Spring Training: A chance to see the new kids mix with the veterans, test their skills, fail, and try again. But enough about Lookout Landing’s new hires. The Mariners played their first night game of the spring this evening against the White Sox in a radio-only game.
I went into this game disappointed there wouldn’t be a TV broadcast because Marco Gonzales was making his second start of the spring, and command pitchers are the ones I most want to see video for, to say nothing of Marco’s general telegenic demeanor.
As it turned out, Marco did not have anything I wanted to see tonight. He was missing from the very beginning, walking leadoff hitter Romy Gonzalez. He would get to three full counts in that first inning alone, and had another in each of the third and fourth innings. Despite his lack of command, the defense bailed him out, turning two double plays behind him in his four innings of work. Suarez also saved his bacon in the fourth, diving on a short hop that made Rick Rizzs say, “Holy Smokes!” like only a sexagenarian can. Shannon Drayer agreed, calling it Suarez’s “first defensive star next to his name as a Mariner.”
Marco’s final line on the night had him with two hits, one strikeout, and three walks, though one of those walks came on the 11th pitch to Gavin Sheets after Cal Raleigh lost a gimme pop foul in the lights.
Once Marco hit the showers, though, the bullpen came in to show him what Major Leaguers are supposed to do to a lineup full of the White Sox depth. It started with Paul Sewald striking out two and getting six whiffs over four hitters. #SeaUsWald. Then Ken Giles came in, and though he was only at 94 on his fastball, there’s still time for him to ramp it up, and even without his elite velocity, he struck out another two hitters.
Drew Steckenrider made his spring debut after that with an efficient one-two-three of a strikeout, a bloop caught by Walton at short, and a lazy 6-3 groundball. Next up, Andrés Muñoz, who set the radar gun ablaze with a 100 mph first pitch. It was another three-up/three-down inning with one strikeout, but let me tell you, the sound of the crowd was different. The tempo rose; you could hear it. This guy’s going to be a treat this season. Get hype.
Andrés Muñoz, Filthy 87mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/yrhnm2Fe4Y— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 30, 2019
(This .gif is not from tonight of course, but is presented for illustrative purposes.)
Devin Sweet closed it out with a one-K, three-batter inning of his own. Frankly, the fact that none of these relievers even broke a sweat has me more than a little concerned about Marco. Yes, yes, spring training, weird ramp up from the lockout, etc., etc. But between the quality of opponent (an off-day for all the Sox starters but Vaughn and Grandal) and the loss of command being just so un-Marco, I’m more worried than I typically would be for his second spring start. Let’s hope it’s just a hiccup.
On the other side, Sox starter Dylan Cease was dealing, at one point striking out five of six batters. In a nod to the olden days of baseball on the radio, the Mariners were able to score off Cease in the first with some small ball. It started with a Frazier double and a Ty France sac fly to get him to third, and then Frazier scoring on a contact play when Haniger grounded out to third. Baseball is moving away from the contact play, but for my money it’s one of the most exciting things in baseball, and it’s great that Scott Servais is willing to give it a shot once in a while. Being aggressive like that is the bread and butter of Chaos Ball.
Frazier was the only one who could really handle Cease tonight, working two walks to go with that hard double. He’s been on base half his times to the plate so far this spring, has looked like the most reliable non-Dylan-Moore thing the Mariners have had at second base since 2017, and is making smart choices on the bases. I’m bullish that his late season swoon with San Diego in 2021 was an aberration.
That brings us to Jarred Kelenic, who, like the tulips of Skagit Valley, is showing us some beautiful growth this spring. Mimicking this beauty from yesterday,
he kept his front side strong, sturdy, and in-line to knock a double in the fifth off Tanner Banks, who is apparently a 30-year-old, career-minor league-pitcher for the White Sox and not a mashup of 90s family comedies. Here’s what the Mariners Twitter account alleges that looked like:
That double set off a string of more small ball that would see Seattle plate two more runs on a Raleigh 4-3 fielder’s choice, Frazier’s second walk, and hits by France and Haniger (Haniger’s first of the spring).
But more important to me than Kelenic’s double was his three-pitch strikeout in the third inning. The Jarred Kelenic I came to know (and love) last summer would have gone full Tarantino at a three-pitch strikeout. Apparently, though, mothers can do wonders because I heard no F-bomb picked up by any of the on-field mics. This gets JK the inaugural Sun Hat Award for key contributor of the game. Growth!
Julio Watch: if this is what you came for, may I recommend this instead:
Julio came into this game hitting .364 with an instantly iconic home run and four RBI. He left having added three strikeouts, all looking, including one to Kendall Graveman. Credit where due, in two of those ABs, he worked a 3-2 count, but that’s mighty small consolation. Worse than the strikeouts, though, was his attempt to man centerfield. In the sixth, he got caught in between on a shallow line drive, Leroy Jenkins’ed it, and the ball got to the wall, turning a “single to center” into a “single to center, advances to third on E8.” Now let us never speak of this again.
But let’s not end on a bummer for the Mariners first shutout this spring, bringing their record to 3-3. Spring is about hope. It’s about rebirth. It’s about the new, so let me just inform you that Abraham Toro, though he did not get to make a play, is now officially an outfielder, having subbed into left field for the back half of the game. What a world. Credit to fellow LL newcomer Jacob Parr for my new favorite .gif.