I’ve never needed someone to tell me to finish my food. As a certified >90th percentile height and weight projections youth, I have reached and exceeded expectations in all directions. While I heard apocryphal stories of parents invoking the infamous theoretical starving children elsewhere to spur reluctant eaters, it never occurred to me as a child that anyone wouldn’t simply eat what was in front of them until it was gone. Tonight the Seattle Mariners showed me that that philosophy was far from universal.
They got things going well early, stuffing an entire dinner roll in their gullet with one swing of Julio Rodríguez’s bat.
Unfortunately, while frequent entreaties not to “fill up on bread” were scoffed at as the tribulations of lesser-stomached individuals in my childhood, that quick opening may have upset the stomachs of Seattle’s boys in blue. Adam Frazier made the universal face of regret, something that would be made clear across the next several innings against erratic Angels starter Patrick Sandoval.
The Mariners loaded the bases in the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th innings, failing to score either of the first two times and nearly squandering the third before Jesse Winker tucked into his veggies and worked a 3-2 walk to drive in a run. Kevin Padlo, a.k.a. Padlock No. 5 for the spot in the order he got to hit in today’s mess of a lineup, snuck a grounder through the right side for another two runs to give Seattle runs three and four. They even added in the 7th inning, with Dylan Moore striking a deep fly ball to make good on a Justin Upton walk and Cal Raleigh double, giving them the final morsel requisite for them to be dismissed from the table with a 5-3 victory.
But even in triumph, it’s necessary to highlight how needlessly fraught the process was. 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and 12 runners left on base is a mess.
JP furious after this call. Thought he might get thrown out. pic.twitter.com/ZB3KwS52Fc— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) June 26, 2022
While I’ll give J.P. Crawford a pass for his 3-2 2nd inning strikeout on bases juiced due to, well, you can see it up there, it’s also more shocking Seattle threatened so often in the first place given the limitations of the back 44.4-55.5% of today’s lineup. Cal Raleigh doubled twice with no outs, singled, and walked, and managed to neither score nor drive in a runner all game. That is... not easy to do! This lineup is coming alive in places it’s been dormant for most of the season, specifically with Raleigh and Winker, who stayed hot at 2-for-4 with a walk, but it is incredible to see them continue winning with a group like this.
This victory could rightfully be credited to the offense despite their shortcomings and impotent poking of their peas around the plate, but the bullpen earned their flowers this evening as well in relief of a serviceable-but-not-dominant Logan Gilbert, who scattered nine hits and two walks over 5.2 IP and yielded three runs, including a Kurt Suzuki wall-scraper and a Shohei Ohtani wall obsoleter. Ohtani’s 460+ foot blast was the type of shot that almost was borne of carelessness, a grooved 3-1 heater Sho-Time could not have been sitting on more authoritatively if he’d been perched on a throne.
And yet where Gilbert set it down, the bullpen kept it. Penn Murfee doused a light sixth inning inferno with a single strikeout, then southpaw Ryan Borucki stretched his walkless streak to 24 batters, and casually maneuvered through, well, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Jared Walsh. Perhaps Scott Servais got too cute keeping him in for an extra frame to get Luis Rengifo on his weaker switch-hitting side, but he also pushed Phil Nevin to dig into his bench for a righty pinch-hitter to Brandon Marsh before bringing in Diego Castillo, so the gamesmanship may have washed out in Seattle’s favor. Efficient, weak contact came off Castillo’s bat and into the gloves of the M’s, leaving Erik Swanson the ninth inning. Was it stressful? Yes. Did he nearly decapitate Mike Trout? Absolutely. Was that the impetus needed to spur a blessed intentional walk of Trout? Apparently! Ohtani approached the dish with two on and two out and could not clear the final plate. Taylor Trammell tracked down his low fly ball to right, and the M’s tucked a sweet victory candy in their pocket to nosh on later as they relived the joy of moving past Anaheim in the standings at last.