By the final game of a four-game series where the Mariners have already dropped the first three, the handwriting isn’t on the wall so much as it is burned in with acid and a flamethrower. But, as we’ve seen time and time again as Mariners fans, you have to play out the string every season, serving as bit players in other teams’ championship stories. The Royals are a team ostensibly in the same barely-floating boat as the Mariners, but pushed their way to the forefront of the stage in this series, leaving the Mariners background players in their own ballpark.
The Mariners salvaging a game out of this series isn’t so much a victory as other positive things that happened during this game. Marco Gonzales was excellent once again, bringing his August ERA to a miserly 1.58 with a 3-0 record that should be 5-0 if the Mariners had any kind of capable and consistent offense behind him. Marclix Gonzandez worked efficiently, mowing through the Royals’ aggressive hitters with a combination of curveballs and changeups for weak contact along with a well-located cutter that he busted inside on hitters for weak flyouts and popups. Marco scattered just five hits over seven innings, two of those to BABIP-god Nicky Lopez, and two to normally light-hitting Michael A. Taylor, including a home run. He also got some help from his defense, including this excellent diving snag by Jarred Kelenic, who has comported himself pretty well in center field this season.
Marco’s other hit (and run) allowed was a solo home run to Salvador Pérez, because of course it was. I thought Isabelle was pretty clear about this yesterday, guys?
Lesson #1: Do not throw a single strike to Salvador Pérez. I mean it. No more pitches in the zone to Salvy. Just don’t.
Marco is competitive, and that’s great, but challenging Salvador Pérez with a first pitch fastball in the upper-middle of the zone is less great. Perez was also responsible for another run later in the game, a scorched single (109.4 EV) off Paul Sewald that drew the Royals to within a run, scoring the ever-pesky Nicky Lopez, and it’s lucky the ball (.870 xBA) even stayed in the yard. If not, this game would probably still be going.
For their part, the Mariners got on the board in the first, using a little ground ball luck of their own. Kyle Seager got a two-out single when Edward Olivares, who tortured the Mariners in the Sacre Boo game (must credit John Trupin), booted a ball in the outfield; Ty France then singled, almost hitting Seager. The ball was bobbled a little by Taylor in the outfield, allowing even the truck-fleet-of-foot Seager to score.
After that defense-aided run, though, Royals youngster Brady Singer effectively dealt with the Mariners hitters, getting his own weak contact flyouts and harmless ground balls along with five strikeouts over six innings. Singer’s lone mistake was to Jarred Kelenic, who all day did a pretty good job of spitting on Singer’s borderline fastball and trying to damage the ones he saw in the zone. Finally in the sixth Singer made a mistake to Kelenic, leaving a fastball not just in the zone, but middle-middle, and Jarred did not miss it:
Jarred Kelenic - Seattle Mariners (7) pic.twitter.com/Lzt1r8yEB0— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) August 29, 2021
But after the Michael A. Taylor home run, the Mariners were facing down another tied game. They’d need a hero to step up. Kyle Seager may be hitting below the Mendoza Line for August, but he’s slugging .475 with a career-high 30 home runs.
Kyle Seager's 31st HR of the season is a clutch one. pic.twitter.com/4f4xswil8g— MLB (@MLB) August 29, 2021
Look, I don’t know what happens this off-season. Maybe the Mariners sign Marcus Semien, or bring back Nelson Cruz, or find some other way to add scary power or consistent offensive production (or how about both? Maybe both!) to their lineup. But in thinking about where the Mariners would be without Kyle Seager’s bat this season, well, that’s a very dark thought indeed.
Also shout out to Mitch Haniger for working a walk and being on the bases to make that a two-run home run instead of one-run, as the Mariners would need every inch of offensive production today to scrape one win out of this series. Mitch hasn’t been great this month as he looks like he might be tiring down the stretch, but his excellent plate discipline (a double-digit walk rate) is keeping him afloat even as his power numbers have sunk back down to their June nadir.
The Mariners entered this series not with great playoff odds, but on August 25 they had their highest chance of making the playoffs, a whopping 4.8%. After this series those odds have fallen to 1.1%, back to where they were during the Mariners’ miserable May. It was an outside chance but it felt like a chance nonetheless, and now, disappointingly, the team seems to be right back where they started, treading water for yet another year. It’s exciting to feel like the team is ahead of schedule, as this was a year they weren’t expected to contend, but at the same time, especially today, it’s hard to think about where this team would be without the contributions of Kyle Seager. This team simply has to get better, and right now, with the only thing that feels likely about the off-season being a tearful tribute video of Kyle Seager highlights, like Scrooge looking in the window of Bob Cratchitt’s house, all I can see is Tiny Tim’s empty chair.