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Keys to the Mariners’ improbable 10-9 victory over the Blue Jays

They don’t call it the Tame Card

Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Two Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Yesterday’s game was so wild we’re still all processing it, but similar to what we did with Friday’s win, let’s attempt to break down what helped the Mariners walk away from the Rogers Centre headed to the ALDS. Also, forget keys to the game, I’m naming them Keymasters, yes I did just recently re-watch Ghostbusters, why do you ask.

The biggest WPA (Win Probability Added) swing in the game for the Mariners was, obviously, J.P.’s bloop bases-clearing double, which caused a 36.9-point change in the odds of who was going to win the game, pushing the Mariners (47.4 WP%) nearly even with the Blue Jays (52.6 WP%) for the first time since the second inning, when the Blue Jays had zoomed out to a huge lead in that department thanks to Teoscar Hernández’s towering home run.

The second-biggest WPA swing was Frazier’s ninth inning go-ahead double, another over 36-point swing which pushed the Mariners to 88% odds to win the game. Those two swings together are massive—according to baseball-reference’s “Biggest Comeback Wins” stat, the Mariners’ comeback yesterday is the fourth-least likely comeback in recorded postseason history. In a bit of symmetry that probably will not soothe Blue Jays fans, the Mariners’ win against Toronto is sandwiched in between two other Toronto games: Game 4 of the 1993 World Series, when the Blue Jays rallied to beat the Phillies 15-14 with a six-run eighth inning, and Game 4 of the 1992 ALCS, when Toronto squeaked out a win against the Athletics in extra innings.

Keymaster #1: Adam Frazier

Even though J.P. had the hit of the day by WPA, Frazier was the overall darling of the day by WPA, with .472 thanks to his three hits. Frazier has a reputation for seeing Gausman well—in 33 plate appearances, he was hitting .406 off Gausman—so moved up in the lineup despite his recent offensive struggles. As his teammates tried and failed to lay off Gasuman’s splitter, Frazier was one of the only Mariners hitters to make good contact with it, lining out sharply in his first at-bat as Bo Bichette took a hit away. Frazier was also the first Mariner to get a hit—all the way in the fifth inning, which isn’t usually a recipe for offensive success. But again, knowing that he had to keep the split in mind, Frazier was aggressive on the fastball he saw from Gausman, taking a pitch that was up at his eyeteeth and lining in into left, this time away from the hungry glove of Bichette. That would set up the Mariners’ first run of the day on Santana’s double. And while the go-ahead double was obviously a (literal_ game-changer, Frazier’s single in the eighth off Romano that loaded the bases with no outs was also important in that it got him and his above-average speed on base, which allowed him to score on J.P.’s bloop double.

Keymaster #2: Bend-don’t-break bullpen

Look, I don’t know about you, but it felt like Paul Sewald gave up elventy hundred runs. He gave up four! Which isn’t great, but okay. Things happen. Meanwhile, Festa and Murfee, who have both had their shaky moments lately, combined to give up just one. Muñoz looked a little tired after reaping the Jays’ hitters’ souls yesterday and still kept them off the board. George Kirby took off his glasses and showed he can don the cape of the bomberos too. Matt Brash, pitching in front of friends and family, and in his home country for the first time as a pro in the biggest game of his life, didn’t let the moment get too big on him and also put up a scoreless inning. Diego Castillo bopped Whit Merrifield in the helmet with a slider but didn’t let that snowball into something disastrous and tidied things up after that. This wasn’t the bullpen’s best performance, but it was enough to absorb both Ray’s poor start and Sewald’s shaky outing and hold the door long enough for the offense to come back.

Keymaster #3: Cal Raleigh

I have been vocal for years about my feelings regarding Cal Raleigh. He’s my best friend, he’s my pal. He’s my homeboy, my rotten soldier. He’s my sweet cheese. My good-time boy. So I am not an unbiased source but I feel like the MVP of this series is 100% the Big Dumper. In addition to handling a pitching staff that was fire one day and going up in flames the next, Cal provided the early offensive spark the team needed in Game One, as well as coming up big in this game. Raleigh’s first at-bat against Gausman was a great one, as he showed an ability to lay off the splitter many of his more seasoned teammates did not and was able to work a walk. He made good contact with the splitter his second time up but ultimately got bamboozled by a perfectly-located fastball for a strikeout looking in his second at-bat, but he also chewed up seven pitches from Gausman in that at-bat. And on his third time seeing Gausman, that damaged pitch count worked in his favor as Gausman missed badly with a fastball and the split—which we already know Cal is not inclined to chase—before giving him a fastball Cal looped into left field to load the bases. That was his first of three hits on the day, along with the RBI single in the eighth off Bass and the double in the ninth off Romano that would turn into the winning run when Cal crossed home plate on Frazier’s RBI double. Raleigh scored three times, tied with Teoscar Hernández, and did it without putting the ball over the wall. That’s Big Dumptastic.

Edge: Big Dumper

Keymaster #4: Eugenio Suárez

Do you remember how during the Mariners’ epic comeback in San Diego, how Leonys Martín—at the time on the injured list—got a bunch of credit for contributing to the comeback with his energy in the dugout? Every comeback needs a cheerleader, and yesterday, that person was Eugenio.

(sound on):

And the cheerleading continued: