In tonight’s game thread I opined that the Mariners would be in good shape for a win if they got to Bubic enough to get to the soft underbelly of the Royals’ bullpen. As is the case with so many things I say, that turned out to be a classic monkey-paw situation. The Mariners did indeed get to Bubic, tagging him for five runs over the first two innings of tonight’s game. Unfortunately, Bubic was then replaced by hard-throwing Carlos Hernández, initially slated to start tomorrow but being used here in a piggyback-type situation, because the Royals...just have that many starters? Hernández entered the game in the fifth and was perfect, retiring every batter he saw and striking out five, including some absolutely unsightly swinging strikeouts. The Royals played him all the way into the ninth, which, I guess if you can use up two starters in one game, that’s dope for you, but also why can the Royals do that while slumming in the bottom of the AL Central? Seems unfair.
It says a lot about the offensive ineptitude of this team that five runs over the first two innings didn’t feel like five whole runs, as the Mariners missed an opportunity to really pour it on Bubic early. They loaded the bases in the first inning without an out, only to have Kyle Seager put up the first of many truly unsightly at-bats on the evening, fouling out on a pitch he probably didn’t need to be protecting against. Abraham Toro walked to score the Mariners’ first run of the night, and then Luis Torrens hit a two-run single to put three runs on the board for the Mariners. Tom Murphy walked, but the bottom of the lineup couldn’t keep the pressure on Bubic, with Kelenic striking out for the first time of many on the night and Dylan Moore weakly flying out. Princess-waisted power, where hath thou gone?
With the Mariners batting 1-9 in the first, that essentially re-started the game for them in the second, and once again, J.P. Crawford led off with a hit. Mitch Haniger also reached base for the second straight plate appearance (with a little bloop single; he’d walked on four pitches last time), and Ty France singled to again load the bases. In a gross replay of the first inning, however, Kyle Seager struck out, as did Abraham Toro. Luis Torrens again had a productive plate appearance, walking to score the Mariners’ fourth fun of the game and their second on a free pass, and a single from Tom Murphy gave the Mariners a 5-1 lead.
The thing the 2021 Mariners love doing, though, the thing that leads to all those chaos ball endings, is they absolutely love to score a bunch of runs early and then go to sleep for a few innings. They failed to score any more runs off a flailing Bubic, and then Carlos Hernández completely shut them down over the next five innings—yes, including into the tenth, when Mike Matheny said can’t fix what ain’t broke and ran Hernández back out. The only time the Mariners had a baserunner against Hernández was the gift runner in the tenth, until Abraham Toro hit an extremely lucky groundball single that Whitt Merrifield was able to fall on but not make a play on. Luis Torrens flew out, which did tie the game, but he jussssst missed hitting it out—more shades of last night, when Jarred Kelenic almost went yard. Speaking of Kelenic, he grounded out to end the Mariners’ scoring chance in the 10th and push the game into the 11th. Aside from a very nifty diving catch in CF, it was a brutal night for Seattle’s young outfielder, who struck out twice and was responsible for seven of Seattle’s eleven men left on base, including two in scoring position.
The reason the Mariners were forced into extras—aside from the dominating play of Hernández and their own offensive ineptitude, that is—is because, for the second night in a row, Scott Servais looked at Salvador Perez coming up with the bases loaded and thought “eh, this will probably be fine.” Logan Gilbert, up until the fourth inning, had only given up one run, which came in the very first inning after a Whitt Merrifield leadoff double (a .370 xBA, and a ball that probably should have been caught by left fielder Dylan Moore) followed by an RBI ground ball single off the bat of Nicky Lopez (an xBA of a frankly insulting .150).
That was all the damage dealt to Gilbert until the fourth inning, as he rebounded well from his 27-pitch first inning with a tight second and third inning. Once again, Gilbert mixed his pitches well, not relying on the fastball too heavily and even spinning a couple curveballs for strikes. He made one mistake in the third to Benintendi, giving him too good of a pitch in 1-2 count for a two-out double, but rebounded to get a groundout on a slider from Hunter Dozier. Once again, Gilbert’s ground ball outs equalled his fly ball outs, as he continues to shift away from a flyball-heavy pitch profile. It’s a poor match for the Royals and their leprechaun-like ability to sneak groundballs past a good defensive infield, but it’s overall a positive sign going forward.
Gilbert’s trouble in the fourth started with a shift-beating ground ball double off the bat of Ryan O’Hearn. Despite getting the next two outs from the bottom of the lineup, Gilbert surrendered yet another ground ball base hit to once-upon-a-Mariner Merrifield (.160 xBA! The audacity!) and then an admittedly well-struck single to Nicky Lopez to load the bases (a very good throw from Dylan Moore held the runner at third). That brought up Salvador Perez, and, well, you’ve seen this movie before. Gilbert hung a slider to the power hitter, and it was deja ewww all over again to tie the game.
The game remained knotted until extras, when the Royals were able to push their Manfred runner across against Eric Swanson—Paul Sewald having already been dispatched in order to put out a fire in the eighth inning and take care of the ninth. The Mariners answered with a single solitary run thanks to Luis Torrens, as noted above, but both teams failed to score in the eleventh, pushing the game into the 12th. With only Anthony Misiewicz and Yohan Ramírez left in the pen, and Misiewicz not feeling “100%”, per the broadcast, the duty fell to Ramírez. Despite getting two quick outs, Edward Olivares dashed Mariner fans’ hopes with a two-run home run right over a jumping Jake Fraley to put the final nail in the Mariners’ coffin. The Mariners scored their Manfred runner on a passed ball and groundout—against yet another fireballing reliever from the Royals pen in Josh Staumont (seriously, I was told the Royals pen was bad???)—but then Luis Torrens walked, and Jake Bauers hit a little swinging bunt, bringing up (sigh) Jarred.
In a night full of growing pains for the young Mariners, this was maybe the pain-iest. A 2-2 count that should have been 3-1 led to Kelenic’s third strikeout of the night to end the game. Make it three left on base in scoring position by Kelenic, none more painful than this. To quote Olivia Rodrigo, it’s brutal out here.
It was an especially disappointing loss, as now not only can the Mariners do no better than a series split against the lowly Royals, but also they lose an opportunity to make up ground in the Wild Card race, as Oakland lost tonight. Can’t spell “guillotine” without “illing”, I guess.
Of note: Sean Doolittle made his Mariner debut tonight and worked a scoreless inning, getting a quick first two outs before the pesky Royals did pesky Royals things. That was in the fifth inning, by the way, a full two hours after the game had started and two hours before it would end. Welcome to the circus, Sean.