I will admit that after last night’s sagfest, which was demoralizing from wire to wire to watch, I came into today a little worried that the Mariners would open the second half with a series loss to an annoying but not very good (currently) Angels team, with David Fletcher scoring ten runs on five singles with an expected batting average of .070 or something, and Ohtani doing yet another thing to make baseball Twitter burst into transports of delight. I was heartened by the fact that Logan Gilbert, Competent Pitcher, was taking the mound, though, and that turned out to be the right instinct, as was betting on this tweet proving itself once again so evergreen we should hang fairy lights on it.
Gilbert was excellent today, notching a career-high nine strikeouts. He struck out five of the first six batters he saw today, dialing up some big velocity on the fastball early on:
Gilbert’s fastball settled down into more the 94-95 range as the game wore on, but he was able to pair that with his slider to get a total of 18 whiffs on his pitches today, up near the top of the leaderboard with pitchers like Corbin Burnes and Carlos Rodón.
Any time Gilbert got in trouble, he was able to extricate himself; after giving up back-to-back singles to José Iglesias and a still-vengeful Jack Mayfield in the third, Gilbert rebounded with a smart pitch at the top of the zone against David Fletcher, who never met a first pitch he didn’t like, to get him to pop out harmlessly for the second out. He walked Ohtani, pitching carefully around him with the changeup, and then went right at Jared Walsh with a steady diet of challenge 96-MPH fastballs to get him to strike out swinging and end the inning.
The Angels’ only extra-base hit today off Gilbert came in the sixth, when a sweaty-looking Gilbert was beginning to fight his command some, and was a “double” down the left field line off the bat of Taylor Ward at a whopping 86 MPH. Gilbert was then lifted with two runners in scoring position and one out. A weirdly clean-shaven J.T. Chargois got Brandon Marsh to chase after 97 up in the zone for the second out but then hung a slider to José Iglesias to score those two runners, making Gilbert’s line a little uglier than he actually pitched. If there’s any nit to pick with Gilbert’s performance today it’s the two walks to Ohtani and two hit batters as his command sagged a little late, but these are very, extremely minor nits to pick.
The Mariners gave Gilbert a nice cushion of runs to work with—or really, the Angels gave Gilbert two free runs of support early on, when Jared Walsh mishandled what could have been an inning-ending double play and instead gifted the Mariners a 2-0 lead. Luis Torrens extended that lead to 3-0 in the 4th with this solo shot as he continues to absolutely lay into left-handed pitching:
Patrick Sandoval was a tough-luck loser in his last two outings against the Mariners, getting just one run of support despite pitching well, and looked to be repeating that pattern today, so Ty France decided to fix that for him by making him less tough-luck and more of, well, a loser, crushing this hung curveball for a three-run home run:
Of course because this is a Sunday game against the Angels, umpired by Joe West, the game took a turn for the stupid after Gilbert departed. I’m gonna summarize it for you real quick because Service Journalism. JT Chargois got one more out in the seventh and Anthony Misiewicz, despite giving up an infield single to Ohtani that he beat out with ELITE SPEED (cue the Twitter flutterings), struck out the next two batters he saw. Drew Steckenrider also worked a clean inning, even though Joe Maddon decided to waste everyone’s time challenging an out call where the runner was clearly out. The Mariners had a chance to add on in the 8th, when Maddon brought in Andrew Wantz, who is in Wantz of an ability to hit the strike zone, and put two runners on by grazing Haniger and then drilling France in the helmet (scary sight, but it caught the helmet flap and Ty remained in the game and even picked up another hit later on). Two more walks forced in a run, giving the Mariners a 7-2 lead, and then Joe Maddon brought in Jose Quintana to face Jarred Kelenic, because he seems dead-set on depressing Kelenic’s batting average as far as possible, who of course struck out, as did Dylan Moore (before you get mad, DMo did have a hit on the day), capping what could have been an offensive outburst for the Mariners.
That was a real bummer, because I’ve seen enough bullpen collapses at Angel Stadium to feel nervous about even a five-run lead headed into the ninth. Paul Sewald was given the bottom of the ninth and had two outs and two strikes on Ohtani when, of course, Ohtani golfed a pitch at the bottom of the zone (whyyyy put a ball there Paul) for like 450 (ok fine 419) feet, again, cue explosions and gasps from all baseball media everywhere, but also, as Grant put it the other day, it’s the Mariners who get the last laugh, because Sewald rebounded to strike out Max Stassi and notch back-to-back series wins over the Angels. Oh, and to put a cherry on top of that, Sewald also ended David Fletcher’s hit streak (although really Logan Gilbert did the heavy lifting on that, striking him out twice and retiring him on an easy pop out), in a particularly delightful fashion:
sewald absolutely embarrassing david fletcher, the intersection of my two favorite things pic.twitter.com/w89TGmPnf5— Paul Sewald propagandist, and also Michael Ajeto (@dysthymikey) July 18, 2021
For Mariners fans, of course. Not so much for Angels fans.
The Mariners will enjoy an off-day on Monday before taking on the Rockies at Coors Field Tuesday night, hopefully to keep the good times rolling, and I will enjoy the remainder of this decidedly non-scary Sunday.