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Mariners, Rangers stage early battle for deed to AL West cellar, Mariners win

Tired: Ties; Wired: 10+-run losses

MLB: Game One-Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Another day, another game spent trying to read the tea leaves through the radio waves. Today’s contest wasn’t a particularly difficult one to discern: the Texas Rangers scored 17 runs over seven innings, and the Mariners...did not do that.

The wind was blowing ten miles an hour out to left, which according to the Beaufort Wind Scale is a 3, a “gentle breeze,” but which the Mariners pitchers might have described as a 9, a “strong gale” capable of doing slight damage to buildings and blowing shingles off roofs. Definitely the shingle hanging outside of Sheff’s kitchen got blown around some today, as Justus started off the game poorly, leaving an 0-2 pitch in the middle of the zone for Brock Holt, newly pesky Texas Ranger, to crunch for a double. Justus didn’t get any help from his catcher Tom Murphy this inning, who misplayed a delayed steal attempt by Holt, throwing the ball past Seager, and Holt scampered home to make it 1-0 Texas. After getting lucky on a hard-hit lineout directly at Kyle Seager, Sheffield worked to an 0-2 count on object of LL commenters’ affection and new Texas Ranger David Dahl, but again couldn’t come up with the putaway pitch, eventually walking Dahl. Then Jose Trevino, a catcher with two (2) home runs in each of his past two MLB seasons, snuck a ball just barely over the yellow stripe to make it 3-0 Texas. Texas would add another run when Nate Lowe doubled, again in a 1-2 count, and Anderson Tejeda later knocked a little one-hopper off Marmolejos’s glove at first, scoring the run, and the inning was rolled over after Adolis Garcia, in an 0-2 count, parachuted a fly ball over the head of shortstop Sam Haggerty.

Things didn’t improve in the second for Sheffield, who again had to labor, starting off by giving up a base hit to Jason Martin (MiLB signing for Texas, most recently with PIT). This time Tom Murphy helped his pitcher out when Sheff spiked a slider to Brock Holt. Martin had designs of taking second but Murphy made a nice play on the 55-footer and cut Martin down at first. Unfortunately, Sheffield then walked Holt, then put a pitch at the knees of Eli White, he of the 24 wRC+ last season with Texas, that White deposited over the fence for another two runs for Texas. Already sitting at 44 pitches through two innings, Sheff would come out for a third inning of work, getting a groundout and walking Andy Ibañez (again, these are all players in the Texas Rangers organization), before turning things over to Darren McCaughan, who is in camp basically for this kind of mop-up duty. McCaughan (pronounced McKACKen) got two quick outs to end the inning, and honestly, I would have liked to see more of him today. (Also of note for you McCaughanheads out there: per the broadcast he was up at 91 with his fastball, which is a pretty significant bump from the 88-89 he was at when drafted a couple years ago out of LBSU.)

Of the seven hits he gave up, Sheffield gave up three hits to left-handed batters, and several on his breaking ball, which lacked bite today. The fastball sat at 90-92, which is just a little lower than his in-season average of 92, but his secondaries were consistent in velocity if not location and shape. All in all this outing has a very “sophomore album” feel, and if U2, The Strokes, and Nas can all come back from disappointing second outings, so can Justus.

Things didn’t go much better for Kendall Graveman, who gave up a leadoff homer to Jason Martin. A walk to Brock Holt, followed by a parachute flyball hit into left off the bat of White, and then a ground ball base hit from Jose Trevino scored another Texas run (if you’re looking for a bright spot, sandwiched in between there was David Dahl striking out on a slider). Trevino then stole a base, although is it really stealing if the battery just kind of gives it to you? and Nate Lowe chopped a single over the head of Sam Haggerty to push two more runs in. If having a hangnail were an inning, this would be that inning. Case in point: Andy Ibañez then hit chopper in front of the plate Graveman fell over trying to get to, leading to a high throw second. Sam Haggerty recovered and managed to get the out at first for the second out of the inning, and then Kendall Graveman became the second—but certainly not the last!—Mariners pitcher of the game to roll an inning over.

Keynan Middleton also had a rough inning, starting off with a walk to Anderson Tejeda, who had an impressively minuscule 2.6% walk rate last season with Texas. Adolis Garcia then yanked a fastball up into that gentle breeze and out it went. Then Jason Martin crushed a fastball for his second home run of the day. Do you know how many home runs Jason Martin hit last season? Zero. Middleton did get two outs on strikeouts—of legit players, too, Delino DeShields and David Dahl—but then John Hicks Revenge Game Struck for the third home run of the inning, and it came with a runner aboard. By the time this inning mercifully rolled over, it was 15-4 Texas.

Look, sometimes you just show up at the button factory and push the buttons until it’s time to go home. Drew Steckenrider managed to work a scoreless inning for the Mariners that didn’t have to be rolled over; he did give up a base hit to former Royal Charlie Culberson but also managed to get his three assigned outs, including a called strike three at 93 mph. That’s still a ways off from the 94-95 where Steckenrider sat when healthy, but things seem to be trending in the right direction for Steckasaurus.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Mariners Rule 5 pick Will Vest, who continued to struggle in his inning of work today. After starting out well by striking out the admittedly strikeout-prone Bubba Thompson, Vest walked Davis Wendzel (?), gave up a base hit to DeShields, and then Curtis Terry (???) almost had the Rangers’ 85th home run of the day except the ball just barely didn’t clear the wall. That made it a 17-4 lead for the Rangers and another rollover inning.

The Mariners offense wasn’t able to get much of anything done against the Texas pitchers, who were working with the same pesky wind the Mariners hitters were. Jharel Cotton started and was much sharper than when the Mariners used to beat up on the Athletics version of Cotton. The only real damage against Cotton, who sat at 93-94 with his fastball along with that good curveball, was a double off the bat of Kyle Seager. The real highlight of his innings was Rick Rizzs telling a long, involved story about falling asleep on a raft while on a bay in St Thomas and being almost swept out to sea, which ended with the advice “don’t fall asleep on a raft while floating on a bay in St. Thomas.” Duly noted, Rick. Side note: Rizzs told this story because Cotton is from St Thomas.

The only Rangers pitcher the Mariners got much done against was Jimmy Herget. Juliooooooo and Haniger hit back to back doubles, Seager singled to score Haniger, Marmolejos singled and Murphy doubled to score Seager. Crawford and Fraley both received free passes (JPC in the painful variety via HBP) and then just when things were getting good, the inning rolled over. Unfortunately the only video evidence we have of this is some dugout cam footage, but it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick:

There could be more recap here but I think I’m going to call my own rollover inning. Tomorrow the Mariners are back at it, starting a run of actual TV games with moving pictures and everything. Admittedly, after today, getting to see the team play might feel like a mixed blessing.