As they did yesterday, the Mariners jumped on the Rangers in the first inning to score some runs. Unfortunately, they also repeated their performance from yesterday by neglecting to score any more runs for many innings, and wound up being walked off by a directionless Rangers team in a game that featured all three of their recent trade deadline acquisitions, who combined for a -.788 WPA (that number is admittedly heavily skewed by Castillo’s performance).
Texas starter Taylor Hearn has struggled in some appearances against the Mariners but looked very sharp today, with a fastball that averaged 95-96 and touched 97 combined with a changeup and a slider. Command has been the thing that sunk Hearn in the past against the Mariners, although the first runs of the game scored on something that wasn’t his fault: second baseman Andy Ibañez was ruled upon review to have come off the bag on what would have been an inning-ending double play, forcing Hearn to pitch to Kyle Seager, who did Kyle Seager in Texas things:
Kyle Seager messes with Texas. pic.twitter.com/9FW8cm5qGo— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 31, 2021
Tyler Anderson, making his Mariners debut, wasn’t throwing quite as hard as Hearn, hanging out more in the 91-93 range but scooting up to touch 94 here and there, but he worked the edges of the plates well, spotting his fastball and changeup there to elicit weak contact; he also dialed up an 88 MPH cutter for his first strikeout as a Mariner, getting Charlie Culberson swining in a three-pitch strikeout. Anderson, if you haven’t seen him pitch, has a unique delivery with a hitch/hesitation in his windup, and also changes arm slots frequently, so despite his lower wattage on the fastball, he can present a difficult puzzle for batters to solve.
Meanwhile, Hearn, still transitioning out of the bullpen, was on a pitch count today, something the Mariners ate into in the third inning. Hearn returned in the fourth, getting a couple quick flyouts from Seager and Toro, before being replaced by righty Drew Anderson, changing this battle from a Taylor vs. Tyler affair to Anderson vs. Anderson. Also changing: the home plate umpiring situation, as HP umpire Adrian Johnson apparently suffered a hip injury mid-game, which meant surprise Laz Diaz HP umpire. Not a great surprise!
Anderson was untouched through his first trip through the Rangers lineup and probably should have carried his no-hitter into the fourth, but the Surprise Laz-ing cost him a strikeout and of course Kiner-Falefa immediately fought one off his hands right after that. A bunt and a passed ball (ruled a wild pitch, but Raleigh and Anderson looked crossed up) moved IKF to third, but Anderson wiggled out of trouble, striking out Adolis García and again defeating Laz Diaz’s strike zone to get “Don’t Call Him Nate” Lowe to pop out harmlessly.
But in the fifth inning, after a leadoff single, Anderson momentarily lost command of the strike zone—he was reaching for the rosin on his cap near-constantly during that inning, maybe that had something to do with it—and fell into a protracted battle with Jonah Heim that ended in a two-run blast and a tied game, putting the onus back on the Mariners offense, which had gone into a cryogenic freeze since Seager’s homer in the first, collecting just two hits over the next four innings.
Mitch Haniger answered that call in the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff single, but Ty France was robbed on a 100 MPH laser he hit to the corner by a leaping Adolis García. Seager singled to move Haniger to second, but then Abraham Toro lined into a double play, and poof, there went the Mariners’ scoring opportunity right there.
In a classic example of Momentum Shifting, Adolis García then doubled in the next inning on a ball that just snuck inside the third base line; Lowe then singled in an 0-2 count to score the go-ahead run. Gross. Joe Smith came in to replace Anderson, and immediately got bailed out by Dylan Moore:
Again, the Mariners had a chance in the 7th, and again, they flubbed it, as Cal Raleigh spoiled a leadoff single by Luis Torrens by grounding into a double play, and then Chris Woodward, who just sucks, brought in lefty Brett Martin to retire Kelenic on three pitches. Ugh.
Eric Swanson worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning, but so did Joe Barlow for the Rangers, striking out the side in the 8th. Casey Sadler did his job, setting down the Rangers in order, and then, with the Mariners down to their last three outs, Ty France realized “WC Standings” didn’t mean a ranking of local public toilets, and decided to Do Something:
Ty France you little rippa— Ryan Rowland-Smith (@hyphen18) August 1, 2021
Paul Sewald locked things down in the ninth, because that’s what Paul Sewald does, sending things to extras. Unfortunately, in the Mariners half of ManfredBall, the Mariners got a little unlucky (Lowe stealing what could have been a go-ahead double from Kelenic with a diving snare down the line) and were also a little bad (Jake Bauers popping out for out number two swinging at a ball that could have fit in his breast pocket). That left the scoring opportunity in the hands of J.P. Crawford, who once again delivered:
But that thing about how when you aren’t the home team you have to score more than just the courtesy runner showed why it’s a truism when Diego Castillo gave up the game-winning two-run homer to Jonah Heim, who accounted for 4/5ths of the Rangers offense today.
Look, you can’t win ‘em all, but these are the games you need to win, against a struggling opponent in the Rangers, on a day when the Astros and A’s both lost, and the Yankees won, tying them in the Wild Card race with the Mariners. (The Blue Jays also won and are just a game behind the Mariners, and Boston winning pushes them into the first WC position, with the Athletics currently holding the second WC spot.) Next time maybe try to spread the scoring out a little, guys? Get a planner and write “remember to score in more than just two innings” on it? Set a reminder on your phones? As any teacher will tell you on the first day of high school, study skills are important, even more so than natural ability. The well-prepared and consistent student beats out the brilliant slacker every time.