Remember last year when the Mariners had like fifty ties during the Cactus League? And then we were treated to a year of Chaos Ball? Well Chaos Ball is back, baby. Kind of. Sort of. Look, it wasn’t a loss, that’s what matters.
It looked like today might be the day for the bats to wake up after the Mariners scored two runs quickly in the first off Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks. Abraham Toro, after making a nice running catch in the sun to end the first inning, led off with a single. Julio followed that up with a double to score Toro, and Eugenio Súarez also doubled to score Julio. Fun!
Sadly, that lead would be short-lived. Robbie Ray struck out the first batter he saw, Rafael Ortega, on a nasty slider, and mowed through the first 1-2-3, showing that sharp slider and a fastball that sat 93-94 MPH.
He ran into a little trouble with his command in the second, walking Alfonso Rivas on some fairly noncompetitive pitches and then leaving a fastball in the middle of the plate for Ildemaro Vargas that the righty yanked just over the 340’ mark in left. Ray rebounded, however, striking out Dixon Machado and Michael Hermosillo, both swinging, to end the inning, and he added another swinging strikeout of Own Caissie in a 1-2-3 inning in the third. He also escaped damage in the fourth despite an error on Suárez letting Yan Gomes reach first (and a passed ball on Cal Raleigh letting him get to second), and a walk (to Rivas again, annoying), but again rebounded to get two easy, weak-contact outs to end the inning and his Mariners debut.
Unfortunately, the bats remained quiet over the first seven innings of the game. Abraham Toro had another single as he continues to lead the team in spring batting average, but other than that, the Mariners went quietly before the Cubs’ second and third string pitchers.
Today was also the Mariners debut of Ken Giles and he looked a little rusty, as you might expect for a guy who hasn’t pitched in over a year. Giles walked the first batter he saw and then left a fastball in the middle of the plate that Lanky Canadian Lad Owen Caissie tattooed to the gap. He was able to find a handle on his changeup, though, for this strikeout of Rafael Ortega, and then got another two flyouts to end the inning (both probably a little deeper than he would have liked).
Next up was Diego Castillo, who struck out Clint Frazier in the first batter he’s seen this spring, and would have had a 1-2-3 inning where a ball didn’t leave the infield except for a tricky comebacker off the bat of Ildemaro Vargas.
Nice to see Diego Castillo "the slider monster" make his spring debut. pic.twitter.com/tZeJtIwreG— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 23, 2022
We also saw Nick Margevicius for the first time since his TOS surgery, and he started out well, with a strikeout of Michael Hermosillo, before giving up three straight singles and a sacrifice fly, allowing two runs to score. But again, completing a healthy inning is the big win here, so good for Nicky Marge/Nick MoreCabbages/Large Marge.
Connor’s new favorite pitcher, Danny Young, had a clean inning, with a leadoff base hit (that probably would have been snagged if anyone other than the statuesque Ford was playing first) that was erased by a routine double play. The last pitcher of the day, Yohan Ramírez did...Yohan things, hitting a batter, but also collecting a strikeout and a groundout. Encouragingly, Yohan was much more in the zone than we’ve seen him in the past, although discouragingly, that led to some pretty protracted battles in the batter’s box, with Yohan needing over 20 pitches to clear his inning.
The Mariners offense did have a bout of terminal lucidity late in the game;
Daniel Vogelbach Mike Ford hit a two-run homer in the eighth, and Donovan Walton led off the ninth with a single and eventually came around to score on a game-tying single from the pride of Campbell University, the Fighting Camel himself Spencer Packard. Good for the 2021 draftee, having a moment. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough for the Mariners to come away with the win. Tomorrow is an off-day, but the team will have another chance to get that elusive spring training W on Thursday against Cleveland.