What’s a rainy, windy night good for if not for storytelling, and tonight was another installment of one of the more interesting storylines in Mariners spring training: Nick Margevicius vs. Justin Dunn for the sixth spot in the rotation. While Large Marge seemed to win the battle last time out, tonight I think Dunn outdueled his lefty counterpart.
Things started well for Margevicius with two strikeouts looking: Dee, looking sharp in his new Reds threads, and Jesse Winker, who stared at a 92 mph fastball on the plate and chose not to partake. Senzel grounded out to make it a very quick inning for Marge, with first-pitch strikes thrown to all three batters.
In the second, however, things devolved a little—not that it was his fault. Jonathan India, Jarred Kelenic’s sworn enemy, shot a single right past a diving uhhh either Donnie Walton or Sam Haggerty, they were playing right next to each other tonight and honestly I have trouble telling them apart. I think it was Walton. Marge didn’t help himself out by falling behind 3-1 to Kyle Farmer, who then hit a gapper that moved India to third and could have been worse if not for a nice cut by Liberato (playing in place of Haniger), but then his defense let him down on what could have been a double play ball off the bat of Tyler Stephenson, but Walton was playing back on it and tossed a little water balloon over to Haggerty, who couldn’t make the relay throw. That scored India for a 1-0 lead for the Reds, but Marge would get the next two outs to contain the damage.
There were more adventures in fielding in the third: Walton bobbled an easy groundout (but recovered to get the out anyway), then Dee knocked a single through a wide-open left side of the field. A would-be double play ball off the bat of Jesse Winker was foiled when Marge slipped trying to get to first to take the relay throw. White, who started the play, was laughing with Marge, who made an awkward little swim move with the ball in his hand to try to get the runner, but honestly it could have been pretty scary. Keep all arms and legs inside the basepaths while the ride is in motion, please, Nicky Marge. Marge then hurt himself again, falling behind Nick Senzel 3-0 before grooving a pitch on the plate that Senzel ripped into left. Some bad luck on an 0-2 pitch to India that he went down and golfed, scoring Winker from second and putting runners on second and third with two outs. Marge rebounded, however, to catch Kyle Farmer looking on a pitch that doesn’t, on the surface, seem very deceptive.
Next up was Dunn, and he had some of the same challenges Marge faced. His outing started with a ground ball in a 1-2 count off the bat of Tyler Stephenson that should have been an out but again skipped past the normally sure-handed Donnie Walton (Stephenson again! Perhaps he has some dark charm over Donovan Baseball). Dunn then got himself into some trouble in a 3-1 count against Alex Blandino but was able to battle back with a couple good pitches in the zone before letting one leak over the plate too much, which Blandino gapped for an RBI double. Dunn helped himself out though with a nice pickoff move to catch a leaning Blandino for the second out of the inning, and then jammed Cheslor Cuthbert in a 3-1 count to coax a harmless fly ball for the final out.
The next inning was much better for Dunn. Per the broadcast, Dunn was up to 97 (!) with his fastball, working consistently at 95. He started off by striking out Dee on three pitches, and then striking out Winker despite a missed check swing and a blown call meaning he had to throw five strikes in the at-bat. You want five strikes? You got five strikes.
Dunn’s final inning of work featured some more nonsense, including a ground ball scooting past probably-not-a-shortstop Sam Haggerty and yet another double play ball booted by the most unlikely candidate in Evan White, who stepped on first and then threw the relay directly into the runner’s back. Alex Blandino then hit a comebacker right at Dunn’s moneymaker, which he thankfully deflected safely, but there was no chance for an out. Dunn then got ahead to Cuthbert 0-2, but slowly the count inflated to 3-2. Dunn’s fastball at this point was down around 93, and Blandino stole second unchallenged. Things were trending negatively, but Dunn pulled out an excellent breaking ball for a swinging strike three and escaped any further damage.
The other two Mariners pitchers in the contest didn’t allow a run. Eric Swanson had a very good 1-2-3 inning in the rain with a strikeout. Gerson Bautista did not, issuing three walks and allowing a hit before getting his inning rolled, but was also pitching in a carwash, so we’ll give Gerson the Person a pass on this one.
Offensively, once again the Mariners bats were slow to get going, although as they were facing one of the nastiest pitchers in baseball in Luis Castillo, at least this time it was understandable. Also, Mitch Haniger was a late scratch from this game as the Mariners exercise caution with their future Comeback Player of the Year. I am more than okay with Haniger sitting against Luis Castillo in the rain and wind. Seriously, it was so cold; the Reds broadcast, which I was listening to as the ROOT broadcast was not so focused on the action on the field for the first half of the game, noted that it was colder in Peoria than it was that day in Cincinnati, that most medium of places. Anyway, maybe that’s why the Mariners bats were asleep through the first couple innings. Well, that and Luis Castillo.
Luis Castillo’s changeup: still good. pic.twitter.com/efSg8tsGoy— OnBaseMachine (@RedsFan_Brandon) March 13, 2021
Brandon Finnegan, working in relief of Castillo, was equally effective, striking out two over his two innings and not allowing a hit. The Mariners finally got their first hit in the fifth, when Tom Murphy singled against Cionel Pérez and then took second on a bobble, showing some good base-running awareness if not monster speed. Haggerty flew out, moving Murphy to third, and then Julio had a good at-bat, working a full count and then a walk against the MLB-experienced Pérez. Walton made up for some of his earlier defensive miscues by depositing a little parachute hit into the outfield to score the Mariners first run of the day, a good at-bat marked by him fouling back a lot of tough pitches. Former Mariner Art Warren allowed the next two runs to the Mariners, allowing them to tie the game, in an inning where he struggled with command and threw two wild pitches, one scoring a run. The other run that inning came from a sacrifice fly off the bat of Evan White, who didn’t have a hit tonight BUT also didn’t have a strikeout, so we will consider that one a win.
The Mariners got their go-ahead run off Shane Carle in the seventh, starting with another Juliooooo walk off a much more experienced pitcher (and one almost ten years his senior!). Then, because Julio is on a revenge mission against that “45” grade on his speed, he swiped second. A Walton groundout moved him to third, and then Eric Filia, sporting a shiny new nose ring, did an Eric Filia thing and hung in the box long enough to get a pitch he could drive into left for an RBI single. Julio and Filia combining for the go-ahead run is maybe not as much fun as Julio and Jarred combining for the go-ahead run, but hey, a win’s a win.