As much as I love this sport, low-scoring games that take forever are the opposite of fun. A 10-8 slugfest? Hell yeah, run out the clock. A zippy 2-1 pitcher’s duel? Sign me up.
I should have expected a slog given that it was a bullpen day for the Yankees and they’re the Yankees, but man, that was just unpleasant all around.
Not to take anything away from Marco Gonzales, though. It’s been no secret that he’s struggled through easily the worst full season of his career, and while he has been better his last few times out, Joey Gallo’s pop-up home run remained fresh in my mind. Thankfully, Marco got off on the right foot with a 1-2-3 bottom of the first, including a pretty strikeout of Anthony Rizzo on a blazing 90 MPH fastball.
Trouble started brewing in the next inning, though - back-to-back walks to Giancarlo Stanton and Gallo emanated bad vibes, especially with the still-pesky Gleyber Torres and the punchable Rougned Odor due up. Not that Marco was fazed. Didn’t you know how top-heavy this Yankees lineup is? Torres and Odor went down on a popout and routine fly ball, and after striking out Kyle Higashioka to end the frame, Gonzales was in cruise control the rest of the evening. Those two walks were the only ones he surrendered, nine swinging strikes was perfectly cromulent, and other than base hits from Stanton and Torres in the fourth and seventh, he kept the bases empty. Although he wasn’t able to get through seven full, this was easily the best start of the season for him, and if a return to the 2018-20 bulldog is on the horizon, that is a big sigh of relief for this year and next.
Alas, the bats couldn’t do much at all against the perpetual parade of pinstriped pitchers. Wandy Peralta,
Clint Frazier Stephen Ridings, Joely Rodríguez, and Clay Holmes were all able to keep runs off the board while scattering four hits across 5.1 innings. The only time they struck in regulation was in the sixth, when old (and I mean old friend) Lucas Luetge came on to relieve Holmes after he allowed a one-out single to Mitch Haniger. Luetge, against all odds, has been a remarkably solid bullpen option all season for the Yankees after making the Opening Day roster and getting into a big league game for the first time since 2015, and a dominant strikeout of Kyle Seager showed exactly why. He couldn’t contain Ty France, though, who lashed a 109.7 MPH single into left field, and Abraham Toro continued to pants the Kendall Graveman Narrative:
Check out Mikey’s deep dive into Toro here, but here’s something to highlight just how good he’s been: after a 2-for-5 evening, his wRC+ with Seattle dropped by sixteen points all the way down to 244. I don’t think Kendall Graveman could do that. Dylan Moore came on to pinch hit for Jake Fraley and struck out, but you take that every time, especially because Marco delivered a scoreless sixth and Joe Smith closed the book on the seventh with no fuss - although it would have been nice to bring home Cal Raleigh in the top of that frame after he smoked a triple-digit fastball from Jonathan Loasiaga into the left field corner for a double. Positives! But hey, no worries. For as flat as the Mariners’ offense looked, the Yanks’ wasn’t looking much better, and Scott Servais opted for Diego Castillo to face the pinch-hitting husk of Brett Gardner and the top of New York’s order for yet another smart call.
Unfortunately, as quickly as Toro pantsed the Graveman Narrative, Castillo pulled them up as fast as possible. Walking both Gardner and DJ LeMahieu and plunking Rizzo on the shin, it took him just fifteen pitches to load the bases with nobody out, and everyone and their dog was expecting a complete meltdown. Partial credit to Castillo, though - a sacrifice fly from Aaron Judge and a double play off the bat of Stanton kept things from getting much worse. It didn’t really matter, though. The loss felt inevitable, even after Drew Steckenrider worked out of a jam to send the game to extras. And yes, even after J.P. Crawford brought a pinch-running Tom Murphy home in Manfred ball, some doubt still lingered:
That joy proved to be short-lived thanks to a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play about two minutes later, and Kyle Seager flying out meant Erik Swanson was on to navigate the save. Pitching around LeMahieu was fine, as was getting Rizzo to line out to right and making Judge look pretty silly on a 1-2 split, and for a brief moment, the idea of pulling out a win started wiggling in my mind. Giancarlo Stanton made sure to snuff that pretty quick, though. Breaking his bat on a first-pitch fastball on his hands, he somehow dunked it into right field to bring home the zombie runner, and we were right back where we started. Swanson did strike out Gallo to end the inning and keep the game pushing, but Albert Abreu held the middle of the Mariners’ order fruitless, culminating in a Jake Bauers pinch-hit groundout into the shift. Pretty gross that I had to type that out in August, in my opinion.
Keynan Middleton was tasked with holding the line, and aside from intentionally walking Odor for the second time in the game (fine with me, honestly. A walkoff from that guy would have sucked so much), he looked pretty effective, getting Torres on a pop up and wiping out Higashioka on five pitches. All that was left was Brett Gardner, and Key had him at 2-2. Just one more strike and the circus could continue.
He didn’t have it tonight - a fastball up is something even someone as washed as Gardner can catch up to, and he stroked it into center for the win. What a shitty game, y’all. Long and rife with pitching changes, a punchless offense, bullpen meltdowns, a strong starter performance wasted. This was a classic Mariners! loss in a season with surprisingly few of them to this point. Maybe that’s why it feels so much worse. That and the fact that the one-run record is crashing back to earth, although most of us anticipated that happening at some point. Oh well, no point in dwelling on it. There’s another game in about twelve hours that could wash the stink of this one away. Let’s keep putting one foot in front of the other.