It’s a weird spring training with limited rosters and few fans and innings being able to be rolled over, so games ending in ties feels appropriately chaos-Muppetish for ST ‘21. The Mariners obliged today by ending the game in a tie for the second day in a row, ending today with the Rockies 9-9.
Justus Sheffield’s start went about as well as an early spring outing could. He threw about 30 pitches over his two innings, allowing two hits but no runs. The first hit was a Greg Bird groundball single that snuck past J.P. Crawford; the second, off the bat of Rockies prospect Colton Welker, was legitimately well-struck to the gap for a standing double. Sheffield also issued no free passes and struck out Ryan Vilade swinging while working ahead of most batters.
The rest of the pitching was...less sharp. No Mariner pitcher worked an inning without traffic on the bases, and only Sheffield, Kendall Graveman, and Casey Sadler worked scoreless ones (and it’s worth pointing out the MLB-experienced Sadler was facing the Rockies bench on a team that already felt composed of bench players). Graveman, who was first out of the pen, sat 94-96 and had a little trouble finding the strike zone, walking the leadoff batter, but rebounded to get two quick flyball outs and then help himself out by picking off Alan Trejo (who) at first. Keynan Middleton also had some traffic on the bases, giving up a down-the-line double followed by an RBI base hit, but rebounded with a strike-em-out/throw-em-out double play to end the inning. Running on Tom Murphy? Could not possibly be me.
Rule 5 pick Will Vest really struggled today, giving up a single followed by back-to-back doubles, then a walk, another base hit, and you know what, we’re just going to toss this outing in the trash can and forget about it. Anthony Misiewicz also gave up a solo HR, marring what was otherwise a fine outing, and Paul Sewald also had a rough time, surrendering a two-run home run to Casey Golden, who I remember torturing Modesto’s pitchers in 2019, although he rebounded to strike out the side; no other Mariners pitcher had more than one strikeout. On the bright side, the pitching staff only had two walks collectively (Colorado’s pitchers walked five), but the highlight today was not the pitching, unless you count Justus’s solid start to the spring.
No, today’s highlight—of the game that was sadly not televised—came in the third inning. The Mariners bats started out, as they had been, sluggish. J.P. Crawford reached to start the game on an infield single but then was thrown out on a hit-and-run attempt when Haniger flew out and J.P. failed to pick up Manny Acta’s signal to go back to first. Spring training! After that flyout, Chi Chi Gonzales induced four straight groundouts to subdue the Mariners over his two innings.
That changed when Phillip Diehl—a 26-year-old with 13 MLB innings to his name and a headshot that looks like this—entered the game in relief of Gonzales. With two outs, Braden Bishop decided to donate some money to his charity:
That seemingly opened the floodgates for the Mariners batters. J.P. Crawford would then reach on a four-pitch walk, and then Mitch Haniger showed off what a healthy Mitch Haniger can do:
That’s a 110 EV on that rocket. Kyle Seager thought it was unfair that fans on the other side of the park didn’t get a souvenir, so he followed up Haniger’s shot with this:
Kyle Seager makes it back-to-back homers with his first of spring training ... off a lefty of course. pic.twitter.com/mMFgSYGWm6— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) March 4, 2021
And then Ty France decided the scoreboard looked a little lonely:
Ty France - Seattle Mariners (1)* pic.twitter.com/k5gZOfg755— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) March 4, 2021
Tom Murphy got into a 3-0 count before hitting an infield single, and then the two-out magic came to a half as the Rockies pulled Diehl for a new pitcher, Garrett Schilling, who struck out Evan White. That was White’s first strikeout of the spring, which is encouraging as he seems to be making more contact, even if it doesn’t always go for hits.
The next picher up for the Mariners was Middleton, who gave up a run, but in the next inning the Mariners got that run right back off Rockies Rule 5 pick Jordan Sheffield—with younger brother Justus hanging on the dugout rail to watch—when Taylor Trammell took a walk followed by a stolen base, and Sam Travis singled him home. The elder Sheff recovered with a double play and flyout to end the inning, and any further scoring threat from the Mariners.
Unfortunately, the next pitcher up for the Mariners was Vest, who allowed the Rockies to draw within one, and then Misiewicz, who gave up a game-tying homer. Lail allowed another in the eighth and Sewald in the ninth. The Mariners bats rallied a couple of times but ultimately couldn’t overcome their bullpen woes, in a game that was technically Spring Training 2021 but felt like it could have been any game from the 2020 season. Maybe it’s better this one wasn’t on TV, after all.