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J.P. Crawford declines ortolan, eats Oriole instead, Mariners win 4-2

Also: a Mitch Mash!

MLB: Game One-Seattle Mariners at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

If you don’t know what ortolan is—and really, why should you—it is a tiny, delicately-boned songbird which, in proof that humans should never have been granted dominion over any sort of species, has for centuries been eaten whole as a delicacy in France. Traditionally the birds—which are fattened up before being drowned in a vat of Armagnac brandy and roasted—are eaten with a cloth napkin over the diner’s head, supposedly to retain the delicate aroma of the dish and also disguise the plucking out of tiny bird-bones that such a barbarous encounter requires, but also in typical French flair, “to hide one’s shame from God.”

There is a similar sense of shame in watching the Mariners battle the Orioles, two offensively punchless teams with shaky pitching staffs. It is a little embarrassing how closely the Mariners, a team purportedly trying to be Good, have played the Orioles, a team well-known for being Bad. Things got off to a shaky start when Marco Gonzales went out in the first inning and had to throw something like 85 pitches to get through it. Once again, Marco had to battle some very un-Marco like command:

Baseball Savant

Yikes! There is a lot to worry about in that graph, not least of which is a pitch labeled a sinker that appears to have wound up at Anthony Santander’s head, but one of the more worrying is how few red dots, representing Marco’s cutter, are in the graph. Marco’s cutter, which he usually throws around 20-25% of the time, allowed just a .188 batting average last season. This season, he’s throwing it much less—only about 13% of the time—but allowing a .571 BA, with an unsightly 1.857 SLG. Obviously, we’re still in super-small sample size territory here, but as has been noted before, Marco walks a very fine line with his stuff, and if the cutter isn’t an effective weapon for him, well, you get this:

To his credit, Marco settled in and battled back after this homer. He only needed eight pitches to get through the second inning, and his pitch count in the third inning was mostly taken up by a full count strikeout to Anthony Santander to lead off the inning. The only other blemish on Marco’s day was a walk in the fifth inning; all three hits he allowed were in the first. 83 pitches with 54 strikes over five innings doesn’t look like a very Marco-like line, but considering the hole he dug himself in the first inning, it’s an admirable comeback, although it’s worth considering how this version of Marco would have fared against a lineup slightly more potent than Baltimore’s.

However, in a seven-inning game, the Mariners offense had to dig out of that hole, and quickly. That didn’t look like an achievable task over the first four innings, as Matt Harvey dazzled the Mariners hitters with a combination of 92 mph fastballs in the middle of the plate and sliders and changeups nowhere near the plate. With Ty France mired in a mini-slump, that left the hitting duties for the day to either Kyle Seager or Mitch Haniger.

Mensch Humdinger, you say?

That Haniger hit drove in Sam Haggerty, who had singled before him and is having a nice little series what with getting his plaque on Eutaw Street and whatnot. However, as majestic as that homer was, it only drew the Mariners even with the Ortolans Orioles. In order to win, the Mariners would need two things they’ve struggled with so far this season: a lockdown performance out of the bullpen, and production from the bottom of the order.

Spoiler alert: they got both. Rafael Montero and Kendall Graveman combined for two scoreless innings, with Graveman flirting with triple digits. Meanwhile, the Mariners got some help from a visibly tiring Matt Harvey, who started the sixth by walking Jose Marmolejos, smartly pinch run for with the more fleet-of-foot Braden Bishop. Then it was up to the bottom of the order, the Mariners who have been riding the struggle bus of late. First up: Dylan Moore checking in with a base hit, which we love to see, as DMo has been DLess at the plate of late. Then J.P. Crawford made the entire LL staff of doubters look very silly with his first extra-base hit since 2020 (yes this includes spring training):

(JP also had this defensive gem which helped bail out Marco earlier in the game, so a good day all-around for him.)

Thanks to the bullpen’s strong showing (again, so many new phrases being typed in this recap), that was all the Mariners would need to secure today’s win. You may now remove the napkins from your head. For now.