While Labor Day is a day off for some people, many others have to work: for those in the service industry, retail, and first responders/medical staff, among other fields, Labor Day is just another Monday. Baseball players, too, don’t get Labor Day off, so today the Mariners decided if they had to come into work anyway, to make their workplace fun. Did this result in the Texas Rangers having a very un-fun day at work? Yes it did. Capitalism has winners and losers, and when we’re talking about the Rangers, we’re talking about a team that is currently putting the le-hew in le-hew-sers. The Rangers have now lost 18 of their last 21 games. This would make me feel bad, except I remember many analysts and projection systems saying the Rangers would be fighting it out with the Angels for third place in the division because they signed, like, one and a half pitchers.
Marco Gonzales spends his off-seasons working out at T-Mobile so of course there’s no place he’d rather be, even on a holiday. He’s only gotten to make one other start at “home” this year so Marco seems intent on making each one count. He went another seven strong today, allowing just two runs on four hits, striking out seven and walking no one, because walks are for losers. Over his last four starts, Marco has a 29:1 K:BB ratio. That seems good, no? Or, if you like percentages better, he has a K-BB% of 20%. Either way, those numbers lead the league. Today the fastball and cutter were on point, the changeup was crisp, and Marco even snuck a few curveballs in to keep the Rangers wrong-footed. Remember how Yankees fans didn’t want to trade for Marco (as if) because he wouldn’t improve them that much? Marco has a higher fWAR than any single member of the Yankees rotation, and a higher WAR combined than the entire back half of their rotation.
The Rangers will be happy to see the back of Kyle Seager for another few months, but Kyle “Owner of the Texas Rangers” Seager couldn’t leave without a parting gift:
The offensive hero of this game, Dylan Moore, would add on in that same frame with his sixth home run of the season, crushed off a Kolby Allard curveball. This sucker went 425 feet, which, again, I don’t purport to understand the dark dimpled magic of Dylan Moore, I’m just here to enjoy it.
The one hole in Moore’s profile—aside from the slightly elevated strikeout rate—has been that while he punishes fastballs (.715 SLG) and hits changeups pretty well (.667 SLG, although he’s only seen 130 in his career), he struggles to hit curves and sliders (mid-30s whiff percentage). So it was nice to see him crush the curveball earlier, and then later do some damage on this Allard slider that came in at his shoetops:
*ahem*— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) September 7, 2020
Did somebody ask for Moore runs? pic.twitter.com/U5clA15cnJ
That bases-clearing double was part of a five-run fifth inning that saw damage done not just by Moore but also new acquisition Ty France, who continues to worm his way into my heart with consistently Professional At-Bats. He’s a little young-looking to be the Team Dad driving the minivan but I am okay with Young Father Ty France.
Ty France with a two RBI base hit. #Mariners lead 8-2. #TrueToTheBlue pic.twitter.com/mb27gcSzwH— Justin Groc (@jgroc) September 7, 2020
In the 8th we got our first look at new waiver claim acquisition Walker Lockett, who is like 75% legs. He threw his fastball at 94 with some late movement that unfortunately wandered out of the zone more than it was in it and paired that with a solid curveball with some late depth. Lockett got away with a clean inning thanks to a couple of nifty catches from Phillip Ervin in right field, one of which was on a sinking liner off the bat of Scott Heineman, with an xBA of .920.
Things got a little hairy in the ninth as Aaron Fletcher again struggled to find the zone. I don’t know if there’s a mechanical quirk going wrong for Fletcher or what—he never struggled this hard to throw strikes at Double-A or in the AFL—but I hope they can get him sorted out. The Rangers made one out and scored once before Fletcher left with the bases loaded for Yohan Ramirez, who, command-wise, is not much of an upgrade over Fletcher. Ramirez immediately threw three straight balls, and all 93-94 mph, before giving up and sending Jose Trevino a pitch straight down the middle for a sac fly that was hit at 103 mph but thankfully stayed in the yard. Ramírez’s velocity cranked back up to 96 against Ronald Guzman but he walked him, bringing up Elvis Andrus, who politely went after a first-pitch fastball and popped it up. Ramírez zoomed off the mound, determined to end this game one way or another, and while I appreciate his hustle I’m glad he pulled off and let his catcher handle this one. I really was not looking forward to a full rewrite.
Also bless Yohan Ramirez hustling off the mound trying to catch this pop-up when he was struggling with his command. Get the outs any way you can (but also please be careful Yohan) pic.twitter.com/boF7V54Kwo— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 7, 2020
The holiday of playing the abject Rangers is over. The Mariners currently are closer to a playoff spot than they are to the top draft pick. They didn’t play perfectly against the Rangers—too many runners left on base, too many strikeouts (10 today), bullpen question marks times infinity—but they also played clean-to-excellent defense, got strong starting pitching performances, and got some offensive power from expected sources (the Kyles, Dylan Kyle Moore) and some new/unexpected places (hello, Ty France!). Next up is the Giants, a team that on paper looks pretty similar to the Mariners and is a similar position in their rebuild cycle, and after that is a real challenge with the Athletics. I’m not getting overly worked up about playoffs, but I am very curious to see how this team will show up against non-Rangers competition coming out of their unintentional bye week (thanks, Oakland). I expected our season to go much more like the Rangers’ has in terms of both winning and watchability, and getting to watch these Mariners has felt like waking up on a Monday morning thinking you had to go to work before realizing you can actually go back to bed. For all the 2020 curse of “may you live in interesting times,” this is one aspect in which I don’t actually mind it.