Outside of Thursday’s win, the emerging theme of this series (okay, most series with the Angels) is that the Angels will do something bad/embarrassing/stupid and the Mariners will be take advantage and start cruising along to a hopeful victory. Then, just as quickly as the fun times started, the good vibes turn to ash in our collective mouths as the Mariners manage to fritter the game away in the worst way possible. On Friday night, it was loading the bases with no outs and then the 2-3-4 spots failing to score the tying run, let alone a go-ahead run. Tonight, it was much more tragic and cruel.
Yusei Kikuchi, despite giving up a first inning/first pitch home run to fellow former NPB star Shohei Ohtani (which will surely be the only widespread highlight of this game), got off to a very strong start and clearly had strikeouts on his agenda as he racked up five K’s through the first two innings. Then seven K’s through 3 innings and 8 K’s through four. Kikuchi was absolutely dealing against a very mediocre Angels lineup. Then, disaster struck in the bottom of the fifth inning as David Fletcher stung a comebacker that hit Kikuchi on the inside of his right knee, leaving him writhing in pain. Every fun and happy thought in the minds of Mariners fans everywhere evaporated as Kikuchi had to be helped off the field, unable to put any weight on his right leg.
This game just changed. The Angels are back within two, and Yusei Kikuchi is exiting after taking this comebacker off his leg— Jack Harris (@Jack_A_Harris) June 6, 2021
It's now 5-3 Mariners, B5
JT Chargois comes in as the emergency reliever pic.twitter.com/Gfqe8flUbG
For a team utterly snake-bitten by injuries in 2021, especially in the Mariners starting rotation, Kikuchi going down for any prolonged period is yet another massive blow to the team’s outlook. With Marco Gonzales off to an middling start before his injury, Kikuchi had emerged as pretty much the only reliable starter on the team, running career best numbers in BABIP and xFIP, and stacking up gaudy strikeout totals (61 K’s in 10 starts). A derailment of a career-year at the hands of a comebacker feels both incredibly tragic and extremely on-brand for these Seattle Mariners. If there is any silver lining to this pile of horseshit that I guess was a baseball game tonight, maybe this will be the end of the 6-man pitching rotation and we’ll have one fewer guaranteed loss/struggle bus bullpen game each week. Only time will tell.
On the Angels side of things, veteran starter Alex Cobb mostly cruised through the Mariners lineup, starting the game off with seven straight ground ball outs. Cobb and Kikuchi were both recipients and often beneficiaries of an extremely erratic and irregular strike zone from home plate umpire Jeremy Riggs, but the super low zone strikes were definitely going more toward Cobb’s efforts in the first few innings. The Mariners decided enough was enough in the fourth inning. J.P. Crawford was the first Mariners base runner of the night, leading off with a walk. Mitch Haniger followed up with a shallow pop-up single to that dropped well in front of the very deeply-positioned right fielder. Ty France was immediately hit by a pitch that thankfully glanced off his elbow protector and France nonchalantly trotted to first base and the bases were juiced. Taylor Trammell then bounced a one-hopper infield single just over the outstretched glove of Alex Cobb that scored a run to tie up the game at 1-1.
And then, Jake Fraley entered the chat:
First homer on Thursday ✅— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 6, 2021
First grand slam on Saturday ✅ pic.twitter.com/I1yza2QHGm
Second career home run, first grand slam. Jake Fraley is not the Prince who was Promised, but we’ll take what we can get in 2021. LL graphic-design-mayhem-maker-in-chief weighs in:
Anyways, after the injury to Kikuchi, the Mariners bullpen proceeded to surrender nine (9!) more runs over the course of the remaining five innings and it was all extremely not enjoyable and I hope all other Mariners fans out there were able to distract themselves with something not soul-crushing on this June Saturday night. The Mariners can somehow still salvage a series split tomorrow with a win during what will be their 14th straight game against AL West opponents. Let’s hope for a favorable prognosis for our dude Yusei and we’ll just try this whole thing again tomorrow, okay?