stay there too. Yay.
My hero Tim Lopes would pop out on an attempted bunt, cool. Dylan Moore would pop out (not on a bunt attempt though), not as cool. JP Crawford would strike out swinging, even less cool. Mariners lose 3-2.
I’ve got to admit it, I’m bummed.
I’m bummed that the very thing I seek to escape has effectively seeped itself all the way into my escape. I’m bummed that Tim Lopes got out on a pop up bunt. I’m bummed that I bought into a real game and we lost.
I should be happy, Kyle Lewis, JP Crawford, Evan White and Yusei Kikuchi all had perfectly good games. But I don’t know why I’m not, I guess I’m just bummed that I don’t know how much baseball is left in 2020 and this is how this game went. A shove, a leg blocking a slide and an extra runner on second.