Before the Mariners and Diamondbacks even stepped on the field, tonight was filled with opportunity for Seattle’s taking. With the A’s and Yankees both losing (the Yanks losing to the Orioles, no less!), a win tonight meant the M’s could catch Oakland and at worst keep pace with the Red Sox, who would win in walk-off fashion over Cleveland. Last night’s nail-biter was nice, but any time you’re in a playoff hunt and you win when your direct competitors also pull it out, it feels pretty bittersweet. Blowing a chance to gain some ground? Even worse! Thankfully, Humberto Castellanos came out of the gate looking as hittable as any opposing starter I’ve seen this year, surrendering back-to-back singles to J.P. Crawford and Mitch Haniger before Kyle Seager jumped all over the meatballiest meatball to put the Mariners on top quicker than you could crack open a cold one.
The party kept going after the blast thanks to Ty France singling and Abraham Toro working a walk, but Seager’s dinger was it for runs, with Jarred Kelenic bouncing into a double play and José Marmolejos popping out, but that was okay! Marco Gonzales was coming off of a scintillating August, and started his outing by ringing up Nick Ahmed on a perfect inside fastball. Pitching around Ketel Marte to walk him didn’t matter, either, especially because Marco got a 2-0 swinging strike on a perfect low-and-away changeup. As long as he had that working, he’d be just fine. He fought Carson Kelly to a 1-2 count, once again never straying from that inside corner. Perfect spot for a changeup, and Marco felt the same. He delivered, and...
No sweat, though! Marco got Christian Walker on an easy groundout to Seager, but right after that, any wheels that had stayed on after the dinger promptly started coming loose. A single from David Peralta was sandwiched between two hit by pitches up and in to Andrew Young and Drew Ellis, and after Seattle Prep album Stuart Fairchild snatched the lead with a two-run double, the stress in Marinerland started to climb, even if Marco was able to get the pitcher out to finally end the first inning.
not sure what was more painful, watching that inning or charting it pic.twitter.com/4PADZqOd1l— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 5, 2021
A J.P. double was the only thing of note from the bats over the next two frames, though Marco settled down a bit and got through the third with no further damage allowed, despite a leadoff double from Ahmed in the second and a one-out single from Peralta in the third. He had started to mix in his curveball to my delight, and while the command on it wasn’t as sharp as we’re used to seeing, he still worked off of it pretty well, this sequence to Young in the third being a prime example:
Once the fourth inning rolled around, Seattle’s bats woke up once again. Kelenic legged out an infield single to get things going, and Marmo smacked a double into the right field corner that sounded every bit as loud as 110.7 MPH off the bat should. Manny Acta holding Kelenic at third was a little puzzling, especially as Cal Raleigh and Marco went down on strikes. Marco, though, battled at the plate as hard as a pitcher could, working Castellanos for nine pitches before going down on a 2-2 curve, which proved to be the end of the line for his counterpart. Lefty Caleb Smith came on to face J.P., and after spitting on twin low-and-away sliders, he got an inside fastball he could handle to once again give Seattle the lead.
Mitch worked a walk before the offense was sat down from a Seager flyout, and I have to prepare you for what happened next. For one, with the pitcher’s spot due up for the Diamondbacks, they elected to keep Smith in to hit, which is a smart move on Torey Luvello’s part to preserve his bullpen. Marco got him to 1-1, threw him a fastball up and outside the zone, and the righty swinger somehow got the barrel to it and sent the ball here:
With extra bases firmly in the bag, Smith gunned for third, but Jarred Kelenic was able to get the ball on the rebound and start a perfect relay to Crawford and Seager, who nailed Smith at third after he came off the bag. Thank goodness, too, because after a flyout from Ahmed, Ketel Marte exacted his revenge for being traded nearly five years ago with a game-tying home run to right field. Honestly, though, it was hard to be mad at - Marco threw him a very good 1-0 changeup in almost the same spot he had swung and missed at in the first inning, and he was able to get the barrel on it. Gonzales was able to get through the fifth without any further damage, and after a first inning where he bent as far as he could without snapping, he was through five complete, and the return of Anthony Misiewicz and Diego Castillo meant the bullpen was at full strength minus a heavily worked Paul Sewald. Things felt... good? They felt better after pinch-hitter Luis Torrens stroked a base hit up the middle and J.P. notched his first four-hit game of the season with a doily to end all doilies in the sixth.
Haniger would pop out, but it didn’t matter, as Kyle Seager has officially set his sights beyond Texas and has opened a branch in Arizona.
Hot damn! That’s the third pool homer by a Mariner since the D’Backs entered the league in 1998, and the first since Denard Span’s heroic extra-innings blast there in 2018. Unlike those other two, though, this blast gave us a true work of art: belly flops, luchador masks, and splashes, oh my!
Once that cannonball hit the pool, the game was all but over. No sweat that the offense couldn’t push across any more runs! Casey Sadler, Erik Swanson, Tony Sandwiches, and Castillo all held the D’Backs off the board, with Misiewicz shaking off a leadoff double from Young and a very close one-out walk to Ellis in the eighth to turn the bottom of the lineup away and Castillo erasing a base hit with a double play to seal the win. Dylan Moore, coming in as a pinch hitter and replacing Marmo in left, also made a very nice catch in the ninth to quell any worries after the single snuck through. Hooray for a good defensive bench and smart substitutions!
As nice as this win was - as amazing as Kyle Seager was to almost single-handedly deliver the win like he has so many times over the years - the real prize was catching Oakland. Not gaining ground, not getting to a game behind looking to tomorrow. Full on, in every sense of the word, catching them. Still being out of a playoff spot aside, that feels like such a huge accomplishment given their role of boogeyman every time the Mariners have fielded a competitive team in the last decade. They might slip away, never to be caught again after tomorrow, but for now, they’re in our grasp, and with Robbie Ray looming for them and Chris Flexen going tomorrow for Seattle, there’s some hope to be had that they’ll be leapfrogged, and may that be the last time this season the two teams cross paths in the standing.