As things start to slowly ramp back up and people crawl out of their pandemic cubbyholes, blinking in the sudden sunlight, a universal truth is being acknowledged: going to work sucks. Like yes, hours-long conference calls sitting in the desk chair you wish you’d upgraded a while ago but now there’s a foam shortage and you can’t get a new one until 2024 do indeed drain your will to live, but also, so does a commute, and fluorescent lighting, and the feeling after the buzz of seeing your coworkers face-to-face for the first time in months and catching up starts to fade, slowly to be replaced by the smell of stale coffee, and your deskmate who slurps every liquid with tsunami-grade force, and that one co-worker who keeps getting caught up in MLMs and keeps sending you Facebook invites to trunk parties no matter how many times you click “not attending.” So look, the Mariners showed up at the office and put in two good, hard days of work, winning the first two against Oakland and securing a series win, but this Wednesday feels like Friday because what is time, now, anyway, and the Mariners were just kind of over it, and that’s relatable.
Robert Dugger, making a bullpen start on short rest, kept things mostly under control despite struggling at times with both his command and Laz Diaz’s strike zone, as well as a patient Oakland lineup. Dugger walked two batters in the first and both came around to score, while the A’s alternated between ambushing Dugger’s first-pitch fastball and sitting on his curve, normally a solid weapon for him. In the second Dugger got into a protracted battle with Matt Olson, who fouled off pitch after pitch and eventually snuck one over the right-field fence simply by putting it way up in the air (launch angle of 43!) and letting the wind do the work. After a clean third, Dugger came back out for the fourth and got a quick first out thanks to J.P. Crawford’s ability to wrangle the approximately 86,000 square feet of foul territory down the left field line in the Coliseum but then gave up a single to Elvis Andrus and hit Aramis Garcia behind him, prompting a change to Wyatt Mills and the official start of Bullpen Day.
Mills started off by walking Canha to load the bases, and then a sac fly from Olson brought home the A’s fourth run of the game. A ten-pitch battle with Laureano resulted in a single and the fifth run of the game, and a certain familiar sinking feeling for Mariners fans. Death by a thousand cuts continued with a Seth Brown single right up the middle to make it 6-0. After yet another walk to Chapman the inning mercifully ended when Kyle Seager made a fine play on a Piscotty groundout.
Meanwhile, James Kaprielian no-hit the Mariners through three with a combination of a changeup and a fastball that, though unimpressive in velocity (93 MPH average), was impeccably located. Haniger broke up the no-hitter in the fourth with a little flare into no-man’s land, followed by a solid line drive single from a hopefully-heating-up KLew, but Seager struck out and Crawford flew out to give the Mariners two outs and two baserunners still standing at first and second. Ty France worked a walk to load the bases, but what is even the point of that because Donovan Walton was next up and he swung at the first pitch to ground out and end the inning. Just, why. Kaprielian was obviously wavering with his command and Walton went after a fastball at the top of the zone and away. I guess I’ll give Walton a pass for this, though, as he was making his first career start in left and of course the A’s seemingly hit every single ball directly at him. Outfielders, I don’t know her.
After a six-pitch inning where the Mariners went down again 1-2-3, Mills was back out there, but thankfully, things went much better this time: a strikeout of Kemp, an infield hit by Andrus, and then Aramis Garcia lined into a double play. But let’s revisit the fact that after a lengthy, laborious inning defensively where the A’s doubled their lead, the Mariners went out and saw six total pitches to make three outs. Sure it was the bottom of the lineup plus an aggressive Jarred Kelenic, but please, you’re killing me, Smalls.
That would, frustratingly, become a theme over the Mariners’ next few innings. In the sixth, Mitch Haniger put up a good eight-pitch battle before being called out on strikes, but Seager and Lewis both went down first-pitch swinging to keep Kaprielian’s pitch count in line. In the seventh, Kaprielian only needed six pitches to get three outs, and half of those were seen by Walton. The Mariners are reportedly trying to be more aggressive in the zone, and while that worked out well against Cole Irvin, Kaprielian’s location was so excellent that virtually nothing was left in the middle of the zone for the Mariners to do damage on, resulting in a boatload of soft contact and easy outs.
On the bright side, Anthony Misiewicz looked much sharper in his inning than he had in previous outings of late, with two strikeouts: one where he got Mark Canha swinging at 95 at the top of the zone, and another where he struck out Matt Olson looking at the bottom of the zone on a pitch that was probably low but assisted by Godoy’s framing/Laz Diaz’s desire to have the game proceed as quickly as possible. Because umpiring, too, is work, and work, as noted above, sucks.
Yohan Ramírez also pitched an inning where, other than a few sliders that bent too far inside on Chapman and a pitch that wound up six inches behind Stephen Piscotty’s back, his command looked much improved; he struck out Seth Brown, got Chapman on a lazy fly ball, and Piscotty grounded out. In a second inning of work, Ramírez started with a leadoff walk of Kemp, but then located some pitches well to get Andrus to pop out in fair territory and got Garcia to roll over on a 95 MPH fastball for a double play. We’ll need to see more of him, but I’m very curious as to whether Ramírez has made a mechanical change after working with pitching coach Rob Marcello in Tacoma, who is particularly gifted in helping pitchers refine their mechanics (see: Tacoma’s pitching staff having the highest number of strikeouts in Triple-A despite being an entirely patched-together crew).
The Mariners did get on the board after Kaprielian was finally out of the game, with the bottom of the lineup manufacturing a run off Yusmeiro Petit. Haniger then smoked a double (106 EV!) to score the second run of the game. Kyle Seager followed with a base knock of his own to cut the deficit in half. Sadly, Bob Melvin decided that was enough for our new best work buddy Yusmeiro Petit, and replaced him with Jake Diekman, who promptly made a “no donuts in the breakroom” rule and struck out J.P. Crawford to end the inning. Diekman re-appeared in the ninth and got into a little trouble, allowing a single and a walk to the bottom of the lineup, but another fine defensive play robbing Kelenic of his own no-man’s-land drop (.850 xBA!) ended the threat. Still, disappointing end aside, it feels encouraging for the Mariners to take a series against the division leaders after laying the world’s largest egg against Detroit and San Diego. They’ll tackle the floundering Rangers next, and hopefully not fall into the trap of playing down to their competition. [Stares in Tigers sweep.]