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Mariners provide brief ray of light through our smoke-choked dystopian nightmare, win 7-3

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We can’t have playoffs but we can have a little fun, as a treat

Seattle Mariners v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

I took the night off last night and went to see some bubble friends to eat Thai food (the one cuisine I feel is impossible to replicate satisfactorily at home) and play games not located on the computer and it was a brief, refreshing gasp of normalcy. But then I climbed into the car to drive home and the second I passed into the Seattle city limits I could feel the haze of smoke descending, and then I woke up today to an angry ochre sky and fretful cats who don’t understand why they can’t go outside and crabbiness and another day spent indoors staring at the same four walls. So it was very gracious of the Mariners to provide a distracting bright point—a bit of fresh air even as the windows are tightly closed against the smoke hovering outside—by stomping the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-3.

The odds felt pretty stacked against the Mariners: firstly, Justus Sheffield was yet to win a game on the road this season (or in his career!); secondly, the Mariners were facing Zac Gallen, who has been one of the better pitchers in the NL in this shortened season. Gallen hadn’t given up more than three runs in a start in his entire career, setting an MLB record, before the Giants got to him in his last start, setting the high-water mark at four. Today the Mariners, after looking like they were swinging sodden pixy stix for the past few games, hung four runs on Gallen in his first inning alone. Baseball!

Despite Gallen making Dylan Moore, noted poor hitter of breaking stuff, look silly on a disgusting curveball to start off the game, Ty France, two-hole hitter, got a hanging breaking ball in an 0-1 count and did what you’re supposed to do with a loopy floopy swooper:

That seemed to unnerve Gallen some, who continued to struggle with his command, walking Seager and then serving up an RBI double on another hanging breaker to Marmolejos, who brought the pain by tattooing a pitch into the deep gap in the Arizona outfield, scoring a hustling Seager from first. Gallen struggled to land his cutter, his fastball was leaking outside, and his breaking balls didn’t have a lot of bite to them. He walked Evan White in a 3-2 count and then Luís Torrens collected his first RBI as a Mariner, turning around 96 in on his hands:

That was the third hit of the inning and they were, uh, not un-hard-hit:

The Mariners added on in the second, when Gallen continued to show some frustration both with the home plate ump’s zone and his own wavering command. He loaded the bases on two singles to Phillip Ervin and Ty France and then walked the Kyles consecutively to score the fifth run of the day for the Mariners. However, that would be all the damage the Mariners could do in that inning. Lacking that KO punch when given opportunities to do so has been a troubling theme of the 2020 Mariners.

Justus Sheffield, wearing his chef’s hat cleats, worked three strong innings before running into trouble in the fourth, when his command seemingly deserted him. The trouble started with an 87 mph changeup Nick Ahmed shot into center field, followed by a five-pitch walk to Christian Walker. After a brief mound visit, Sheffield seemed to be bouncing back, getting Eduardo Escobar in an 0-2 count, but the veteran reached way down to poke a changeup into center field. Then Wyatt Mathisen, who is apparently an MLB player and not a Confederate general, swung at Sheffield’s first pitch—the changeup again, right in the middle of the plate—to poke a single through the 5/6 hole scoring two. A wobbling Sheffield would then walk Josh VanMeter on four pitches, prompting a mound visit, but then rebound to strike out Carson Kelly swinging on a high fastball and get Pavin Smith, making his MLB debut, to ground out to end the inning, limiting the damage.

In a refreshing change of pace, however, the Mariners offense picked up Sheffield in the fifth; Seager worked a four-pitch walk and then Jose Marmolejos made this ball go muy lejos:

That is a 106.8 EV, 412 feet, to return the Mariners’ lead to five runs. I Marmo-like it. To refresh your memory: the Mariners hung seven runs on Zac Gallen, who had previously never given up more than four in his MLB career. That’s good eatin’.

Buoyed by his offense, Justus Sheffield came back in the fifth and got two quick flyouts but then tried to get too cute with Christian Walker, trying to bust him inside on a fastball in a 1-2 count for the strikeout but wound up hitting him instead. Use the sliderrrrrrrr, Justus. It’s super effective! He’d retire Escobar on a flyball right after anyway, and then in the sixth, with his pitch count inching up, Justus would get his statement inning, striking out the side on 11 pitches, two swinging. He worked so quickly he was granted a seventh inning of work for his second start in a row, although even as his pitch count climbed into the 90s Sheff was still pumping 93-94 on his fastball. A sneakily fast Tim Locastro beat out an infield hit on a slow roller, but other than that Sheff was untouched, not letting a ball leave the infield as he put away the bottom of the D-Backs’ lineup. I whined in the thread about the fact that I only seem to recap Justus Sheffield starts, but since they’re usually pretty good games, I should probably shut my ungrateful mouth.

The D-Backs would get one more run when Kendall Graveman eventually replaced Sheffield and Christian Walker led off the inning with a double, and then Arizona was able to small-ball one more run across, but other than that Graveman and Hirano finished putting the bow on Justus’s very nicely wrapped present. I wonder if he knows how to do that thing where the ribbon criss-crosses all four corners of the package? I’ve never mastered that one.

The smoke isn’t going anywhere for a while, and sadly neither are the Mariners. But tonight was a nice palate-cleanser after some truly uninspiring losses, like drinking a tall cool glass of water after coming in from the smoke. Stay safe, everyone.

Click here for a link to donate to the Red Cross to aid those affected by the Western wildfires, including ways to help specific communities.

Notes:

  • It’s not all rosy news tonight, sadly. The Kyles went 0-fer tonight, although Seager accepted his Nightly Kyle Seager Walks (2). KLew, unfortunately, continued to lose ground in the ROY race as his slump continued with two strikeouts and two GIDPs. Ouch.
  • Donovan Walton had three ABs tonight and made outs first pitch swinging in two of them. For a guy who stood out in summer camp for being the peskiest out who saw a ton of pitching, that seems to be an unideal approach? Just spitballing here.
  • Dylan Moore was shut down by Zac Gallen and Yoan Lopez’s dastardly yet predictable plan to feed him all breaking balls. He did salvage his night when Joel Payamps made the poor decision to throw him a high fastball which BamBam promptly shot back up the middle.
  • Evan White didn’t have a hit tonight, but he did scald the third-hardest hit ball of the game at 106 mph EV (.700 xBA); unfortunately, it was right at an outfielder.
  • Speaking of hard-hit balls, Luís Torrens had four balls in play tonight; three were hit above 100 mph. If you want to read more about how hard Torrens has been hitting the ball lately, well conveniently I have that for you right here!
  • Now for the opposite of that. Phillip Ervin got lucky with a check-swing double that snuck down the RF line at 55.2 mph, not only the softest-hit ball of the night, but also the softest-hit extra-base hit in MLB this season. Hey, it goes down as a 2B in the scorebook.
  • Top prospect Pavin Smith made his MLB debut tonight for Arizona and recorded his first MLB hit against Hirano in the ninth, a grounder that found grass on the left side. He also had the fifth-hardest hit ball of the game, a fielder’s choice/forceout in the third.