There’s nothing I love more than pure, joyous chaos. Throw in some comedy, some unexpected turns, and just a splash of heart, and I’m all in. That’s a huge part of why my favorite Disney movie is and likely always will be The Emperor’s New Groove. It’s also a large part of why the Seattle Mariners have remained my favorite team from childhood despite being the weirdest team to ever exist in any sport, rather not in spite, but because of it. If today’s game was a movie, to me it would be The Emperor’s New Groove, as the Mariners took the zaniest path possible to a 8-4 victory over the Rays. The score might lead you to believe that Chaos Ball had no part in today’s game, but you would be wrong.
If today’s game was The Emperor’s New Groove, then the star of this show was absolutely Logan Gilbert. There were certainly times where his command was missing the mark, and that can be reflected in his three walks he had given up across his 5.2 IP. What matters more than where he missed is where he was on, and tonight he absolutely was on. The rest of his line really shined as he threw 62 of his 104 pitches for strikes, gave up zero runs on only two hits, and fanned a total of seven Rays batters. Of those seven, four of them looked absolutely silly whiffing on pitches outside the zone. Admittedly, one of them was on a bad call that missed a few inches off of the plate, but it was also helped by some great framing from Tom Murphy. Also, given the way those calls have pummeled the Mariners’ batters all season, I’m going to chalk that one up to karmic justice. You can feast your eyes on every beautiful (and the one ugly) K here:
Gilbert ended up throwing 59 of his pitches as fastballs, and he did a good job of mixing in his off-speed pitches as well, generating a respectable if not spectacular 21% Whiff rate across his entire repertoire. With the three walks and a wild pitch in the fourth I wouldn’t say that he was exactly elite, but he impressively had a no hitter working until a Manuel Margot single in the bottom of the 5th. The only other hit off of him in the sixth, another single, this time by Brandon Lowe, who was clearly getting revenge for his two swinging strikeouts earlier in the game. Gilbert now is rocking an absolutely elite and league leading 0.40 ERA. Even with expected regression, it’s hard to argue that he isn’t settling in nicely to a big league rotation.
If all of that seems pretty tame, worry not, I promised you chaos and chaos you will get. There were lots of moments throughout the game that rang of weirdness, such as when Logan Gilbert let a pitch get away from him and almost hit former Mariner Ji-Man Choi in the shins, only for Choi to foul a pitch off that ricocheted off of them anyways. Another came in the top of the 7th when Tom Murphy appeared to strike out swinging, only to reach base on a rare catcher’s interference call. That wasn’t even the weirdest Tom Murphy play in the game, rather that was a double in the top of the 5th inning that would have been a home run if Tropicana Field didn’t have an extremely odd hat-on-a-hat situation with a fence sitting on top of a wall, separated by a gap-that’s-not-a-gap. It’s a play you have to see for yourself.
Truthfully, I don’t watch enough Rays games to know if that is a common occurrence, but it seems given the nature of home runs and launch angles that it’s possible enough to make that an inherently bad design just begging for, well, chaos.
Where the chaos truly lived was the top of the 4th, where the Mariners went on to score 7 of their 8 runs, not a one of them scored an Earned Run. It was absolutely Looney Tunes, or rather, The Emperor’s New Groove. One comical moment was a controversial bobbled ball by Lowe that seemed clearly like an error, only to my eyes appear to have been secured for the out on the replay, only then for the Rays to lose the challenge and for Suárez to be called safe at 2nd loading the bases with only one out. This perfectly set up a Tom Murphy chopper to Choi, that he inexplicably pitched into the ground in the short distance home, allowing Winker and Suárez to come around and score. “Pull the lever, Kronk. Wrong lever!” Julio Rodríguez immediately followed that up with the hardest hit ball of the night, an impressive 108.6 EV line drive to the center-right gap for a double that scored Abraham Toro. From there Dylan Moore reached on a HBP that quite frankly, probably wasn’t, as it appeared to miss his foot completely. Chaos, am I right? The bases were loaded yet again with one out, but it lasted exactly one pitch as Adam Frazier jumped on a sinker Josh Fleming left dead center, finding the grass in right field and clearing the bases with a triple. Finally, France also attacked first pitch and singled to left field to bring home Frazier.
It all was started with a Jesse Winker single to right field, scorched off the bat with an EV of 104.3. He also hit a lineout to Kiermaier in the 1st and another lineout to Margot in the 8th that had EVs of 106.1 and 99.4, respectively. Although Winker only had a 1 for 5 night with a strikeout, he stays hitting the ball hard, and eventually some of those have to fall in for hits. Right? Right???
The final run scored by the Mariners came off of a Ty France sac fly in the top of the 6th to score Frazier, and with an 8-0 lead it seemed the rest of the game could play out rather safely. Enter, yet again, chaos. An eight run lead was too comfortable for the elder gods of baseball, and so they deemed that the Mariners must allow the Rays to get some on the board as well, much to the chagrin of M’s fans with heartburn troubles everywhere. Those runs came in the bottom of the 7th from the Rays’ youth movement, and off of one Mariners reliever named Matt Koch. First from a two run home run from René Pinto, making his Major League debut at catcher after Zunino was pulled for injury, his first Major League hit. Genuinely, good for him. The next and final bit of damage came from another two run blast, this time from Wander Franco. Luckily the bleeding stopped there and Koch was able to get Yandy Díaz to softly ground out to end the inning without needing to be pulled.
Andres Munoz came in to work the 9th inning, and although he gave up a single and a walk, he was never really in danger as he got all three outs with strikeouts. One of those Ks was a slider against Wander Franco that had so much movement when it ended up in the catcher’s glove it was completely behind him. In fact, all three of his strikeouts came with the slider, the last a slider way inside the zone that had Choi baffled.
Be it my favorite movies, or my favorite baseball team, I love it when expectations are subverted. I love chaos, but I also love a happy ending. Today’s game took some wild twists and turns, but when the Mariners were told there would be sharp rocks at the bottom, they said “bring it on”.