Sneaking into second on a reckless steal attempt with the help of a wide pickoff attempt, Dylan Moore became the first and only Mariner to reach scoring position today. Like rats in a castle trying to slink off with scraps, the Mariners attempted to eke out a second straight victory over the juggernaut Dodgers, and spent the entire game looking like they might just be able to.
When the Mariners won yesterday, it felt a little like theft. Today, it would have been nothing short of an all-out heist. Pitching aside, the defense today left most of the Dodgers batters frustrated, between yet another ESPN Top 10-worthy catch from Dylan Moore and a gorgeous flip to first from JP. One of the things I love about baseball is the feeling that you’re watching balls in play get sucked into a defensive vacuum, and we got just that today. It’s the kind of thing all teams have to be able to do in order to be good, but it can make a team that would otherwise be just fine, or even bad, into one that finds wins in the most unexpected places.
Dylan Moore needs to chill out. pic.twitter.com/ijpM1wKlyP— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) April 20, 2021
Teams like the Rays know the feeling of sneaky victories all too well, relying in large part on defense and lights-out relievers to pad their win column, hoping their ragtag offense can scrape together hits. Teams like the Dodgers, which, if the 2020 World Series is any indication, are better than the Rays, are capable of stomping on those teams and salting their fields. The Mariners, with flashy leather abounding and zero runs allowed by the bullpen for yet another game, have spent the last few games looking to play like the former. Keep the game just close enough, exploit relief pitchers for their weaknesses, and win games by a run or two. The plan fell short, but it’s not the worst way to play when your offense is lackluster.
Keeping the game close to begin with requires starting pitching that excels, of course, and the Mariners got that today, too. While we all expected the return of Kyle Lewis today (and oh, how lovely a sight that was to behold!) it was Marco Gonzales who felt like the prodigal son coming home. It had only been 2.5 bad outings, sure, and anyone who was too worried about his performance so early on was likely overreacting, but the creeping fear that our team ace would be a liability rather than a certainty lingered.
Today showed that Marco’s command is still there, ready to perenially sink into the zone. He held the nuclear Dodgers bats to just 2 hits and a run through 7 innings, giving up one walk along the way, and retired 13 straight after Kyle’s brother’s RBI single. Marco threw his sinker for almost half of his pitches, with his changeup and curve each sitting around 20%. It was especially encouraging to see his already in-form command actually increase as the game went on, hitting his spots with elite regularity.
He also just looked like he was having fun again, which, let’s face it: that’s all that really matters.
No matter what happens in this game it is so great to see Marco look like himself again. I missed pumped up Marco SO much. pic.twitter.com/RnOEIjkBzU— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) April 20, 2021
Julio Urías requires a great deal of credit for keeping the Mariners to zero runs through seven, his curveball mixing perfectly with his 4-seamer, looking unhittable at times, and allowing very little hard contact. Urías’ career-high 11 K’s to 1 walk and 1 hit (an infield one, at that) reflect both the struggles the Mariners face when their hot bats run cold and the challenges any team would against the Dodger’s ace performing as well he did. Oh, sorry, what? He’s not their ace? He’s their SP5? Cool. Cool, cool, cool.
By xBA (definition), Mitch Haniger’s lone hit had no right to be one, at only 0.60 and a 53.9 EV. Kyle Lewis’ flyout in the 6th had an xBA of .490, and by that metric was the closest the Mariners came to having two hits. It certainly passed the “wow that thing looked like it should have been a hit” test.
The Mariners bullpen continued its scoreless streak and, more importantly, good vibes, as evidenced by yet another exuberant Keynan Middleton K-strut/exclamation. It may, in fact be the case that we’ve never had a dawg like him in the ‘pen. Middleton and Sadler each came out with good velocity and while each allowed at least one baserunner, their ability to work with runners on remains impressive.
Coming away with one win in this mini-series still bodes well for the team, and the collective elation and excitement over the possibility that this team just might be real was well worth the loss today. When you’re a scavenger among predators, you’re lucky to escape with your life, let alone a scrap or two. The Mariners pulled off both those feats against the most fearsome of carnivores, and if this team can find a few more hits in the lineup, they may just be a win-thieving, web gem-weaving band of outlaws, and that’s fine by me.