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Yusei Kikuchi, Jake Fraley, and Dylan Moore attempt to drag Mariners into the win column, bullpen drags them right back

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Team’s offensive ineptitude, bullpen meltdown cost Yusei Kikuchi redemption story of the day

Seattle Mariners v Cleveland Indians Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

I am racking my brain to think of a game I have hated more than this one and outside of the infamous Poo Pie game at Anaheim, I can’t think of one. At the two-hour mark of this game, the two teams were exactly halfway through, and were a combined 0-for-14 with RISP. Cleveland starter Triston McKenzie couldn’t make it out of the first, and for a while it looked like Yusei Kikuchi, making his first start after taking a liner off the knee in Anaheim, might not be able to go any significant distance in the game either. But after the seemingly seventeen hours* it took to play nine innings today, the Mariners remained atop the rubble heap, until OH WAIT in the EIGHTEENTH HOUR THEY LOST IT. UGH.

*three hours and forty-one minutes, but ask anyone who watched the entire game, they’ll tell you it was seventeen.

Triston McKenzie had a start that would have been absolutely nightmarish if he was pitching against anyone other than the Seattle Mariners; as it was, it was merely Bad. It took McKenzie eight pitches before he threw a strike, issuing two straight walks to Crawford and Haniger. However Kyle Seager flat missed a pitch at 90 mph dead-center and popped out harmlessly, and then Ty France flew out equally harmlessly for two outs. Jake Fraley walked, because of course he did, and did some damage to McKenzie’s pitch count while he was at it (10 pitches!), and then Dylan Moore, having his first MLB at-bat in almost a month, smartly kept the bat on his shoulder to accept a walk and score a run for the Mariners. Phil Maton came on and struck out Jake Bauers to end the inning and cap what should have been a big scoring opportunity for the Mariners.

Unfortunately the zone problems seemed to transfer to Kikuchi, who walked the first batter he saw on five pitches. Kikuchi did not look comfortable initially, and his misses were big misses; he got helped out by Jose Ramírez grounding into a double play, but the feeling was...not good heading into the second. Yohan Ramírez was warming but Kikuchi came out again for the second, looking better in the zone but surrendering a base hit to Harold Ramírez, who then advanced to second on a throwing error by Kyle Seager. A walk to Yu Chang on some very close pitches put two on with just one out and a productive out from Naylor moved those runners into scoring position, but then Kikuchi went into battle mode:

It was a battle all day for Kikuchi, who wobbled again in the third but didn’t fall down, working around a leadoff four-pitch walk to catcher Rene Rivera and a José Ramirez single, helped out by a very generous strike three call on Amed Rosario. Yusei’s command and velocity looked much better this inning, with his fastball ticking all the way up to 97 and 10 of his 16 pitches thrown for strikes despite the four-pitch walk. He battled in the fourth as well, going to a 3-0 count on Eddie Rosario before coming back to get him to line out, and came back to have a 1-2-3 inning, ending on a strikeout swinging of Josh Naylor. From there, Yusei cruised through the fifth and sixth innings, allowing only a two-out single in the sixth, and came back out in the 7th to put a cap on his day with another 1-2-3 inning and a strikeout of Owen Miller. Yusei finished at 94 pitches, 58 of them for strikes, with six strikeouts and three walks—an incredibly gutty performance considering where he started from. Alas, it would all be for naught. But let’s focus on the fun parts for now.

Jake Fraley would reward Yeoman Yusei in the third with a mammoth two-run blast, almost as majestic as the man’s own beard. In fact instead of saying “Merlin’s beard!” as an interjection on your next DnD campaign set in medieval times, may I suggest “Fraley’s beard!”

The Mariners squandered another opportunity with two on and one out in the fourth, and another opportunity in the fifth when Dylan Moore doubled and stole third with one out. Finally in the 7th DMo decided to just do it himself, clubbing a ball to left-center that supposedly traveled 427 feet but sounded off the bat like about double that.

The team has been playing so dispiritedly lately, it would be great if Dimples Moore could inject some life into this sad-sack offense. No pressure, DMo.

That run (which could have been two runs, except Fraley had grounded into a double play the batter before to wipe Ty France off the bases) turned out to be somewhat important (ALTHOUGH NOT AS IMPORTANT AS IT COULD HAVE BEEN) as Kendall Graveman, in his first big-league action since a lengthy COVID-IL stint, was less than his usual dominant self, giving up a solo home run to Cesar Hernandez.

And then, of course, there was still Rafael Montero to get through in the ninth. For your health and safety, I might suggest you stop reading the recap now. Go do something else with your time with friends or family who have never even heard of a baseball, who would look upon one and marvel over this particularly patterned and spherical rock. For those of you in too deep to quit now, grimly on we march.

Montero got two groundouts on six pitches before engaging in a slightly longer battle with pinch-hitter Bradley Zimmer, walking him on seven pitches, and then walking Josh Naylor. Montero then surrendered a little dunk fly ball to Bobby Bradley to bring Cleveland within two runs and bringing up Rene Rivera, who you will remember is the catcher, hitting ninth, and only in the game because Austin Hedges took a Justin Dunn fastball to the head yesterday. The same Rene Rivera, ex-Mariner, who has three extra base hits since the 2017 season.

Well guess what now it’s four. (Video not included because I value you all as friends too much, and also please stop sending me bills for your busted-up screens, I am very poor and I am just the messenger.)

With the game headed to extras, we kind of all knew how this would end, right? Even considering the Mariners’ strong record in extra-inning contests, somehow we knew it would end with the Mariners going down quietly and failing to score their Manfred runner, and Cleveland walking it off to the delight of the fans in attendance? Because that’s how it goes for this team, the Mariners, who are constantly—whether by ill-fated injury luck, ineptitude on the field and in the front office, the capriciousness of the baseball gods, or just being stowed away here in the attic of the PNW—bit players in the greater baseball landscape, background figures as other teams ascend, rise, rejoice.

Seattle Mariners v Cleveland Indians Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

No rejoicing here. No joy at all, in fact.