The Mariners won the trade.
That’s it. The end.
Our SIXTH go-ahead grand slam of the season! #SeaUsRise pic.twitter.com/SX4yZNKvGS— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) September 1, 2021
Hyperbolic and reactionary? Perhaps. It’s incredibly difficult to assess trades generally, and particularly challenging to do so during the season in which they were carried out. Often times there are piles of money, long-term contracts, teenage hopefuls, and other such butterfly wing flaps standing in the way of a swift assessment.
But on this night, with just 29 games (30, if you’re the Astros) remaining in the regular season, I feel okay calling this one for Seattle.
Kendall Graveman’s contract will expire at the end of this year. Abraham Toro isn’t arb eligible until 2023, and won’t be a free agent until 2026. Presently, the two of them have perfectly mirrored fWAR for the season.
I know this isn’t how fWAR works, but personally I feel like Toro added another full win to his 2021 tally tonight on the merits of, well, literally winning this game for his team. At the same time, with tonight’s victory, the Mariners handed Graveman his first official loss of the year, and are now responsible for five of the nine earned runs he’s given up throughout this entire season.
Perhaps Graveman will be a world-beater for the Astros in their inevitable postseason appearance. Maybe, if the fates are particularly cruel and the NL West inexplicably lackluster, he’ll get the save to seal a World Series victory. It’ll sting for Mariners fans, but then Graveman will be a free agent. Meanwhile, Seattle has years of quality at-bats like this to look forward to:
Here's the AB between Graveman and Toro. You could see that he was getting the timing on the fastball as he fouled off a couple of them. pic.twitter.com/kBbvV1qL30— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) September 1, 2021
Not to be lost in the Grand Salami fixin’s was Yusei Kikuchi’s transcendent start this evening. Seven innings, four hits, no runs, two walks and four strikeouts. The key? First pitch strikes (duh) and quasi-banishing his pesky cutter in favor of an otherworldly fastball.
Yusei Kikuchi puts the finishing touch on his sixth scoreless inning by dialing up some speed to cover first in time with Yuli Gurriel charging.— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) September 1, 2021
He's faced 23 batters and thrown 20 first-pitch strikes. pic.twitter.com/bJLdqNvjww
Kikuchi said he knew there was something different with his fastball the first pitch of the game. He's been working on a lot of things regarding mechanics, timing and balance and said it all clicked today.— Jen Mueller (@JenTalksSports) September 1, 2021
That cutter did make a few appearances tonight, but looked markedly different than it had in previous starts with unexpected arm-side movement that resident pitching analyst Mikey Ajeto chalked up to “idk its [sic] spin direction has just shifted”. Whatever the case - and hopefully others more knowledgeable than I will dig deeper into these changes - it makes Kikuchi’s next start a can’t-miss event.
Though at this point, with the team just 3.5 games back from a Wild Card spot, on the very cusp of September, and with the near-constant threat of Chaos Ball, each Mariners game is a can’t-miss event. And that’s pretty darn neat.