Even though the Mariners’ season has lasted just about two weeks now, today’s game felt more like a late-August game in which the team was already out of it. The Mariners, who fell to the Angels today by a 6-1 final, drop their record to 5-9, far from eliminated from anything this season. But in today’s game, it was hard to find signs of energy or enthusiasm from the players.
Perhaps that’s to be expected. Several players are going through pronounced slumps. Dylan Bundy, the Angels’ best pitcher, was really dazzling today. He tossed a complete-game victory while punching out 10 Mariners hitters. It looks like he’s on the verge of a true breakout, so while many people will mutter, “typical Mariners” and all that, this isn’t like being shut down by some journeyman fourth starter. Either way, it can be a frustrating feeling to face a guy who’s feeling it. And we sure saw a lot of frustration from the team today.
J.P. Crawford was also a featured bat smasher in today’s contest. Without Kyle Lewis in the lineup, the M’s couldn’t do a whole lot against Bundy. In fact, the only thing that kept Bundy from tossing a shutout was a moonshot courtesy of everyone’s Large Adult Son.
Daniel Vogelbach - Seattle Mariners (1) Solo— MLB Home Runs (@HomeRunVideos) August 6, 2020
Distance: 366 ft
Exit Velocity: 99.8 mph
Launch Angle: 28°pic.twitter.com/QolszCeYPj
Even still, his first longball of the season didn’t keep him from slamming his bat on the infield dirt in frustration just two innings later. The Mariners recorded just four hits today, and only Shed Long’s double joined Daniel Vogelbach’s homer in the extra-base hit category.
This is part of the growing pains of a young squad. Kyle Seager and Dee Gordon are the only veteran presences in the lineup, and I’m sure many of the young players spent their months of quarantine envisioning a better start to their season.
In just a 60-game season, the ups and downs are going to be far more pronounced. What was once just a slump can now be a season of disappointment. Many of these players are fighting for time on the 2021 squad, which is no doubt on their minds.
One player whose future with the team is relatively clouded is Taijuan Walker, who drew the start tonight. Coming off of one of this best performances in a Mariner uniform, my interest in today’s outing for the right-hander was significantly raised.
Outside of a second-inning homer by Shohei Ohtani — which he somehow managed to hit with a busted right elbow — Walker was relatively sharp through his first three frames. He continued to elevate his fastball and was hitting as high as 95 mph on the gun. But he completely lost command of the heater in the fourth, as you can see on his pitch chart.
The bright red are his four-seam fastballs. While his first turn through the lineup saw him sticking near the top of the zone without flying high above it, he was outright sailing pitches in the fourth inning. After loading the bases and allowing four runs to score in the frame, Scott Servais finally had enough and pulled him in favor of Joey Gerber.
As with many players on this year’s roster, I still think Walker can be a useful piece for the club going forward. He and Kendall Graveman might be fighting for one spot on the 2021 roster depending on how the prospects pan out, but I can see that both of them bring something interesting to the table. Hopefully we see Walker put it together for a longer stretch in his next outing.
In the end, the M’s simply ran into a buzzsaw with Bundy. Hopefully the M’s frustration was purely with having to face him and not something larger that will bleed over into future contests.
A date with the Rockies comes tomorrow, and the Mariners won’t have to see the Angels again for three weeks. For that at least, we can be thankful.