Some baseball analysts who love to tweet about the Mariners’ historic playoff drought—not naming names here, of course—aren’t technically wrong about the team, but in a laser-sharp focus on the playoffs or lack thereof they do miss the day-in-day-out wackiness of what makes this team fun, even when they’re frustrating. The Oakland Athletics are objectively a better team than the 2020 Mariners, but today found themselves solidly beaten in back-to-back games by a Mariners squad that seemed hellbent on fixing their run differential all in one day.
Buddy, I gotta tell you, the first couple innings of this game did not portend the outcome of today’s contest at all. It wouldn’t be a Justin Dunn first inning if it wasn’t a little rocky, right? Dunn came out aggressive, quickly retiring Tony Kemp, and then had two strikes on two-hole hitter Robbie Grossman when he left a fastball belt-high that Grossman was just able to squeak over the fence/past the outstretched glove of Tim Lopes (.090 xBA, which, come on). That seemed to shake up Dunn some, who then walked La Stella on four pitches, but he rebounded to get a lineout from Canha and strike out Olson to end the inning without further damage. He followed that up with a 1-2-3 inning in the second and in the third, despite some bad luck (Ty France mishandled a ground ball and threw it away and Tony Kemp got a double out of it), was able to rally to retire the side without damage, relying heavily on his curve to put hitters away. Unfortunately the Mariners weren’t able to get anything going against Mariner-for-a-hot-minute Paul Blackburn over those first two innings, but this is some pretty promising stuff from Dunn, especially those swinging strikes at the curveballs (the three yellow dots at the bottom).
Once the Mariners put up a run in the bottom of the third, though, the floodgates opened. Dee Strange-Gordon, who had his best day at the plate in...years for the Mariners, started it off with a single up the middle and then promptly swiped second. Joe Odom hit an infield single, and then J.P. Crawford, who is apparently enjoying the Suite Life, stroked an RBI double to left field. Odom would then score on a wild pitch, making it 2-1 Mariners, and they would never look back as the runs started coming and they didn’t stop coming. Seager walked, Ty France hit a Haniger Special RBI double down the left field line, Marmolejos walked (!), Tim Lopes singled, and that was the end of Blackburn’s day.
Told you the runs didn’t stop coming. James Kaprielien, recently promoted to MLB and auditioning for a spot in the post-season, had a rough day at the office against the Mariners as Evan White greeted him with an RBI infield hit third baseman Jake Lamb couldn’t handle, and then Braden Bishop took a bases-loaded walk to make it 6-1. Dee, up for the second time in the inning, then provided the killing blow with a single up the middle to push the lead out to 8-1.
Me, I have always been a Dee Believer. Absolutely. I would never lie to you. No follow-up questions, thank you.
The world must have seemed like it took a full rotation on its axis when Dunn finally re-emerged from the dugout a half-hour later, and he certainly looked a little rusty, starting off the fourth by walking Mark Canha in a 3-2 count and then falling behind Matt Olson 2-0 before he courteously popped out somewhere into the Coliseum’s twenty thousand square feet of foul territory. Relying on the curve perhaps too much, Dunn then hung a curve to Sean Murphy that he punished for a double, and then failed to bury a slider to Jake Lamb, who instead poked an RBI single up the middle before Dunn was able to end the inning by getting Vimael Machin to ground into a double play on a well-located fastball.
(Was gonna make a “lamb slider” joke here, but there are plenty of bad puns out in the world already, and I’m quickly approaching if not exceeding my Bad Joke limit as it is.)
Roll me some of my favorite tape, Baseball Theater; it’s Kyle Seager answering the A’s run with a solo blast of his own and also hitting his 500th career extra-base hit. 2020 has largely been Bad, but Kyle Seager is a small flicker of goodness, and it was nice to see his teammates celebrate him.
I am unfortunately tasked to tell you that the A’s answered the Mariners’ answering run when Robbie Grossman, making a last-minute push for AL MVP apparently, again took Justin Dunn deep in the fifth, this time much more convincingly on a pitch that wasn’t a bad pitch, exactly, but was located right in the middle at the very top of the zone. Dunn hung in there and finished the inning, but it wasn’t exactly a powerful closing argument from the rookie righty, who has been up and down this season. Today was more up than down, with some better command and a better pitch mix than his last outing, but I was hoping for a stronger sendoff to carry some good vibes into the off-season, especially as I am turning into the resident Justin Dunn Apologist on staff. I believe in him! I believe!
Ain’t baseball a funny thing? In Game One of the doubleheader, Evan White looked lost at the plate; Servais said he had to be coaxed into playing Game Two. In this game, he had three hits, including this prodigious blast:
The sharpest Jordan Weems looked in this inning was when he got Kyle Seager to pop out; otherwise the Mariners batters dinged him either in exit velocity (Braden Bishop hit his third (!) 100 mph+ EV of the day but right at a defender; Ty France sent a ball to the wall at 102 mph) or run-scoring hits (an RBI single from J.P. Crawford, making an argument to always put him in a suite), or both (Evan White’s HR up there came off the bat at 108.3 mph). That made the score 11-3, in case you lost track.
Tool fan (I assume—he just looks like the kind of guy who’d be into prog-metal) Walker Lockett took over for Dunn in the sixth and stayed on through the seventh, making sure the A’s weren’t able to attempt any kind of sneaky comeback. I am sad about the season ending, but admittedly not sad to not have to think about Walker Lockett again for the next several months, or maybe ever.
In the bottom of the sixth the Mariners took it to T.J. McFarland a little just to make sure every A’s reliever got some form of punishment today. Tim Lopes hit a middle-middle cement mix slider out to make it 12-3, and Evan White hit a double that was somehow hit even harder than his home run, and if he hadn’t hit it to the exact wrong part of the park, we’d be talking about a 13-3 game. But oh well. 12-3 against the division winners still feels pretty good. Also pretty good? The Rangers beat the Astros today, meaning the best the Astros can do is a .500 finish on the year.
Shed, the feeling is mutual. Tomorrow the Mariners play their last game of 2020. We’ll see you then. Also, I’m so sorry about this recap, but the idea came to me and, well, what can I say? Only shooting stars break the mold.