If you liked pitches that wouldn’t get pulled over on a Washington Interstate, this was the game for you. Between Nick Margevicius and Zack Greinke, 16 curveballs parabola-ed across the plate under 70 mph today in the final game at T-Mobile Park of 2020. Eight balls, four called strikes, a foul ball, a swinging strike, and a pair of weakly hit outs. Like so many things in this afternoon’s conclusion of baseball in SoDo for the season, it was a confusing display from start to finish.
The Mariners jumped ahead early, stacking baserunners in a way they’ve often failed to this year with singles from both the Kyles, before a Ty France double looped down the left field line for an RBI. Seattle would load the bases again after stretching to two outs, but Evan White’s frustrating first season had no silver linings today as he struck out, showing clear frustration. The Astros escaped down just 1-0 despite Zack Greinke taking issue with... something... midway through the inning? Was it a confusion about the batting order? An error in the advertising copy behind home plate? Greinke knows, but he won’t tell. Unless he wants to.
Meanwhile, Margevicius made mincemeat of an underperforming but solid Astros lineup. He was threatened most severely in the third, when the top of the order crested with a George Springer walk to make it first and second with one out. José Altuve’s nightmare apology tour lined a ball to J.P. Crawford, who doubled off Aledmys Díaz at second to end the threat. He’d see first and second once more, as he dodged trouble again in the fifth with a three-pitch dismissal of George Springer and a fly out of Altuve once more. If tonight is the last we see of Margevicius, and it probably is, 41.1 innings as a leaague-average starter by most metrics is far from conclusive, but wholeheartedly encouraging for the Mariners moving forward. Turning 24 year old waiver pickups into average starting pitchers is a great recipe for giving your organization flexibility to make aggressive moves elsewhere, or invest heavily in a riskier ace knowing you have more dependable depth. Margevicius hasn’t made himself someone the Mariners should necessarily plan around, but he’s earned consideration as a piece of the puzzle itself.
Seattle played add-on in the 5th. Kyle Seager drove in J.P. Crawford from first with a double to the gap that Crawford turned into an RBI with his speed.
Did J.P. taste victory? I’ll let you be the judge.
When you knock the Astros other Hall of Famer out of the game in the 5th pic.twitter.com/V4Jo7tsoT6— John Trupin (@JohnTrupin) September 24, 2020
Ty France once again put the M’s a step closer to victory with a laced ball into the corner in left, scoring Seager. It wasn’t Seattle’s loudest night at the plate, but they’ve lost on far less than nine hits and three runs, and with the quality their pitching staff put together, knowing an off day loomed tomorrow, it was enough. Kendall Graveman and Anthony Misiewicz worked two shutout innings before turning it over for Yoshihisa Hirano for the ninth.
Seattle’s trust of the veteran as their closer is understandable, given the inexperience for the rest of their bullpen. His top fastball at 92 and a split-change that only occasionally boasts strong command, however, can make things dicey. Today was one of those times, as Hirano gave two runs back, putting Altuve at the plate with a pair of runners on before finally, finally striking out Altuve to lock up the win. It’s always satisfying to see a win against Houston, even in a game that likely means little for either team unless a sweep is in stow for both clubs over the weekend. But a comforting, simple taste, like a nice saltine cracker, is what these Mariners get to savor as they make their way to Oakland for the season’s conclusion. It’s not steak, nor perfectly crisped potatoes and peppers, nor a victorious champagne celebration. But it’s better than dirt. It’s better than dirt.