Okay, so that jaunt in Florida wasn’t great. If you’re hunting for reasons to be optimistic - and really, why wouldn’t you be this early - they sandwiched an ugly four-game skid with a win in Tampa and Miami, with yesterday’s victory featuring one of the brightest moments of the young season. Surely coming off such a solid win, the M’s could go to Houston and keep the good times rolling! After all, they won the opening home series against this same team in convincing fashion, and were facing a guy who they had already beat up on in Jake Odorizzi. Yeah, Marco Gonzales was starting just five days after taking a rocket shot off his wrist, but after a seven-run eruption, it was a safe bet that the bats would show up again. Right?
Alas, they did not.
It’s not like they didn’t have chances early, either. Ty France poked a one-out single in the top of the first only to be erased by a Jesse Winker double play, and Julio Rodríguez’s stolen base streak came to an end after a two-out single in the second. Even if you’re arguably the fastest guy in baseball, running on Martín Maldonado is a fool’s errand.
To Marco’s credit, though, he kept the offense in the game all night. It could have gone much worse, too: he started his outing by walking José Altuve on four pitches, giving up a solid base hit to Michael Brantley, and handled a fielder’s choice from Alex Bregman to bring two runners in scoring position with one out. To make matters worse, the ever-dangerous Yordan Álvarez was due up. It was really easy to picture a moonshot into right-center field here, burying the M’s before they could even have a chance to stir.
Gonzales, however, had other plans. Yordan fouled off a first pitch fastball that was up in the zone, watched three straight close pitches for balls, fouled off another high fastball, and then whiffed through a lefty-on-lefty changeup - a truly ballsy move from Marco that paid off.
A 4-3 fielder’s choice let him escape without any trouble, and for a hot second, it looked like Marco was gonna spin a gem. For all the ~justified talk about his struggles to start the year, this had the makings of a narrative-changing start. Imagine the thinkpieces if he had secured a win after enduring 109 off his throwing hand less than a week ago! He retired six of the next seven he faced, including a perfect third, and who cares that Odorizzi faced the minimum his first time through? We were still deadlocked!
Unfortunately, Yordan Álvarez manifested what was always an inevitability in this series.
It’s just a one-run deficit! It’s still good, it’s still good! Marco did his darndest to keep it that way, too, fighting around a double immediately after that homer to grab three weak contact outs, and Houdini’d out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth to hold the Astros to just a run. Still plenty of time for the offense to get it going!
Alas, my #rallybowl efforts failed in the sixth, a two-out Luis Torrens single the only gift (both for me and for him - happy birthday, Luis!). Marco dutifully came back out for the sixth, likely his last frame no matter what happened. Kyle Tucker battled him for nine pitches - easily his longest at-bat of the night - before reaching second on what was ruled as a hit and an error on Adam Frazier, who mishandled a hotshot in shallow right field on an extreme shift. Not great! Chas McCormick was retired on an easy fly ball to right, but Carlos Correa heir Jeremy Peña struck the killing blow.
Whether it was rational or not, to me, that was the game right there.
that home run got me looking like my favorite reaction image pic.twitter.com/ts3wJmkMg7— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 3, 2022
If you’re looking for any other highlights from tonight, you might have to hunt high and low, Stratovarius style. Anthony Misiewicz and Wyatt Mills stopped the bleeding, at least? The offense made old enemy Rafael Montero work a bit before closing out the game with an Eugenio Suárez double play? A thin gruel, I know. Here, how about a brilliant play from Abraham Toro, third baseman to get Maldonado out immediately after that Peña bomb? That’ll go down nice.
Honestly, though, whatever. Marco turning in a bare-minimum quality start alone chalks up as a moral victory, no matter how sick we are of taking those. Both Julio and Jarred Kelenic looked good in the field, too, further dispelling worries about this team’s outfield defense. All good things! It just wasn’t enough tonight, and the offense was as listless as it’s ever been so far this year. Chris Flexen goes against Cristian Javier tomorrow, and forgive the short notice, but we are planning a gathering at Lowercase Brewing in Georgetown to come together and watch the game. We would love to see your faces if you can make it - it’s been far too long since a proper LL meetup, and who knows, maybe our collective presence a couple thousand miles away could will the M’s into a victory. Only way to find out is to show up!