Some wins are comfortable, and others are...less so. They’re still wins, but they feel a little prickly. Right now Kermit the cat is velcroed to my side while I’m typing this recap, expressing his delight in this situation by ever-so-gently kneading my leg with his paws, including the delicate stilettos of his retracted claws. It hurts a little, but not consistently, and not enough to upend a sleeping, happy cat: kitty dream-snuffles and a deep, rumbling purr coming out of the warm little furry body cocooned at my hip. There’s something that feels monastic, ascetic about bearing this low-grade pain to preserve a little tranquility in the universe. It’s a sensation not unlike watching these 2022 Seattle Mariners: not pleasant, exactly, and painful when the claws sink in, but punctuated by periods of a steady comfort, even joy.
The Orioles have, through the first two games of this series, mostly been the team as advertised in our series preview: some very very good pitching, occasional bursts of offense, and a steep dropoff between the top of their lineup and the bottom. Last night’s offensive explosion against George Kirby, Learning Curving it so hard he’s gotten a million-dollar grant from the NEA, aside, tonight was basically exactly the Orioles we previewed for you: a lineup that more often than not soars or falls on the back of their top four hitters, with a pitching staff that keeps them close throughout games.
Robbie Ray fared much better than against the free-swinging Orioles, although not without some wildness: he issued two walks in the first two innings before working a clean third, and then in the fourth, allowed his first hit of the game to Ryan Mountcastle on a single, then walked Rutschman with just one out to create his first real jam of the day. Ray was able to rebound to strike out Nevin, but the Orioles executed a perfect double steal (stolen off the pitcher, nothing Raleigh could do about it), keeping the pressure on with two outs before Rougned Odor surrendered on a soft popout.
After the fourth, however, Ray locked in for another three innings. He retired the Orioles in order in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, adding three more strikeouts for a total of eight on the day, finishing seven innings at under one hundred pitches, a good sign for Ray’s efficiency going forward.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, Orioles starter Dean Kremer matched Ray blow-for-blow, also completing seven innings at under 100 pitches, although with more modest strikeout totals (5). Kremer also struggled with his own command at times, allowing some hard-hit balls that he was lucky didn’t leave the yard—like a Cal Raleigh flyout that came off the bat at 105 MPH with an xBA of .950—but the Mariners weren’t able to punish his biggest command lapse in the fourth, when Julio started off the inning absolutely torching a ball back up the middle at 111.5 MPH. After getting Winker to pop out weakly, Kremer’s command problems popped up again as he issued back-to-back walks to Suárez and Santana, but Taylor Trammell grounded into a double play to end the inning without harm—to the Orioles, at least, as Trammell pulled up while running to first and signaled to the Mariners’ dugout “I’m done.” Servais clarified in his postgame comments that yes, the injury is the same hamstring that had bothered Trammell earlier the season, causing him to miss a month, and also suggested Trammell might possibly need an IL stint, which would be about the worst possible timing with this round of suspensions coming up. Claws: dug in. Thus concludes the Pyrrhic Victory section of the recap.
On to the victory victory part. In the eighth, the Orioles pulled Kremer for Cionel Pérez, who disposed of Kevin Padlo and Abraham Toro, striking both of them out swinging. Then J.P. Crawford chose an excellent time to break out of a little slump he’s been in lately, shooting a single into left field. With Julio coming up to bat, the Orioles opted to bring in flamethrower Félix Bautista for a little power-on-power matchup. What happened next was proof that Julio grew up with the same grandma I did who always admonished me not to drive any faster than my guardian angels can fly (note to all the grandparents out there: this is terrible advice, teenage Kate just imagined all her guardian angels were Italian engineered and ran on premium):
Some heads-up baserunning by J.P. Crawford and Julio Rodríguez -- and some good luck -- has put runners on the corners with two outs in the 8th inning instead of ending it.— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) June 29, 2022
A look at the bang-bang play: pic.twitter.com/RykOTXYYsa
This should be an out, probably! It comes off the bat at 98 MPH, which seems fast but for Julio is like, a leisurely Sunday stroll. But apparently Julio’s guardian angels have been putting in the same work he has, because after the ball clanks off Bautista (which, ow), Mountcastle scoops it up and almost gets the hustling Julio, but the ball pops out as he tries to tag the flying Julio. But wait! Julio is well past him; all Mountcastle has to do is get the ball and tag him, or the bag, before Julio gets back!
Instead, once he gets the ball, Mountcastle makes the choice to...throw to third? I imagine the entirety of the Orioles fanbase looking at this still and shrieking TURN AROUND! like it’s past midnight at the karaoke bar and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is up.
Anyway, divine intervention or not, Julio was safe.
Then Jesse Winker was up, and his guardian angels were all like hmmm you’ve done some damage to our brand lately?
So they decided to have a little fun. Everyone thought this was a home run. Aaron Goldsmith did, on the TV call.
Everybody here thinks it’s a home run:
These fans all did:
Winker’s guardian angels: lol you thought
Ah well. Two runs is almost as good as three runs.
But hey! That was all the Mariners would need, thanks to Ray’s strong start, and lockdown innings from Diego Castillo and Paul Sewald, who collected three strikeouts between them in two perfect innings. Tonight it was just enough, with a little helping hand from our old friend Chaos Ball. It only took a little bit of bearing the low-grade pain of seven scoreless innings and yet even more LOBsters in the 2022 Mariners’ pot, and then the sweet release of that ball cracking off of Winker’s bat. Tonight, it’s enough.