Intellectually, anyone could recognize the last three series were not so much a mirage as they were a confluence of extreme ineptitude. Between the no-hitter, the back-to-back sweeps, the slow starts from Jarred Kelenic and tonight’s starter Logan Gilbert, the ignobility of being the poster child club for MLB’s current low-contact offensive environment, and the mixture of traditional injuries and COVID-19 related unavailabilities, it was a dispiriting week in M’sville, just a week and a half after the season finally began in many way. But last night’s win and tonight’s follow-up 4-3 victory were a desperately needed injection of what this season could and can be.
The young players on whom so much rides led the charge this evening, as once again the Seattle Mariners lineup looked roughly like the internet’s favorite three-headed dragon.
And yet, from the depths of merely this past weekend, the lineup’s viability seems to have grown leaps and bounds. Tonight was another showcase for the top six in the order, though Tom Murphy did check in with a key double that drove in a run and led to him scoring. Jarred Kelenic crushed four baseballs, two of which found the spacious outfield grass in Oakland. Mitch Haniger had a quiet night at the plate, but made an excellent leaping grab at the wall in right center to keep the game tied in the bottom of the eighth. Kyle Lewis lashed a single and made one of the better catches of the M’s young season to keep at least two runs off the board and continue to make Ramon Laureano quite sad.
there's that fire from lewis after robbing a gifted center fielder of an extra base hit! this series has been such a nice salve to last week pic.twitter.com/6vqQAUX8Zp— Connor Donovan (@kennerdoloman) May 26, 2021
The fire shown from Kelenic, Haniger, and Lewis has been a pleasant bonus to their sharp play over the past couple games, as though all three are recognizing they are not only de facto leaders on the club as some of its most heralded talents, but that they are utterly vital to the team’s success, and indeed were its carrying core tonight.
Ty France and J.P. Crawford chipped in a collective spray of four singles and a bloop double, which remains a marvelous pathway to success for the two players, vastly different as their toolsets are. It’s always easy to worry about over-ascribing blame when a player has an obvious injury that their performance declines after, but the swings France has laid out since returning from the IL for his wrist injury look far more comfortable, and his ability to lay barrel to ball on a line - absent for the two weeks or so prior to his stint - seems back in action. Crawford, for his part, might be best served simply never worrying about laying the barrel on the baseball, so long as he continues to spray soft line drives. His Dee Gordon-esque pop would be a major concern for drop-off in many players, but the defensive threshold he has worked himself up to, yet again flawless tonight, makes him a clearly positive player even with a merely middling bat.
That’s your four runs right there, and no Eric Campbell and Jack Mayfield did not contribute much at the dish, but seven players did! The most important seven in the lineup, the ones who were here over three weeks ago and (several at least) have some chance of being here in three years! That is what I was looking forward to seeing this year, and the win of course is a good way to cap it.
On the pitching end, Logan Gilbert once again looked both promising and inconsistent, making his third big league start and fourth start of the season. He worked four innings, yielded just two runs, struck out four and walked none. Tonight’s outing was a textbook example of having control but not necessarily command, as Gilbert struggled to corral his breaking balls after a promising first inning. Still, working his good heater on both sides of the plate by the end, Gilbert evaded disaster. Kate and I were discussing the somewhat early hook he received, prior to facing 9-1-2 in the Oakland order, and she noted it was a treatment Justin Dunn has been receiving in particular, letting him work through some but pulling the plug before things get out of hand, especially as everyone still is working into mid-season form. Gilbert’s ability to avoid putting runners on for free has been vital, even with his so-so start, and hopefully it can continue as he finds his form further.
The bullpen was unfortunately called upon early but, thanks to the aforementioned defensive brilliance, astonishingly rose to the challenge. Paul Sewald and Kyle Lewis kept Oakland off the board entirely, while JT Chargois and his poofball limited the damage.
to my knowledge, excessive rosin from the bag doesn't violate mlb's foreign substance rules, but it does make for a nice dramatic effect as jt chargeois demonstrated pic.twitter.com/2EPJJeBSTG— Connor Donovan (@kennerdoloman) May 26, 2021
Anthony Misiewicz served as a rickety wooden bridge with planks missing over a frigid chasm to Rafael Montero, who managed an absolutely staggering Houdini act, one night after nearly losing hold of the lead and with no high leverage safety net behind him. Despite nearly not beating Seth Brown to the base somehow, Montero and the M’s escaped with a win they mostly deserved, and a series win over the Oakland Athletics they pretty much earned. More like this, garçon.