As the Mariners have sagged out of the brief fever-dream of playoff contention, I have steeled myself for a barrage of losses while willing them to crawl back inside the Top 10 for draft picks. I don’t know enough about the class yet to know what number will be the cutoff between elite and merely very good, but any time you’re picking in the Top 10 you’re upping the odds significantly. However, it is much more fun to recap wins than losses, and it is especially the most fun when said win is spearheaded by the young Mariners who will largely be a part of the team for some time to come. Tonight Justus Sheffield, Luis Torrens, and Kyle Lewis all helped march the team to victory, and that, friends, is good.
Sheffield posted his third quality start in a row, going six innings and giving up just one run, with two walks and five strikeouts. Sheffield wasn’t always pinpoint accurate—he started out sharp, painting corners against a dangerous Padres lineup. However, after getting two quick outs in the second, he walked Jake Cronenworth on four pitches and gave up a single to Jurickson Profar, who seems to finally be finding his stride as a Padre. However, Justus was able to right his own ship with an excellent attack against Trent Grisham, pummeling him in and out like a hired goon, before reaching back for his knockout punch in the slider:
Love this bounceback from Sheffield. Ran into some trouble in the inning, worked Grisham really well in this AB by exploiting him on the inside edge before putting him away with the slider. Also should have had a called K on the pitch before, a high FB, but rebounded with the SL. pic.twitter.com/Qy8fbFNWca— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 20, 2020
What I especially liked about that was that there was a blown strike three call the pitch before—a fastball right at the top of the zone. I don’t know if it’s Torrens’s framing but it just seems like that high strike has not been there during this series, which is kind of a bummer when you have a pitching staff that likes to throw pitches high in the zone.
The Mariners took advantage of spot starter Luis Patino, who struggled with command, walking two before Ty France hit an RBI single—after an 11-pitch battle, I love watching France at the plate—to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead. They had a chance to extend that lead in the second, when Luís Torrens led off with a base hit off a 96 mph Patiño fastball that he shot back up the middle at 107.1 mph. Tim Lopes also had a hard-hit single up the middle, and old friend Dan Altavilla, on in relief of Patiño, walked Dylan Moore on four pitches before striking out KLew looking to strand the bases full. Rude!
Smelling blood, the Padres pounced in the third to tie up the game. Fernando Tatis swung at the first pitch from Sheffield, punching a double over Kyle Lewis’s head that I thought was going to screw up Sheff’s HR/9 numbers. Machete Machado, Mariners Killer, then torched a changeup located at his ankles into right field to score Tatís. Austin Nola then flew out and Manny Machado decided to test the arm of fellow infielder Tim Lopes from the outfield. Spoiler alert: Tim Lopes’s arm is like Ed Sheeran, it’ll play anywhere.
more like tim nopes send tweet... pic.twitter.com/GqxpLI8LJc— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) September 20, 2020
But wait, the TOOTBLANing wasn’t over for the inning. After the double play, Wil Myers singled, but with Eric Hosmer batting—who I gather is pretty good—Myers was thrown out trying to steal, to which I say why? Theoretically the Padres should know that Torrens has a strong and accurate arm? But hey, thanks for the free out. Sheffield said in the post-game interview that in the third inning he felt like the game was speeding up on him and he needed to remind himself to breathe, so it’s nice that the defense was able to help pick him up and give him that space to breathe. Praising the defense? What strange new world is this?
In the bottom of the inning, the offense helped Sheff breathe easier yet, beating up on their old teammate for another two runs off the bat of Luís Torrens:
Torrens was slugging .364 with Padres; he’s currently slugging .442 with the Mariners. Other Luís Torrens facts: his nickname per MLB is “Churro,” and he has a sheepadoodle puppy named Kygo who you can follow on instagram and also I would die for him. LOOKIT THIS SNOOT:
Justus came back out after being staked to a 3-1 lead and cruised through Hosmer, Pham, and The Crone Worth in 12 pitches, which led me to formulate a theory which I will tell you about in a little bit, but first you should know that the Mariners went down 1-2-3 in the fifth and then Justus came back out and struggled. Despite leading off by striking out Profar looking with a changeup, Justus then grazed Trent Grisham with a pitch. That brought up the always-dangerous Tatís, who has been slumping lately but already had a hit in the game. Sheffield got two strikes on him within three pitches, but Tatís battled him for eight pitches, eventually blasting a ground ball (109.4 mph EV, the hardest-hit ball of the game) inches past the outstretched glove of J.P. Crawford. Machado hit into an almost-double-play forceout and Nola smoked a ball at Ty France at 105.7 mph; France bobbled it but recovered in time to get a slow-footed Nola. A sigh of relief, indeed.
Also a sigh of relief: Kyle Lewis hitting the ball hard and over the fence again.
I hope there’s a ROY crown, and I hope they’re measuring Kyle Lewis’s head for it now.
Sheff was sitting around 85 pitches after that bit of Houdini-ism so I was surprised to see him come back out in the sixth, but here’s the thing about that: it was another 12-pitch, 1-2-3 inning, closing Sheff out at 99 pitches, 57 strikes for the night. That’s a nicer-looking line than if he’d departed in the fifth (87:49), strike-to-ball-wise, and also adds to his string of quality starts. But also, and even more importantly, it helped me form A Thesis (I told you it’d come back). I’ve wondered why Sheff has such a wild home-road split (2.66 ERA at home vs. 5.66 on the road) and here is my thought: Sheff pitches with a lot of emotion, and I think tries especially hard to have that shutdown inning after his offense has scored him some runs. And while sometimes that’s resulted in him overthrowing, trying to establish that dominance, the more he knows himself—not an overpowering pitcher, more of a guy who will work back and forth and up and down, hit spots, get weak contact, and get ahead of batters and put them away with the slider without over-relying on it—the better outcomes he has.
Also a good thing tonight: Casey Sadler! His stuff was moving all over, he pounded the strikezone, and carved right through his inning. I will never forget you for being the only watchable part about that loss to the Giants, C-Sadz.
OK, but really, Casey Sadler may have been a steal. 89th percentile spin on his curve and is confident enough to locate it at the bottom of the zone in hitters' counts. Bender carrying an xwOBA of .176.— Nicholas Stillman (@nick_at_day) September 20, 2020
More like Casey Happyler. pic.twitter.com/pALaBFIXEr
Kendall Graveman also had a scoreless inning, although the highlight of his inning was also Kyle Lewis, because it’s KLew’s world and we’re all just living in it.
Yoshihisha Hirano also pitched an inning tonight. We will not be speaking of it here. All you need to know is the Mariners won, 4-1. Oh and also, our ROY > the Padres’ ROY.
Tomorrow the Mariners close out the season series against the Padres at 1:10 PT, and Zach Gottschalk, long-term adorer of the San Diego Padres and frequent virtual shouter of “TRUE TO THE BROWN” in the LL Slack, will be recapping that one for you, so tune in to see Zach potentially split himself in half.