A week ago, the Mariners had lost six in a row (including a sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers), were battling a COVID outbreak, and were poised to get a kelly green buttkicking at the hands of the division-leading Oakland Athletics.
Instead, the team pulled together to scratch out a series win against Oakland, and today polished off a rare four-game sweep of the Rangers. The series was bookended by two strong starts from Seattle’s two most reliable starters this season, with Chris Flexen kicking off the series with seven shutout innings and Yusei Kikuchi capping off the sweep with 6.2 innings where he carried a no-hitter into the sixth.
This was Kikuchi’s sixth quality start in a row, and the second start of his in a row where he got just enough offense behind him, the last being a 4-2 win against the A’s in Oakland. Last time the offense was powered by the youth movement with home runs from Kyle Lewis and Jarred Kelenic; today the offensive damage was done by more seasoned players in The Other Kyle, who the Rangers will doubtless be happy to see the back of, and Ty France, who had three of Seattle’s four RBI. (There is an argument the Rangers also did damage to themselves, with two charged errors and some adventurous fielding.)
The Mariners were comfortably ahead for most of this game; things got interesting in the seventh when Kikuchi, having already given up a base hit to Nick Solak, made an ill-placed pitch at the bottom of the zone right where Joey Gallo likes to go cronch.
After walking Nate Lowe on a pitch that should have been ruled Strike 3, Servais decided that was enough for Kikuchi, now sitting at 104 pitches, and summoned J.T. Chargois. Chargois didn’t exactly pour ice water on the Rangers, throwing a wild pitch, putting Lowe in scoring position, and then getting into a 3-2 count with pinch-hitter Brock Holt that ended with what I can only assume was not only a makeup call for the Lowe walk, but a makeup for every blown call HP umpire Nick Mahrley has ever made against the Mariners, the city of Seattle, or the Northwest in general.
Fair or not, thus ended the Rangers’ best chance of getting the game closer, as the next man out of the bullpen was Paul Sewald, who is sneakily one of the more fired-up personalities on this team:
I am not sure to which haters Paul refers, but I love the energy, Paulie Boy, keep bringing it. Also please keep bringing your funky crossfire action and striking batters out—two in this game to bolster his 38.2% K rate. I don’t have video of it at the moment but one of his strikeouts today was of Willie Calhoun, who swung at a pitch located at approximately his thyroid. It was the second time Sewald’s gotten Calhoun this season; this one was from back in May:
Keynan Middleton closed out the game with a 1-2-3, five-pitch ninth inning for his fourth save of the season.
Things could still go south against a pissed-off A’s team bent on getting revenge for the last series (see Cole Irvin saying “a team like that shouldn’t get ten hits off me, or anyone”), there’s no word as to when Graveman will be back, and this team continues to hit with the collective oomph of background music (although they have climbed above the Mendoza Line as a team, whee). But at a time when they could have spiraled into playing some (more) truly abysmal baseball, the Mariners took a hard look in the mirror, gave themselves a good talking-to, and pulled it together. For as difficult as some post-quarantine reckonings have been, this is one change I’m welcoming.