Riding the high of a series win against the Giants (a bad team), the Mariners will try to parlay that success into a series win against the White Sox (a good team). Through one game, it is not going well. The Mariners lost 6-0 in the series opener on Monday, failing to get a single hit with runners in scoring position.
Seattle pulled the curtain off Justus Sheffield for a national ESPN audience. Though he looked solid last year, and at times flirted with top of the rotation stuff, the 24-year-old still has a lot to prove. Squared against the Chicago White Sox for his first outing of the season, Sheffield was immediately given a tall task. Though it wasn’t entirely his fault, Sheffield’s line when he exited the game was pretty mid: 5 IP, 8 H, 6 R (4 ER), 5 K, and 2 BB.
Chicago matched Sheffield with their own slider-wielding wizard. Carlos Rodón is the nominal fifth starter for these White Sox, but as a former No. 3 overall pick who showed up with more hype than Flava Flav, his pure skill is more reminiscent of an ace. If this is in fact the year he puts it all together for 175 innings or so, buckle up.
When the actual game began, the White Sox unsheathed their latest trick. The ball was clearly haunted in their favor.
What in the blue hell is this spin? pic.twitter.com/CIQHzRh4ZJ— Mariner Muse (@MarinerMuse) April 6, 2021
Tony La Russa’s team used this ball, undoubtedly bathed in demonic elixirs, to give Justus Sheffield an immediately stressful first inning. Thankfully, Sheffield froze Yoán Moncada on a slider to end the inning, and Rodón harnessed the powers of the magic ball to do the same thing to Dylan Moore in the bottom of the frame. The unprotected slider orgy caused Mike Blowers to remark that hitting has never been harder, only to have Yasmani Grandal fly in the face of that comment. As the White Sox urged the supernatural ball to send Sheffield’s second-inning sliders over the plate, Grandal met it with a booming swing.
He knew it.— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) April 6, 2021
PUT IT ON THE BOARD! pic.twitter.com/awc1femLa3
The White Sox seemed to get their voodoo all crossed up though when Sheffield made Andrew Vaughn do this later in the inning…
…and forgot to turn it off until after Rodón threw a pickoff attempt into shallow right field. That errant fling in the third inning sent J.P. Crawford to third base, where he would sadly watch Kyle Seager chase a paranormal slider to end the threat.
Some inspiringly bad baseball followed in the fourth, which we are for sure blaming on the mystical seams and not the Mariners. First, the sure-handed Seager made an error on a ball that could have been a double play. Then, the entire defense was utterly baffled by a bunt, and finally, Sheffield plunked a hitter on the foot with a 1-2 pitch. Those events gave the road team a 2-0 lead, which became a 4-0 lead two batters later, and since the White Sox brought an illegal ball possessed by Hawk Harrelson, it was actually more like 25-0.
The Mariners’ only other legitimate chance to score was thwarted by some poor decision making. Rodón was kind enough to walk the bases loaded in the fourth, giving Sam Haggerty a chance to make things interesting with his team still only down by four. Instead, he swung at the first pitch, rolling a mild grounder to third that resulted in a force out at home. With the bases still loaded, Crawford struck out in a pretty tough plate appearance to watch. Give it about two weeks or so, but we may need to have an uncomfortable conversation about Crawford’s wilting asparagus bat.
The rest of the game was mostly a formality, but the White Sox and their witchcraft ball were able to add on two more runs. Drew Steckenrider and Will Vest teamed up for four scoreless innings, but even they were overshadowed by Michael Kopech, an actual flamethrower wearing a White Sox jersey. Kopech struck out five hitters in two innings, turned things over to José Ruiz, and closed the door on the M’s.
If you want a draw a positive from a game in which the Mariners struck out 15 times, it’s that they get to face Lucas Giolito tomorrow. Wait, no, that’s not right.