We’re coming up on spooky season, so here’s a scary story you’ve seen many times before before: the Mariners, edging towards national importance and gaining playoff momentum, play a high-profile nationally televised game, proceed to throw up on their shoes, and lose badly, embarrassing both themselves and the fanbase.
They do so against their hated division rivals, in a ballpark designed by the fine people at Shrinky-Dink, painted the subtle and pleasing hue of “nuclear traffic cones,” that sounds like the inside of your head might after you get into an ill-fated raki-drinking contest with a Hagrid-sized stranger.
They do so flailing against Houston starter Lance McCullers and his seemingly impenetrable offense of curveballs and changeups, despite his refusal to throw a single fastball, despite some shaky command (four walks in six innings). They do so because the Mariners, as always has been, as ever will be, cannot lay off McCullers’s soft stuff (seven strikeouts in those same six innings). He withholds the fastball not because he has to but because he can, purely for the flex of being able to say I’m not even beating you with my best stuff.
They do so behind shoddy pitching, beginning with Yusei Kikuchi, who had absolutely zero command of his pitches today, lasting just 1.2 innings and surrendering six runs on four hits while walking four. He threw less than half of his 42 pitches for strikes, and those numbers would look even worse if not for an Altuve TOOTBLAN gifting the Mariners an out in the first. Kikuchi was followed by Sheffield, who gave up two runs of his own over 2.1 innings and had to be bailed out by Joe Smith, and then Sean Doolittle, who the Astros pounced on like post-recess grade-schoolers at a class pizza party. And then, because somehow there are even more innings to be played even though this game was clearly over in like the first two innings, Matt Andriese, who allowed hit lucky number 13, and 14, but didn’t allow another run to cross the plate, making him my Favorite Player for today at least.
They do so while stranding runners, and blowing scoring opportunities, and generally doing the other things this offense does when they’re being incredibly frustrating, which is pretty much always. They walk four times, but strike out seven in the first six innings alone en route to ten strikeouts in the game. They cannot muster more than two runs thanks to Abraham Toro doubling in penance for a two-run error he committed earlier in the game. They ground into double plays three times, including one to end the game.
And the entire time, the Astros fans in the building woo incessantly, they hoot and holler, they are the soundtrack to the haunting of the Mariners in this house of horrors, 3-22 in this building since 2019 with a run differential of lucky -113.
The good news is there are only two games left against the Astros this season. The bad news is, especially after Boston and the Yankees lost today, it looked like this would be the start of three games where the Mariners could scrap for relevancy, and instead, once again, wound up getting their doors blown off. It’s a story Mariners fans have read many times before, and it never gets any more palatable. Spooky season is fun until it’s your baseball team that gets haunted every fall.