As of this writing, there have been 135 total sweeps in MLB this season, which feels like a lot, until you factor in the itty-bitty two-game series and things; and that number is actually on pace to be down significantly from 2019’s 226 total sweeps, unless things suddenly get very sweep-y here towards the end of the season. Since 1961, there have been about 8500 four-game sweeps, and just 459 five-game series sweeps. Had the Mariners taken today’s game, that wouldn’t have counted as a seven-game series sweep, but sweeping the current AL East leaders would have been quite a feather in these 2021 Mariners’ jaunty lil’ cap. Alas, that was not to be today, as one bad inning from Logan Gilbert, one unfortunately-timed Zunibomb, and a lot of unclutch at-bats sunk the Mariners’ hopes of a season sweep.
As it did on Monday, again today it took until the third inning for the Mariners to do some damage against the Rays starter. Josh Fleming was close to getting all the way through the Mariners lineup without allowing a hit or walk, but 9-hole hitter Dylan Moore put an end to that, poking a single into right field and then promptly stealing second off the Fleming/Zunino battery. J.P. Crawford looped a single into center to score the speedy DMo and give the Mariners the first run of the day. Mitch Haniger then singled but Ty France grounded out for the second time in as many at-bats, chasing a sinker at the bottom of the zone, to put an end to the rally. If you checked the chart before hopping over to the recap, you will see that Ty France posted today’s worst WPA, and this was just the first in a string of bad luck/bad process at-bats on the day.
That was kind of a bummer sentence. Here, enjoy the video of Dylan Moore scoring on J.P.’s single after stealing second, as there are not many (any) other highlights to show you today:
Unlike Fleming, Logan Gilbert had to work around some trouble in each of his first three innings, issuing a walk in the first, a single and a walk in the second, and a bad-luck leadoff double in the third when Brendan Lowe reached out for a changeup in an 0-2 count and flipped it just inside the right field line. Gilbert then walked Choi (for this third walk of the day!), bringing up the always-dangerous Arozarena, who hit the dreaded Trop Triple—although it was helped out by a whiff from Kelenic, attempting to make a diving play but thoroughly missing the ball, and then a bobble from Toro on the relay, not to mention the hanging slider Gilbert threw that initiated the whole sequence. Wendle brought Arozarena home on a sac fly and the Rays had their first lead of the series, 3-1. Gilbert then walked Franco on four not particularly competitive pitches, tying his season high, and fell behind Kiermaier 2-1 before KK grounded out on a nifty little play from Torrens. It was a rough, pitch count-damaging inning, but most concerning was that Gilbert’s misses weren’t particularly close; there was zero bite on his changeup and his fastballs sailed out of the zone.
After an unhelpfully brief top of the fourth from the Mariners offense, however, Gilbert was right back out there. He started the inning striking out Zunino for the second time—beating him with the fastball in a 3-2 count—struck out Brett Phillips, and then jammed Brandon Lowe with a fastball in for a pop out for a much-needed 14-pitch inning. Sadly for Logan, he would have to go right back out there after an even more unhelpfully brief top of the fifth from the Mariners offense, who went down on six (6) pitches. This time, facing the top of the Rays order, he got ahead of Choi 0-2 with the curve and changeup before striking him out on a fastball at the top of the zone but then surrendered a double to Arozarena that just snuck down the left field line. Gilbert escaped damage, however: Austin Meadows lined out to Torrens (again making a nice snag on a low liner) for the second out, and Wendle chased a changeup that this time resulted in the weak groundball out it was supposed to to end the inning and strandy Randy. That would be Gilbert’s last inning for the day, and although it was a shorter and less consistent outing than you’d like to see, it was good to see him harness control of his secondaries and rebound after his bad inning. He did look pretty bummed in the dugout, though:
Awww, it’s okay, Logan! They’re called growing pains for a reason.
Things got off to a good start for the Mariners in the top of the sixth when Mitch Haniger got a Trop Triple of his own, with the normally surehanded Arozarena and Kiermaier misplaying a ball that would have barely been a double and causing Kevin Cash to go to his bullpen to get former Mariner J.T. Chargois. Ty France jumped on a first-pitch fastball that would have tied the game if it had been about six inches to the right, but then lined out to Wander Franco, who made a nice diving snag. Seager picked up the RBI, though, going and getting a slider at the bottom of the zone for a sac fly, but that would be all the Mariners could eke off their former teammate.
The Mariners also tapped into their bullpen in the sixth, calling on Florida-man-in-spirit Drew Steckenrider, who got two outs before giving up the inevitable Mike Zunino Bomb, stretching the Rays’ lead out to 4-2. Misiewicz and Swanson each worked 1-2-3 innings in the 7th and 8th as the Mariners tried to rally, but that home run would sadly loom large later in the game. Solo home runs aren’t supposed to beat you, except when they do.
Another former Mariner, Matt Wisler, struck out the side in the seventh, but started off the eighth giving up a double to J.P. Crawford and a single to Haniger. Ty France struck out in yet another rough PA for him on the day, but it was a wild pitch bringing J.P. home to once again bring the Mariners within a run. Seager just missed hitting one out of the Trop and the normally reliable Toro popped out harmlessly, though, meaning the Mariners would need to rally in the ninth inning with the bottom half of the lineup to have a chance at a sweep. But lefty Ryan Sherriff disposed of Fraley on three pitches, then got both Tom Murphy and Jarred Kelenic to fly out harmlessly to end the game. On the bright side, Kelenic didn’t strike out against the lefty! On the not-bright side, Kelenic had two strikeouts in the game, as did four other Mariners en route to a 12-strikeout day for the team with just one walk. That’s not a winning baseball formula, nor is 2-for-7 with RISP, and it’s something that needs to be cleaned up before the team disembarks in NYC for an important series with the Yankees, who will be eyeing their own opportunity to take 6 of 7 from a team on the season.