Before the age of radio, ships at sea would communicate using signal flags. Each flag was unique, and had a different meaning for everyday civilian use, either as a letter or as a code.
In navies, however, in order to keep movements and strategies a secret, the signal flags would take on their own coded meanings, with a codebook kept aboard ship, not too dissimilar from coaches and players giving signs in baseball. In today’s game, there were plenty of hoisted flags warning the Mariners of what was to come, plainly obvious to us watching the game. The Mariners, however, must not have seen them.
The narrative surrounding Robbie Ray this season is that of The Inning™. For more on The Inning™, please see this recap from staff writer Shay Weintraub of Robbie’s last start. For the first couple of frames, I thought that Robbie was trying out some new strategy. It looked like he was trying to get The Inning™ out of the way early so he wouldn’t have to worry about it.
In the first, Robbie allowed a single to Jed Lowrie, who then moved to 2nd on a Chad Pinder fielder’s choice. He fell to 3-1 on Bethancourt, and none of those pitches looked any competitive. It looked like The Inning™ would be the first. Then Bethancourt mercifully grounded out to retire the side. One down. Eight to go.
The second inning really threatened to be The Inning™, and this is when we got our first signal flag of the game.
Runners on second and third with no outs is a bad place to be in, no matter who’s pitching. It’s arguably worse than having the bases loaded, since the only force play is at first. With Robbie up, though, it felt like we were about to watch the A’s put up 5 runs.
But that’s not what happened. In fact, the A’s didn’t get a single run this inning. A flyout to Taylor Trammell in right field seemed like a sac fly situation, but the A’s third base coach didn’t want to test Trammell’s arm, and held Andrus up. A couple of full count strikeouts later, and Robbie got off the mound. The Inning™ was avoided. For now.
After a clean third inning, and inducing a couple weakly hit balls for outs in the top of the fourth, Robbie tried to grove a first pitch fastball down the heart of the plate to Seth Brown. Brown, a lefty, had only ever hit a single home run off of a lefty pitcher in his career before today’s game.
He’s got two now.
But a solo shot does not a The Inning™ make, and Ray struck out Kevin Smith on three pitches to retire the side. After another dangerous frame in the fifth with Christian Pache on third with only one out but where Robbie struck out the next two batters he faced, it was time to start the sixth.
Pinder opened the frame by striking out, granting Robbie his eighth K of the game. But then, bad things happened. Bethancourt singled and Elvis Andrus his this fly ball to left field.
I put the clip here because I want you to watch this baseball. It, despite being a home run, was not really “struck well.” It had a .080 xBA, and just about everyone in T-Mobile park figured it was a long flyout. But it got juuuuuuuuuuuuuust over the wall. Also, note Jesse’s awkward route to the ball. I really like Jesse, I think he’s fun. Not a great fielder, though.
But that weirdo homer was it for the A’s in the sixth, and Robbie did not come back for the seventh. So, dear reader, I have to ask: does this count as a The Inning™? I’m inclined to say no, actually.
I don’t think Robbie Ray pitched great today, certainly not Cy Young caliber, but he didn’t melt down like he has recently. Is that a good sign? I don’t know.
Robbie has a reputation as a guy who strands runners, and that’s cool and all, but to strand runners, there have to be runners. And I think that’s what causes The Inning™. Last year he had success stranding all those runners, but this year it’s catching up to him, and he’s letting dudes score. Maybe that’ll change and The Inning™ will be a thing of the past. Maybe it won’t. I don’t know. Baseball’s like that.
You’ll no doubt notice, dear reader, that I have avoided talking about the Mariners lineup thus far. That’s cause they stunk and were boring. Whomp whomp.
There is one guy I want to talk about, though. And that is Luis Torrens. Luis had himself a mixed day today. On the bad side, he had a couple of poor attempts to throw out baserunners, both throws going up the line and almost into right field.
On the good side, however, he did drive in the first run of the game on this nice little line drive.
Cool and fun. But the real show was in the top of the seventh. Torrens was given the unenviable task of catching a wild Andrés Muñoz, who couldn’t quite spot his 100 mph heater. After a double and a wild pitch that moved the runner to third, Muñoz fired a fast ball that kicked off Luis’ glove to the backstop. That didn’t bother Luis or Andrés one bit, though.
Not in this gif is Torrens’ beautiful barehanded grab and flip to Muñoz. Luis is looking better and better every day behind the dish. Maybe one day he’ll throw out some base stealers too. I think this play was good enough to earn Luis his own version of my favorite gif.
Ty France did manage to score in the eighth on a wild pitch, although watching Ty run the bases is a perfect example of Y - I am dragging my anchor. The A’s got another run in the ninth off of the otherwise lights out Paul Sewald, and by then the game was pretty much cooked.
I can understand being frustrated with the Mariners right now. They clearly aren’t playing their best baseball, and they aren’t scoring runs. To me, watching bad offense is the most tiring thing about being a fan of this sport. It also doesn’t help that the M’s have lost two games back-to-back where their starters got at least nine K’s, the previous occurrence of that coming in June 2011. In June 2011, all I knew of baseball was vague memories of my dad trying to make me right handed back in little league. And then making me throw righty in the outfield. I am incredibly lefty. I must have had a defensive WAR of -100.
Will the Mariners start playing better? I don’t know. I hope so. This series was supposed to let them get back on their feet, but dropping two of three to the previously worst team in the division stinks. And with the Astros coming to town this weekend, it’s probably going to get worse.
So what can the Mariners do? If I knew that, I’d have Dipoto writing me checks. But I have a suggestion. They could start by taking after their historical eponyms and obeying signal flags. After all, the signs are all there.