Look, sometimes at work, you just don’t have it in you to give it your best. Sitting here writing this recap while another beautiful Seattle summer day hums along outside the window—a day when it’s actually possible to be outside, what a concept—I have to admit, it’s a feeling I relate to strongly. After an exciting homestand featuring thrilling walk-off wins against the first-place Rays, with an off-day fresh in the mirror and two tantalizing on the horizon like sunlight sparkling on Puget Sound, maybe the Mariners just didn’t have their best to bring today, and the result was a sleepy loss to the Rockies in a not-as-close-as-it-looks 5-2 game.
Justus Sheffield once again had a tough start today, adding to a worrying trend of poor starts. He fell behind his first two hitters, getting bailed out on yet another incredible J.P. Crawford play for the second out and setting him up for a scoreless first after Story flew out first-pitch swinging. Just inscribe the Gold Glove and send it over here, already.
J.P. is playing the best baseball of his life and nothing is going to stop him, he is what #RiseAndGrind would look like if it wasn’t annoying. J.P. is just out there having fun and being excellent, and if he doesn’t get an All-Star nod I’ll be mad. [Letterkenny voice] Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Sheffield’s command problems caught up with him in the second, when again, he failed to throw a first pitch strike to four of the five batters he faced, issuing a four-pitch walk to Charlie Blackmon to start off the inning. Sheffield wasn’t generally missing big, except when he was, but he was continually missing his spots, so that even borderline pitches or ones in the zone were getting ruled balls. After falling behind 3-1 to Brendan Rodgers, Sheffield dropped a 93 MPH sinker right in Rodgers’ Happy Hitting Zone, which he redirected over the fence for a two-run HR. After being excellent at suppressing the longball last year, that’s come back to bite Sheffield hard this season, as today became his fourth straight start allowing multiple home runs when, after getting ahead of Trevor Story 0-1 in the fourth, Sheffield hung a first-pitch slider in the middle of the plate that Story hit out of the park harder than he likely wants out of Colorado, making it 3-0 Rockies.
It wasn’t all bad news for Sheffield on the day, who did have five strikeouts in his 4.1 innings. (One of those strikeouts did cost him 14 pitches, though, as Josh Fuentes fouled off good slider after good slider, seemingly catching up with Justus’s tricks.) Overall, the slider seemed to be working for him again, and when he started out with a first pitch strike and controlled the at-bat, he was able to put hitters away with it, or get them to chase a pitch up in the zone. However, as Sheffield only threw eight of twenty batters faced a first-pitch strike, he didn’t give himself an opportunity to get into those counts enough to be able to execute his putaway pitches. With Sheffield’s lower velocity, he lives on a razor’s edge with command, and when he doesn’t have it—as he hasn’t the past several outings—these kinds of days result.
The location of Sheffield's first pitches to batters thus far. That's just not going to work. Non-competitive misses as well. pic.twitter.com/0zAqPjBX3q— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) June 23, 2021
Will Vest took over for Sheffield after Justus found himself in a one-out jam in the fifth with two on and just one out and pitched out of it admirably, striking out Story and getting Blackmon to pop out. He returned for another inning of work and again went 1-2-3, including this play which, if you were watching the broadcast, allowed you to check off the “Will Vest used to be a shortstop” box for the day:
Give Will Vest the pitcher Gold Glove already pic.twitter.com/z89NK8rNQc— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) June 23, 2021
Anthony Misiewicz also pitched a clean inning, building on a streak of better-looking outings for him, and Vinny Nittoli made his MLB debut after trudging through the minors for a decade, and the two-run homer he surrendered didn’t cost the Mariners a win, so we’re just going to celebrate that for now, okay.
Meanwhile, the Mariners offense did not come prepared to give it their all today. Gérman Márquez entered today with a double-digit walk rate but someone must have told him to throw it in the zone against the Mariners, because when all was said and done he’d thrown 66 of his 98 pitches for strikes.
It was looking for all the world like Márquez was going to perfecto the Mariners, or at least no-hit them, headed into the sixth with a tidy pitch count. The game even had a signature Bad Call, on a ball Shed Long was ruled to have swung on that should have eventually resulted in him taking a walk. Through four innings, while Justus was at 74 pitches (curse you Josh Fuentes), Márquez sat at a cooly palindromic 47 pitches. Reader, I will admit I felt some panic after the Mariners once again went down limply 1-2-3 in the fifth.
But Taylor Trammell says: Do not panic!
A two-out, perfecto-breaking, no-hitter-breaking solo bomb? We absolutely love to see it. Blessings upon house Trammell. It sort of looked like the Mariners were going to mount a two-out rally in the sixth, possibly knock Márquez out of the game, as J.P. Crawford (that’s ALL-STAR J.P. Crawford to you, if we speak it into existence we can make it happen) singled and got to second on a wild pitch, and then...oh no, Mitch Haniger. I don’t like the feeling of dread when Mitch Haniger comes up but he has been real rough lately. Like a 63 wRC+ in June kind of rough. Good Mitch, please come back. Haniger rolled over on a slider well off the plate for an easy groundout and that was that. Sigh.
Like your worst employees/students trying to cram all their work in hastily before they leave for a long weekend, the Mariners tacked on a run in garbage time against Carlos Estevez, when J.P. Crawford—who is not a bad employee, he actually works very hard, he just makes it look easy—doubled and advanced to third on defensive indifference (Mitch, again, made an out for the second out of the inning. Sad). Seager then drove J.P. home in hilarious fashion:
Seager is your wily long-tenured employee who knows all the work hacks and shortcuts and exactly the minimum amount of work required to exert maximum payoff, and we love him for that. This is why veteran leadership in the workplace is important, Mariners!!! That forced the Rockies to bring in Actual Closer Daniel Bard, who promptly walked Ty France and whose command looked pretty wonky because he wasn’t expecting to come in on his off-day, but he settled and eventually got eager young employee Jake Bauers, looking to make an impression, to chase after a high fastball. No Christmas bonus for you, Jake, hope you didn’t have any plans to put in a pool. The Mariners will take tomorrow off to rest and recuperate and hopefully be fresh-faced and ready to return to the office on Friday against a very good Chicago White Sox team.