When Salvador Pérez walked up to the plate with a trebuchet, stuffed Joe Smith in its sling, and launched him into the bullpen, we should have known all was not well.
Seattle’s disappointing, unnecessary 6-4 loss on their self-styled “South of France” promotion night was a somewhat rare One That Got Away. For the club that seemingly has two settings - nail-biting win or laugher loss - it was an unwelcome expansion of horizons, as the M’s completely unraveled what looked like a promising early cruiser into an evening disaster.
Yusei Kikuchi seemed sharp, if not flawless, dodging barrels and keeping the Kansas City Royals scoreless through five, while Seattle built up a healthy 4-0 lead. They could have had more, of course, having left the bases loaded repeatedly, getting thrown out at home, and having several brilliant defensive plays rob them of extra bases and, later, a home run from Jarred Kelenic. But four could have been enough. Kikuchi, sadly, encountered trouble quickly, and Scott Servais went with a quick hook to lean on his well-rested bullpen. At the risk of leaning on Win Probability as a crutch, the numbers really do reflect the story of the ill-fated sixth inning.
The numbers on the right there are the Seattle Mariners’ win probability after each play, and disappointingly Seattle never got the third hit they needed in any subsequent inning. Even the bottom half of the frame, where Cal Raleigh led off with a double and a pinch-hit single from Luis Torrens put Seattle in what seemed to be prime position for at least one run, brutal strikeouts from J.P. Crawford and Mitch Haniger sent Seattle home empty. 6-4, a loss easily avoided, a shame a shame a shame. If there is a comfort, it is that Seattle now faces down Kansas City with a truly spent bullpen, having seen their starter leave early with arm trouble and having leaned heavily on their pen for high leverage work back to back nights. Hopefully the next three nights, they can capitalize in those spots they let themselves down tonight.