Despite a solid homestand that just wrapped up two days ago, it’s hard to argue that this hasn’t been a frustrating couple of weeks in Mariner fandom. The one-run record, long held as the beacon of Chaos Ball, had crumbled, with Seattle losing seven straight games decided by a single run before a heroic walkoff from Luis Torrens on the 11th. The bats had fallen flat, the bullpen understandably couldn’t pick them up every single night, and Wild Card hopes had started to fade in even the most optimistic. This road trip, facing solely division rivals, would be crucial to keep even the faintest gasp of October hope alive.
Thankfully, they rose to the task tonight.
Truth be told, though, the first couple innings didn’t inspire much confidence - Taylor Hearn shut down the Mariners early in his outing, setting down the top of the lineup in order in the first and working out of a two-on, two-out jam in the second thanks to Jarred Kelenic jumping on an outside slider for an easy groundout to first. Tyler Anderson practically mirrored his starting counterpart, getting a quick first five outs, although Mitch Haniger deserves credit for securing one of them:
After mowing down D.J. Peters and Nathaniel Lowe in the second, however, he surrendered back-to-back singles to Jonah Heim and Charlie Culberson (that sound you hear is me sucking the entire atmosphere through my teeth). He was able to bear down to retire Yohel Pozo on a flyout to center, and while Anderson was off to a nice start, I couldn’t help but notice that he was once again getting very little run support - a trend that continued back to his tenure in Pittsburgh.
Wouldn’t you know, the Mariners scratched a run across in the top of the third. Cal Raleigh led off by bravely taking a fastball from Hearn off of his forearm, and J.P. Crawford quickly brought him to third on a clean single to right field, while also providing us a .gif for the ages.
I have no idea what J.P. is doing here, but I love everything about it. The lip bite to duckface transfer? Flawless. The intricate finger movements? Amazing. Mitch Haniger wasn’t able to get it done with a routine flyout to center, but Ty France muscled one deep enough to bring Raleigh - who’s surprisingly quick on the basepaths for a 6’3” catcher - home, and the Mariners had a slim lead. Anderson would unfortunately give it back in the bottom of the inning, though, letting a 1-2 changeup hang juuuust too high over the plate for Andy Ibáñez to hammer:
Sheesh. Gotta be honest, though - that was the only truly bad pitch Anderson threw all night. After that dinger, the Rangers’ bats couldn’t touch him, as he wormed his fastball and changeup up and down the order to sit down the last twelve batters he faced. I recognize that the fact that he was facing the 2021 Rangers sans Joey Gallo for the third time in four starts is a pretty big caveat, but this was some of the best pitching I’ve seen from him since he arrived. The four-seam/changeup combo worked all night for him, and he was able to mix in a few cutters and sinkers to good effect, too. Add in thirteen swinging strikes out of 83 pitches, and he showed enough to me to jump on the train of bringing the free agent-to-be back for 2022.
The bats were able to tack on a second sac fly in the fifth, too - this time Calboy reached on a one-out single, J.P. snuck a double under Lowe’s glove at first to bring him to third, and Mitch Haniger brought him home on a fly ball pretty close to where France hit his run-scoring flyout. As Anderson worked a flawless sixth, a graphic on ROOT flashed that he had gotten two runs or less of support in all but four of his starts this year, and although he left with a lead, things felt a little uneasy, with the M’s failing to scratch an insurance run off of Dennis Santana or Brett Martin once Hearn departed after his career-best five innings. Drew Steckenrider tossed an uneventful seventh, and Diego Castillo found himself in a bit of a jam in the eighth. After a one-out single to Ibáñez, Raleigh committed an awfully-timed passed ball on a borderline pitchout, allowing Texas’s nine-hole hitter to easily scoot into second base. A pitch later, Castillo plunked Yonny Hernández on the back calf, but funny enough, I was weirdly at peace. He was just setting up the double play. Isiah Kiner-Falefa was due up, and while he’s been a very solid player, he still hits the ball on the ground a lot. The game thread started up its ancient cries of “ms need a dp rite here”, and miraculously, the baseball gods listened.
J.P. made that look miles easier than that actually is, and if you wanted to take a moment of silence to admire and watch it over and over, I can’t blame you. Martin stayed on for the ninth, retiring Abraham Toro - whose on-base streak came to a close tonight - and pinch-hitter Tom Murphy easily, but he wasn’t quite out of the woods yet with Luis Torrens coming up. Torrens had been climbing further and further out of his slump, notching a single in the second inning to extend his hitting streak to five games, and who could forget his monster night on Saturday? He fell behind 0-2 quickly, but this is a certified lefty masher we’re talking about! Surely he would deliver! Indeed, Torrens got a fastball on the outer middle half of the plate, put a great opposite-field power swing on it, and...
Looks like a borderline robbery of the year, right?
a greek tragedy in three pictures pic.twitter.com/IAfnX8iz7j— kennedi landry (@kennlandry) August 18, 2021
No matter how silly, it still counts, and it’s amazing how much more breathing room one extra run gives you. Paul Sewald came in to close the ninth in his first day back from paternity leave, and his new dad strength kicked in early, a leadoff single from Adolis García the only blemish in a low-stakes save. Once again, we were treated to a great outing from the starter, a shutdown bullpen, and just enough offense to snag a win. Three runs might not cut it in a few days once the club gets to the gauntlet of Houston and Oakland, but tonight, it was more than enough, and sets a nice foundation for this road trip, and more good times should be coming with Marco Gonzales going tomorrow against perpetual foe Mike Foltynewicz. While it’s a tall order to ask him to do much better than his one-run complete game against these guys last week, with tonight’s win, I’m letting myself dream just a little bit.