The Seattle Mariners are not yet built for comfortable wins.
Muscle-bound lineups of sluggers like the Yankees and Padres are well equipped for trampling opponents early and often, setting up a cruising altitude to hold pace for the rest of the way. Ace-laden rotations give a similar cushion to clubs once or twice a turn through, as the Dodgers and even this Cleveland club know well when they score a handful of runs that they’ve likely squirreled a victory away. But these Mariners find themselves in between, with a decent rotation and bullpen stretched thin by injuries and minimal investment, and a young position player group with plenty of promise and little to no track record beyond Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager. That’s what made tonight’s leisurely 7-3 victory all the more enjoyable.
While Jarred Kelenic posted an oh-fer today in the leadoff role, even with Dave Sims attempting to will his ninth inning line drive to deep right over the glove of Josh Naylor, the rest of Seattle’s offense picked up the slack. Haniger cracked a no-slide slider from Triston McKenzie into the upper deck in left field, taking a 1-0 advantage Seattle would never relinquish.
That makes for 12 total dingers on the season for Haniger if you’re counting at home, tying him with Ronald Acuña Jr. for most in MLB and giving him sole possession of the lead in the AL once more. This is a roughly 50 home run pace for Mitch through 165 plate appearances, which is probably a bit higher than he’ll actually end up, but it’s becoming increasingly plausible that this might not only be Haniger’s first 30 homer campaign, but his first 40 bomb salvo as well.
Joining the party was Dylan Moore, whose numbers have climbed back up at least to around his serviceable 2019 rates, and while his BABIP won’t rise if he keeps hitting the ball over the fence, there’s nothing to complain about lengthening the M’s lineup, which has at times looked no more than two threats long, but can be interesting top to bottom when healthy and clicking. Moore’s fourth inning three run tank put the M’s in comfortable standing and one more run on a Marmolejos sac fly felt the height of luxury, as they needed look no further than across the diamond at the trouble a talented club can have when the threats its offense can consistently produce begin and end with just two or three folks.
José Ramírez, a superstar on the field and stabilizing force in an otherwise miserable Cleveland position player group, did his weather best and then some, reaching base all four times he stood in, including three doubles off Justus Sheffield. But Sheffield was able to navigate the threats, threading the channel between the Charybdis and Scylla of Ramírez and Franmil Reyes to the balmy, breezy Mediterranean zephyrs the other seven Cleveland hitters offered as their bats brushed grounders safely away into double plays, solid contact towards gloves, and fouled off poorly located sliders without punishment.
Six innings, just two strikeouts and a pair of free passes, but efficiency and damage control made for only a pair of runs in the top of the sixth when it was all said and done for Sheffield. Better teams will punish an outing like this, and Sheffield needs to find a way to sharpen his slider again, even as he has effectively worked it in as a tool for shortening outings by using it in the zone more often. But tonight, it was enough.
Designated hitter - yes if you missed it that’s where we’re at - Donovan Walton redoubled the comfort level with his first big league triple, sweeping in a pair of runs to deliver the ultimate winning total. Seven runs, more than enough, even with some shakiness courtesy of not-quite-sharp Anthony Misiewicz allowing Harold Ramírez a solo shot. Big night for folks named Harold and Donovan, but even bigger for the Mariners, who will need all the rest they can get as they look to move above .500 tomorrow with a bullpen game against the reigning AL Cy Young, Shane Bieber.