“Bullpen Day” vs. “Reigning AL Cy Young winner” does not sound like a recipe for success, or for a fun day at the ballpark, period. Yet somehow this scrappy band of Mariners marshaled their forces, rowed their little hearts out, and defeated the multi-headed monster of the Cleveland lineup led by the white whale of Shane Bieber—the kind of frontline pitching ace the Mariners of recent vintage seem always to be getting steamrollered by, yet rarely sending to the mound themselves.
With the Mariners’ propensity for getting no-hit, it seemed reasonable to set one’s expectations for this game against Shane Bieber as “don’t get no-hit.” Mitchell Evan Haniger took care of that worry right in the bottom of the first inning, stroking a fastball into right field. Fun fact: the name “Mitch” derives from the name “Michael,” which means “Who is God?” Mitch Haniger, that’s who. Kyle Lewis drove in Haniger with a tidy little RBI single right up the middle. The name “Kyle” means “narrows” or “strait” which sounds like “straight” and that’s right where KLew redirected Bieber’s slider.
Armed with a 1-0 lead, Robert Dugger held Cleveland off the board with the lone blemish on his day a four-pitch walk to Jordan Luplow. Cleveland’s strategy was to be patient at the plate, trying to push Dugger into deep counts, and they did force him to throw just shy of 50 pitches over his three innings. However, what those deeper counts did was allow Dugger to get to his curveball, which was excellent today, utterly befuddling Cleveland hitters with its late drop. Dugger had eight swing and misses in just three innings, seven on the curve and one on the slider. The surname “Dugger” is possibly related to the German “Duggert” meaning to be “capable, competent, useful,” and that’s exactly what Bobby Dugs was today.
The Mariners rewarded Dugger for his capable usefulness in the bottom of the third. With two outs Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager worked back-to-back walks, bringing up J.P. Crawford. J.P. stands for “John Paul,” but today it stood for “Jubilant Person”:
JP Crawford on facing good pitchers and not being intimidated about it:— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) May 17, 2021
"Bring it on, I'm gonna rake your face."
Between this and J.P. breaking up Plesac’s perfect game, I must insist that everyone put on some Rebelution and sit in the sunshine enjoying an icy beverage and bathing in ~ vibes ~ for a period of no less than a half an hour. Go ahead and print this recap out and show it to anyone who tries to make you do actual work during that time. It’s for J.P., after all.
It took a walk and a bunt base hit for Cleveland’s offense to finally get a threat mounted against Paul Sewald and the Mariners in the fifth, after Sewald had worked around a two-out double to post a scoreless fourth. Sewald, with two outs, bounced back to strike out Cesar Hernández on a slider, and he was pretty fired up about it:
The Mariners had a chance to add on in the fifth when Mitch Haniger, who apparently sees Bieber better than preteens in 2010, doubled to left with one out. Seager struck out, but then Kyle Lewis and JP (again) worked back-to-back walks (again!) off Bieber, giving him four on the day, tying his season high and ending his day. Bieber’s departure from the game also snapped his historic streak of 20 straight starts with at least eight strikeouts, as he had a mere seven on the day. To be honest, it wasn’t a great zone for Bieber, and he was visibly frustrated at times with home plate umpire Lance Barksdale. On the other hand, maybe the Mariners are able to do more damage in this inning if Dylan Moore doesn’t strike out swinging on pitch five here from Phil Maton, in to replace Bieber, if pitch four isn’t ruled a strike. “Maton” is apparently related to the name “Matthew,” meaning “gift of the Lord,” and, well, pitch four was definitely a gift there.
It almost looked like that going quietly would come back to bite the Mariners in the sixth, this is my shocked face, as Rafael Montero came in and promptly issued a leadoff walk followed by a hard-hit José Ramírez double grounded through the first base hole. After a prolonged battle with Reyes, Montero finally retired Franmil on a strikeout and got Naylor to ground out, giving Cleveland their first run on the day. Jordan Luplow then went from an 0-2 count to a 3-2 count in a ten-pitch at-bat that ended with a groundball rolled over to Walton that should have been an out but it kicked off Walton’s foot, scoring the second run of the game for Cleveland. After Montero followed that up by allowing a double to Jake Bauers, Servais decided he had seen enough and brought in Will Vest to quell the threat. Vest struck out Austin Hedges on three pitches and had an iconic reaction shot:
We’ve had a lot of fun with Will Vest’s name, but Keynan Middleton has nicknamed Vest “Cowboy Will” and I think that’s what he should just be known as from heretofore.
Anthony Misiewicz was next out of the gates, raising some fans’ eyebrows as Vest was nails and Tony Sandwiches has been a little soggy lately. Things looked to be...not going great when he was greeted with two groundball singles that snuck through. Cleveland then played some small ball with an Eddie Rosario bunt groundout, and it was time for some good old-fashioned Strategy Ball. I love a little Sunday afternoon throwback, don’t you? Servais had Mish put José Ramírez on, who looked absolutely glum about accepting an intentional walk, but it all worked out when Franmil Reyes went franwindmilling against Misiewicz’s first pitch, located a foot off the plate. He next attempted to take a chomp out of an 87 mph cutter that wound up at his shoetops, but only FranFlailed against it. Misiewicz dialed up the same pitch for pitch number three, and Reyes shattered his bat attempting to get at the pitch, rolling it weakly to shortstop for a room service GIDP.
Once again, the Mariners had a chance to add to their lead in the seventh when Bryan Shaw walked Haniger and later, KLew again, and once again it was J.P. Crawford up with two outs and two on, but this time he was unfortunately punched out on a ... pretty questionable strike 3 call. I am not sure what the origin of the name “Barksdale” is, but I am pretty sure it does not mean “impeccable of judgement.”
The zone definitely got Shane Bieber unfairly a few times throughout this game but this is uh, pretty good payback pic.twitter.com/xfODMo36Qk— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 16, 2021
(The Mariners would have a similar opportunity in the 8th, when Dylan Moore took advantage of both the zone and some wildness from Emmanuel Clase and worked a walk and stole a base to get himself into scoring position, but Clase, despite walking Torrens, struck out Marmolejos, Walton, and Kelenic in a true welcome to the bigs moment to nip any potential threat in the bud.)
The Mariners collected three competent quick outs from Erik Swanson, who continues to look much improved, in the eighth, and then in the 9th it was Graveman time. Sometimes it’s fun to explore the hidden history behind name meanings, and sometimes it’s just out there beaning you over the head with 97 mph. It’s the Grave man for you, Cleveland, and a narrow, unexpected Mariners win of both a game and a series, and by any name you call it, that’s delightful.