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Mariners sleepwalk through eight innings, jolt awake in time for 4-3 victory

this had all the makings of a boring loss until it didn’t!

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

If I can hold the LLLJ stick for a second, last night I had the roughest night’s sleep I’ve experienced in some time. Tossing, turning, falling into that weird, restless half-awake zone, being coaxed out of bed at 2am by concerning meows only to discover that one of your cats just needed some attention... you name a common insomnia symptom, I’ve got you covered. Compounding things was a surprisingly busy shift at my day job this morning and afternoon. A horde of grad season preorders, new hires, and plenty of over-the-counter sales meant that by the last hour or so of my day, I was beat, and ran down the clock cursing the night before. Seems like I’m officially too old to have caffeine after 12pm.

Conventional wisdom, as well as countless studies, have long held that while it isn’t quite known why we need consistent, restful sleep, it is critical to one’s health and ability to function. Per Michael Twery at NIH, sleep affects pretty much every tissue our bodies contain - blood pressure, stress hormones, and breathing are just a few items on the laundry list of bodily functions sleep impacts. All things, you might have guessed, are pretty big deals for professional athletes!

So, when Rick Rizzs and Shannon Drayer mentioned that the Mariners boarded their flight out of Baltimore at 1am Eastern time and didn’t get to the hotel in Arlington until around 4am Central, I was sympathetic. Ballplayers, they’re just like us! The late arrival forced Seattle to skip on-field batting practice today, and if I hadn’t known about their traveling trials, I could have made an educated guess in the early going. Dane Dunning needed just 23 pitches to carve through the first eight hitters in Seattle’s lineup, and the first inning was especially lethargic: Jesse Winker and Ty France notched two groundouts on a combined three pitches, and Julio Rodríguez went down on another three for his first of a trio of strikeouts on the day - yikes! With three potential no-hitters reaching the seventh inning across the league tonight, I was relieved when Cal Raleigh put any worries about that to rest with two outs in the top of the third, cranking a double into the right field corner on a 1-0 sinker.

That type of short swing was one I remember seeing quite a bit from Calboy back in March, and pulling it out in a game that counted was just delightful. Jesse Winker would go down on strikes to end the inning, but things felt... decent in the moment? Like when you pull an all-nighter and get through most of the morning with minimal issue, naïvely thinking you’ll be just fine. Let’s roll with that for now.

For his part, Logan Gilbert matched Dunning beat-for-beat, although with a radically different arsenal. He opened the bottom of the first with nine straight fastballs, fighting leadoff man and Create-A-Player Josh Smith for seven pitches before surrendering a hard-hit infield single before getting Marcus Semien on an easy fly to center. Not exactly out of the norm for him.

Then he did something I haven’t seen a ton of this year: he started mixing his pitches in the first inning. After Corey Seager flew out to left on a first-pitch curve, Logan alternated fastball and slider to Mitch Garver before a 2-2 curve retired him on another fly ball Julio’s way. He did go back to his fastball-heavy ways in the second, with just two changeups and a curve to complement the heater, but it had tons of life in the early going, routinely touching 97 and 98. As an added bonus, Gilbert set a new record for his speediest pitch with a 99.3 MPH scorcher to strike out old enemy Jonah Heim ending the second.

my .gif maker seemed to make jonah heim an enemy objective

Logan’s next two innings breezed by, too. He worked around a one-out walk to Smith and some uh, ~questionable~ calls behind the plate facing Semien to escape the third without any damage, and absolutely undressed Adolis García with a runner on first to end the fourth. Ted Barrett didn’t have the best game tonight overall, but that at-bat to Semien should have been a strikeout four pitches earlier. Can Gilbert get a double K for this one?

The bats also started doing some fun things around this time, like when you get that random 1pm second wind. In the fourth, Ty France led off with his tenth hit-by-pitch, becoming just the second man in baseball after Willson Contreras to reach double digits there. Julio then struck out, but J.P. Crawford flicked a 2-2 changeup off the plate down the left field line for a double, with France scooting into third base just in time. Much was made about J.P. cooling off significantly following an otherworldly April, but in the last couple of weeks, he’s come out of it - in his last seven games in particular, he’s slashed .304/.467/.522, with a wonderful 7:3 BB:K ratio. I’m as surprised as anyone by his cleanup hitting status, but anything like that makes it a hard argument to move him out. Eugenio Suárez grabbed the lead with a sac fly, and although they wouldn’t get anymore runs in the frame, Cal Raleigh doubled their lead in the fifth with one swing.

Hitting that kind of shadow pitch at 109 miles per hour 425 feet takes some serious pop, and with the double earlier, this was pretty confidently Raleigh’s best day at the plate so far. The average is still pretty heinous, and the contact ability still needs to take some steps forward, but including tonight’s game, Calboy’s wRC+ sits at 77 and trending upwards. With his defense, that’ll play. Gilbert worked around a leadoff double to Heim in the fifth, and it seemed like things were rolling pretty well in the Mariners’ favor. Pffft, like they wouldn’t have been able to handle the day after an all-nighter.

Unfortunately, the bottom of the sixth meant hitting that 2pm wall - the one where time drags to a halt, where all you want to do is curl up and pass the heck out no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Semien reached on a rare throwing error from Eugenio, and Kyle’s brother doubled him in three pitches later to get Texas on the board. Garver was sat down on a much easier groundout to third, but Kole Calhoun - perpetual, insufferable Mariner killer Kole Calhoun - struck with another double to tie. Boo. BOOOOOO. Thankfully, Gilbert bore down and retired García and Heim without surrendering the lead to end his night, and a little flair after getting Heim on strikes his usual even-keeled demeanor.

A quick top of the seventh meant that it was Roenis Elías’s time to shine, and, well, you know how I mentioned hitting that 2pm wall? Roenis didn’t hit it so much as ran face-first into it. I am pro-Roenis and take no pleasure in reporting this.

Sure, he made quick work of the next three Texas hitters, and yes, Penn Murfee struck out two in the eighth to keep it a one-run game, but at this point it seemed like the M’s rough travel schedule and night’s sleep had gotten to them. The top of the eighth exemplified that: Taylor Trammell beat out an infield single, but Raleigh followed with a brutal at-bat, staring at three hittable fastballs without so much as a muscle twitch. It was hard to be too mad at the Beef Boy after he provided a huge chunk of the offense tonight, but that was pretty painful. Winker hit a can of corn to left, and France continued his mini-slump by striking out. At this point, a loss was made up in my mind, and all things considered, it could have gone worse. Shake it off, get some ACTUAL SLEEP tonight*, and get back at it tomorrow.

*this also doubles as a note to myself

We all know what happened, though. Julio put the ball in play for the first time tonight with a fly ball to center he juuuust got under, J.P. worked a walk, and Ayyyyyugenio Suárez came through with that last-second coffee to make the final push of the day.

Did somebody say... Good Vibes Only??

No more runs came across, but that was all Paul Sewald needed, as he got Heim to ground out and picked apart García for a quick two outs. He did allow a pesky walk to pinch-hitter Sam Huff, but rebounded to seal the win - the first of Penn Murfee’s career, in fact! - on a dirty strikeout of Andy Ibáñez. Phew! What a game. What a long 24 hours for our Mariners. On the additional bright side, though, this game wrapped up in a tidy two hours and fifty-one minutes - over a full hour shorter than yesterday’s extra inning slog. With consecutive wins in the bag, tonight’s a good night to turn in early, recharge those batteries, and get back at it tomorrow. Another victory would mean three straight series wins, and if tonight’s triumph was the effort they put in on little sleep, hectic travel, and no BP? The Rangers should be pretty worried once our boys are all rested and back on their routine.