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Mariners-Orioles play exclusive engagement for small group of fans, Mariners play the hits better, win

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If a Mariner defeats an Oriole and no one is around to hear it they win anyway, it turns out

Seattle Mariners v Baltimore Orioles Game 1
man the cardboard cutouts have really come along
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

A hastily-rescheduled doubleheader between two teams projected to finish near the bottom of the American League is the kind of thing Rob Manfred mutters to himself about as he climbs into his coffin every dawn, but a hastily-rescheduled doubleheader between two teams projected to finish in the basement that goes into extra innings in the first game? One can only imagine Manfredatu stalking the halls of the Central Office, raking his fingernails along the velvet draperies and keening in distress. The 2021 Mariners’ particular brand of Chaos Ball proves once again to be a more powerful force than any monster from a 50s B-movie.

Early on, it looked like this game would not be so close, as the Mariners got to Orioles starter and de facto staff ace John Means early. The first three balls hit off Means came off the bat at over 100 mph, with the leader being Kyle Seager’s single at 104.6. The only one that score a run in the first, though, was a solo home run to Vive Ty France:

The Mariners were, uh, not being fooled by Means’ fastball. In the second, Murphy followed up France’s solo shot with one of his own (107 EV), and Taylor Trammell also barrelled up a tasty 93 mph fastball, although a great catch by DJ Stewart saved it from doing extra-base damage. Evan White then worked a walk, Crawford singled him over to second (in his first of two hits in the game, hooray JP), and then Haniger scalded (106.7 EV) a base hit up the middle to easily score a still-gingerly-running White, staking the Mariners to an early 3-0 lead. However, after that Means started mixing his pitches up more, and like a fairy tale character, the Mariners offense fell asleep for the next five innings.

The sleepy offense wasn’t a problem until later, though, as Justus Sheffield effectively managed the Orioles’ low-wattage offense for most of the game. Sheffield was on cruise control until the fifth, not allowing a hit into the outfield or an Oriole to get past first base. The second inning was probably his sharpest, where he carved through the middle of the order 1-2-3 with two strikeouts, both on sliders to either side of the plate:

Sheffield was mostly efficient with his pitches today, mixing a changeup in about as often as his slider that was an effective weapon in inducing weak contact and groundball outs. His only real wobble came in the fifth inning, where his command seemed to slip some; after not allowing the Orioles to leave the infield over the previous four innings, Sheffield started off the fifth allowing two flyouts to center, one harmlessly hit and one hard-hit that pushed Trammell all the way to the warning track before he made the catch. Sheff followed that up with a four-pitch walk to DJ Stewart, and then fell behind Ramon Urías before gifting him with a 93 mph fastball middle-middle that Urías sent out of the park to make the score an uncomfortable 3-2.

Sheffield rebounded to strike out Freddy Galvis to end the inning, and then came out to work the sixth inning. It was a good rebound inning for Sheffield as he got back into the zone, getting a groundout from Cedric Mullins—who had reached twice already in the game—and ending this eight-pitch battle with Anthony Santander in an inning-ending K:

Sheffield also got some help in that inning with an excellent catch from Mitch Haniger:

Rebounding after a shaky inning and ending on a big strikeout in a hard-fought battle should have been a good ending for Sheffield’s day. Rafael Montero had other plans. After getting a one-pitch-one-out off the bat of free-swinging Maikel Franco, Montero struck out Pedro Severino swinging despite the latter trying to extend the inning by taking one million timeouts, slowly thumbing his nose at a picture of the commissioner each time he stepped out of the box. With two outs, Ryan Mountcastle undid all of Sheffield’s weak-contact wizardry, redirecting an 85 mph changeup from Montero into the left-field corner at 110 MPH, the hardest-hit ball of the day. Montero went back to his changeup against D.J. Stewart and while Stewart didn’t scald it like Mountcastle, he did send it back up the middle for a game-tying RBI single. To extras, then.

In extras, the O’s brought out hard-throwing but command-challenged reliever Tanner Scott, and Kyle Seager proved again that he is Simply (the Best) Seager:

May heaven forever smile upon Kyle Seager and all his issue, from now until the end of time. Also thanks to Kendall Graveman, who came out and worked a 1-2-3 inning—although with some scary noisy EVs—to secure the Game 1 Win for the Mariners.

US: Kyle, you know you’re the only reason we’ve stuck with this team as long as we have, right?