The best thing I learned from the chocolate Advent calendars I had every year as a child was the joy of doling out pleasure bit by bit. The first couple years I was allowed to have it in my room, unsupervised, I admit: I pried open every one of those windows within a couple of days, stuffed the chocolate down my gullet, and then as a consequence had to spend the rest of December watching longingly as my smarter, more disciplined younger sister carefully punched out her tiny chocolatey treat every night after dinner. It didn’t totally cure me of my love of excess [hastily shoves nail polish collection out of view], but it did teach me early on that life is more often hard than not, and a little forethought in measuring out pleasure can go a long way to making every day a little sweeter.
Unfortunately, the 2022 Mariners seemed to have been passed out under the Christmas tree in a haze of marzipan and fondant while these hard-won lessons were being learned. This is a team that loves nothing so much as monastic self-deprivation coupled with the kind of excess that wouldn’t be out of place at Versailles. It’s no fun when it doesn’t work, like last night or the night before, but it’s a ton of fun on a night like tonight: fireworks night, Star Wars Night, the weekend kickoff to a homestand against a division rival. And if they want to pretend that the run scarcity of the last two games doesn’t exist, well, it’s more fun to be on the party wagon than be the gray-suited frown in the corner, isn’t it.
The Mariners offense got off to a quick start against Angels starter Michal Lorenzen and never looked back. After a down night last night, Julio ran the create-your-own offense play in the first, singling to left field, taking second on a Brandon Marsh bobble, and then swiping third when Max Stassi couldn’t find the ball on a wild pitch. Eugenio Suárez then singled him home to put the Mariners on the board immediately.
Eugenio Suárez starts us off! pic.twitter.com/X5T2fN26zM— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) June 18, 2022
Cal Raleigh added to the scoring in the second:
Big hit for Cal Raleigh!⚾️ pic.twitter.com/Yac5GlhMoj— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) June 18, 2022
Cal didn’t even hit that perfectly—he got it off the end of the bat, and honestly that’s only out at 7/10 MLB parks, but that’s just how strong Calboy is. The Mariners added another run in the third, when another Julio single scored Ty France who had singled and then took second on a wild pitch, and third on another Stassi error. We haven’t seen the Mariners really punishing other teams for the mistakes they’ve made, both at the plate and in the field, so this was great to see tonight.
After those first three picket fence innings, the Mariners broke things open in the fourth, taking advantage of some shaky command from Lorenzen with two walks and a single to load the bases. J.P. then walked to score the Mariners’ fourth run of the game—again, punishing mistakes, we love to see it—bringing up Ty France with the bases loaded.
They would not be loaded for long.
[Sidebar. Look. The All-Star Game is kind of silly. We know this. That being said, an ASG nod means a lot to these players. It gets them a little star on their B-ref pages. It helps the younger players argue for more money during arbitration. And it’s important to them. So regardless of your feelings on it, be a good person and vote for the players you think are deserving, because you know it would mean a lot to Ty France if he got in, as he should. Okay. Back to the recap.]
With the game blown open, things were smooth sailing after that, although the Mariners did add one more run just for funsies in the sixth against mop-up man Austin Warren because both Cal Raleigh and Taylor Trammell could use a little more gilding on their statlines for the season.
Things were such smooth sailing that I didn’t even realize Robbie Ray had a no-no going into the seventh until he lost it. Sorry, Robbie, that one was on me. In my defense, RR didn’t look super-sharp initially. He walked Trout as the second batter of the game on four not-close pitches, which, understandable, but then got into a protracted battle with light-hitting Matt Duffy before retiring him and then hit Luis Rengifo with two outs to create a little unnecessary trouble for himself in the first. In the postgame, Ray said he thought he was “a little too amped up” in the first and was getting down the mound too quickly.
From the second inning on, however, Ray was on another level against the Angels. He had the Angels chasing all night—Juan Lagares really struck himself out in the second inning—using that brand new two-seem fastball to get the righties chasing up and outside of the zone, but also pairing it with the slider to get even more swing and misses. And while it would be easy to chalk this up to a good pitcher facing an Ohtani-less weak Angels lineup, Michael Nelson Trout himself had two strikeouts tonight against Ray.
Let’s look at them both. First up, it’s that two-seamer Ray used all night to get the righty batters chasing:
And three innings later, it’s the trusty old slider (and a little bit of celebration from Robbie, which I now realize isn’t just “I struck out Mike Trout twice” but “I struck out Mike Trout twice and only have to see him one more time if I keep get this no-hitter going”
Ray would lose the no-hitter in the seventh on a stupid little ball that bounced off his glove that maybe could have been ruled an error, but then in the eighth gave up a couple other hits that were definitely hits, so he’ll have to be satisfied with a seven-inning, 10-strikeout performance. Penn Murfee couldn’t keep the leadoff triple off the board, which isn’t really Penn Murfee’s fault, so it wasn’t a shutout either, but we’ll be happy with this performance on both sides of the ball.
I continue to wish the 2022 Mariners would score like...four or five runs a game, instead of zero one night and seven or eight the next. I know what mid-December looks like, when the wind is cold and the holidays are so far away yet, and how much it can mean to have a little guaranteed nice thing waiting for you. But we hear over and over again how young this team is, so hopefully soon they too will understand the value of saving something for a rainy day. Maybe we should start rolling some highlights from the Arkansas Travelers before every game. But after a pair of disappointing, offensively flat losses, I’m pretty willing to look the other way and slip them some extra chocolate under the table, for now.