In rebuilding years, there’s often discourse about a “chill” or “perfect” loss. A loss where even if the final score indicates a snoozer, there’s still enough from the individual performances that you can come away optimistic, especially if it’s a starting pitcher or young position player that turned in a good night. After all, you didn’t expect these Mariners to challenge for a playoff spot, did you? Are you not entertained by them falling to #3 in the Kumar Rocker sweepstakes?
Well, I’m not. Sorry. Losing sucks.
It’s not like Yusei Kikuchi wasn’t decent, despite his homely final line. Leadoff walk to Garrett Hampson aside, he was a master of weak contact through the his first two innings of work, relying on a strict fastball/cutter diet through most of his first time through the order. Although each of Matt Kemp, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan McMahon worked pesky at-bats in the second, Kikuchi was able to dispatch each of them with fairly routine groundouts. The bats even spotted him a slim lead in the bottom of the frame!
Boy, did Mallex need that. Unfortunately, the BABIP gods would turn their back on Kikuchi in the third, with Chris Owings reaching out six inches off the outside corner to dunk a single into right field and Elias Díaz turning this into a double:
Both runs would come in on fielder’s choices, the first on a Hampson grounder that Dee Gordon, spotting J.P. Crawford at shortstop, made a nice play on and the second coming off a Trevor Story slow roller to third that Kyle Seager couldn’t make a solid throw on. Boooooo. Kikuchi would thankfully stop the bleeding after a nine-pitch tussle with McMahon, alternating his fastball and cutter before finally flopping a slider down and in that was harmlessly grounded to first.
Yusei would breeze through the fifth, as well, and threw a gutsy cutter on a full count to Owings that tore the poor dude to shreds:
Despite a clean fifth, the wheels came off in the sixth. After sandwiching a strikeout of Story and a flyout from Nolan Arenado around a Charlie Blackmon single, Matt Kemp (yes, that Matt Kemp) somehow tapped into his 2011 self and managed a double from this swing:
Rats. Oh, well, there’s two outs, a one-run deficit, Yusei’s been working out of jams all night. Just get the next guy and bask in the quality start.
Ouch. This was an especially cruel decree from the BABIP gods, and it coming off the bat of an unrepentant homophobe stings even harder. Kikuchi would give way to Erik Swanson, who promptly blew away Ryan McMahon on three straight fastballs. And look, the bats got right back in it!
After tacking on a meaningless run on a double in the eighth, Austin Nola is sitting on a pretty .324/.395/.588 slash line, with a 179 wRC+ that made me swoon upon first glance. While there’s definitely some regression coming, his able framing and blocking behind the dish have been a nice surprise to see, and he was one of the leaders of the offense tonight. Hooray for good-hitting catchers!
After Swanson finished the seventh inning working around a solo shot from Hampson, Yohan Ramírez was tasked for the final two innings of work, and he labored out of the gate, serving up a dinger to Charlie Blackmon on a 1-0 count to open the eighth, walking Kemp (yeah seriously it’s 2011 all over again this dude is good) with one out, and letting the homophobe strike again:
After that dinger, though, Ramírez settled down, not allowing any further runs over his next 1.2 frames, though he needed to labor through them. Fighting wavering command while walking three, he was still able to flash some video game movement on his slider and grabbed four strikeouts, including this one of Kemp in the ninth to leave the bases loaded:
As with any other sleepy loss, there were still some spare observations to be made:
- Dylan Moore once again got the start in the two-spot of the lineup, and smoked a warning track lineout to right field his first time up. Alas, he would strike out his next four times to the plate, becoming the first Mariner of the season to earn a Golden Sombrero. More worryingly, he looked absolutely lost against anything bendy, and his .086 xBA on breaking pitches going into tonight strongly implies he’s gorging himself on fastballs. May he not be Taylor Motter 2.0.
- Kyle Lewis kept his contact-oriented approach intact tonight, poking a single up the middle in the eighth and only striking out once. If you’ve been keeping track, Lewis has struck out just once over his past thirteen plate appearances, and with his walk rate hovering around 8%, his K-rate has started to dip down to “upper end of acceptable”. Aren’t we lucky to be able to watch him?
- Dee Gordon continued his surprisingly strong defensive campaign, making several nice plays at shortstop, including a deft fielder’s choice in the first inning after Blackmon was able to outwit the shift juuuuust enough to avoid an easy double play. Though he’s slashing just .148/.207/.185 after tonight, Dee’s been solid in his time in left field and filled in admirably for J.P. tonight, and at this point, that’s about all you can ask for from a 32-year-old bench player. Oh, and he’s one of a select few players I’ve noticed to be wearing a mask at all times. More of that, please!
We talk a lot about first pick sweepstakes, individual performances, any other rationalizations. And all of them are valid! None of that changes the fact that this was a pretty unfun game to watch, and it’s one that in a normal year would be flushed away easily. Not so much when each game counts towards 1.66% of the season. In any case, the Mariners and the Rockies march on, with Ryan Castellani likely to make his Major League debut against Nick Margevicius, who’s making his first start in his new organization. One can only hope, however fleeting, for a perfect win.