There was a time when going 1-2 against the Astros wouldn’t have felt so bad, even with a thumping loss like today’s. But in the context of a trade that left many of the players upset and the fanbase wondering about this franchise’s desire to win, and one that essentially handed a hated division rival a ticket to the post-season, which happened right in their own backyard...well, it’s not surprising that the Mariners looked flatter than a three-day-old soda today, providing barely any resistance as the Astros romped all over them for a 11-4 victory, as the Astros scored in every inning except the first and last.
Things didn’t start out badly. For the first time this series, a Mariners starter didn’t give up a run in the first inning, as Yusei Kikuchi sliced through the top of the Astros’ lineup with two groundouts and finished it with a strikeout, getting Yordan Álvarez to swing over the top of a slider. Things quickly went sideways after that, though, and unlike the previous two contests, there would be no heroic comeback.
Yusei Kikuchi wasn’t bad today so much as he was unlucky; he didn’t always help himself out, making a couple of bad pitches that the Astros, of course, punished, and issuing two free passes, which again, is a no-no against the Astros, but he also struck out seven in five innings. An infield hit followed by a rare but costly J.P. Crawford error—he straight-up borked a double-play ball that would have gotten Kikuchi out of the inning—led to the first run of the game for the Astros and also shortened Kikuchi’s day by an inning, probably. Even the normally hot-take-allergic Mike Blowers said “this could be your ballgame right here” right before Kikuchi walked Chas McCormick, which wasn’t ideal, itself, and while the inning didn’t devolve on Kikuchi like it could have, Blowers’s prognostication would prove to be correct.
Rather than any big inning, it was just a steady drip of offense from the Astros against Kikuchi. Two doubles in the second gave the Astros another run—well, “doubles” but really the first one was just a ball hit medium to the gap and Altuve’s seemingly indefatigable legs carrying him into second, an unpleasantly familiar sensation for Mariners fans. The second was a solid smash from Gurriel, though, who also hit a leadoff homer in the fifth on a bad-decision pitch from Kikuchi (maybe don’t start the guy who loves a high fastball off with a high fastball? Just spitballing here). The Astros got their other run against Kikuchi in thoroughly annoying fashion in the fourth, with a leadoff single from Chas McCormick; a passed ball by Murphy (seriously, so many letdowns from the defense today) put McCormick on second, and an Aledmys Díaz single brought him home. The most entertaining thing that happened in that inning was Scott Servais was tossed almost immediately for arguing with the umpiring crew; HP umpire Adam Beck had a very tight zone all day that especially affected Kikuchi, along with one or two egregiously blown calls, so much so that Kikuchi actually expressed some frustration on the mound, something I’ve never seen him do. That seemed to trigger Scott, who might have been working through some frustration of his own.
We love a hot Scott pic.twitter.com/QXulAwAr5k— KyLee (@kyleedenning_) July 28, 2021
The Astros stretched their lead to 8-0 against a very flat-looking JT Chargois. His normally plus slider wasn’t sliding today, and he allowed two hits on it, along with another on the fastball, giving up two runs while getting just one out; Anthony Misiewicz replaced him and got the final two outs but also gave up two more runs, although one came in on a Jarred Kelenic misplay in the outfield (he was hot in pursuit of the ball and then slipped, not at all emblematic of the Mariners over the past couple days) and another on a play that maybe a slightly more gifted outfielder than Jake Bauers could have made.
To their credit, the Mariners did bounce back in the bottom of the sixth to make the score look less blowout-y (although it still very much felt like a blowout), with homers from Kyle “Ol’ Faithful” Seager and, hilariously, another two-run shot from Abraham Toro, but Keynan Middleton gave back one of those runs in the top of the seventh. The Mariners took that run right back again in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases against Cristian Javier, who seemed to have a passing relationship with the strike zone, and Jarred Kelenic—after falling down 0-2 in the count—battled back to work an RBI walk. Good job, Jarred (although I wish you’d sent pitch #6 here to space).
That ended Javier’s day and brought on Bryan Abreu, who promptly struck out Tom Murphy to quash the burgeoning rally and the hopes of the 18,908 people in attendance (well, those who were Mariners fans, so maybe more like 10,000). Mama told me there’d be days like this, but it doesn’t change how deflating they are.
Just in case the Mariners entertained any thoughts of coming back, Kyle Tucker, who looks like a plinth is missing its statue of a general from the war of northern aggression, bopped a two-run home run off Ryan Weber in the 8th, stretching an already long game into an interminable four-hour-plus affair with still an inning an a half to play. Please, the food is so bad and the portions so large. Thankfully, things wound down after that, just in time for the trade deadline to get good and drunj:
The Yankees are finalizing a deal with the Rangers that will send Joey Gallo to the Bronx, per source. @ThreeTwoEephus was first with the news.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 29, 2021
Seahawks training camp has started, and aside from trade deadline news, my Twitter timeline has started to fill up with Seahwaks tweets, as surely as school supplies have slowly spread over the local Target and apple cider displays have cropped up in the aisles of the grocery store. Every year, this time comes: we gradually trade shorts and tanks for jeans and hoodies; Halloween costumes appear in catalogs and targeted Instagram ads; the streets slowly fill with leaves; and the Mariners recede quietly into the shadows as the town’s attention turns to other interests, which this year will include a brand-new hockey team. Every year, I hope for that time to hold off a little longer, to give us just a little more time with 9 PM sunsets and weekend lake escapes and the feeling that Seattle, at any moment, could explode into a baseball town. Every year, it doesn’t, and every year, that gets a little bit harder.