Man. I mean, man alive.
Where to even start with this one?
I suppose we could start in the top of the first, with Logan Gilbert touching triple digits for what I believe was the first time... ever? Let’s go with ever. Despite only one pitch of his first fifteen in the opening frame being a non-fastball, he had my attention (well, even more than he already does) after he juuuust missed ringing up Ramón Laureano and set down the top of the A’s lineup in order.
Might feel like you see it more often but only 16 major league starting pitchers have popped a on screen this year. https://t.co/NYrDyj8kGe— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) July 1, 2022
If high octane isn’t your game, though, we can set our sights to the bottom of the frame, and right away, it was made clear that things were going to get weird,. Julio was in the leadoff spot today, and was promptly plunked by an Adrián Martínez changeup. Jesse Winker followed up with a base hit into left field, gunned for second base, and...
Despite the throw beating Winker by at least ten feet, the normally sure-handed Elvis Andrus, for reasons unknown, moved the ball out of his glove to his bare hand, missing him completely. Can’t say I’ve seen that in at least a very long time! Eugenio Suárez walked to load the bases with no outs, and despite the familiar groans coming, I was confident that Carlos Santana would live up to his Slamtana nickname.
Not so. Santana not-so-smoothly popped out on the first pitch, and things started to look a bit grim. Abraham Toro thankfully delivered on a sac fly to score Julio, but Elvis Andrus ended up getting the last laugh on Winker in what was a truly bizarre 7-2-5 double play. Just look at this and tell me it makes sense.
Whatever. Just thank goodness Julio scored before the out at third, and that the M’s at least grabbed one. The second inning was more of the same for Gilbert as far as pitch mix goes - a curve and a slider the only deviations from the fastball plan - but it also featured the second otherworldly LoGi effort of the night, one not seen since Mike Leake all way back in 2018.
Think fast pic.twitter.com/LSubVlnQJK— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 1, 2022
The bottom of the second passed by uneventfully, but Elvis Andrus exacted revenge again leading off the third, cracking his fourth homer of the year and his third in T-Mobile Park to tie it up. Seriously, what do the A’s feed this guy before coming to Seattle? Sheldon Neuse and Nick Allen continued the hit parade with an infield hit and a bunt single, and after a Tony Kemp sac bunt put them both in scoring position, it felt like chaos was on Oakland’s side. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time the A’s ruined our dinner.
This time, though, that’s not what happened. Gilbert struck out Laureano on four pitches, and used his body to knock down a hard-hit grounder from Seth Brown for an easy out at first to escape without any further damage. Oh, and that at-bat to Brown? Just one fastball over six pitches, with a changeup being the final offer. Simply put, that’s some ace shit right there. All that was left was to take the lead back, and my God, did Julio Rodríguez deliver.
This home run frankly deserves its own article, but let me gush for a minute here. Adrián Martínez is tied for fifth in ground ball rate in the PCL (!) among pitchers with at least 60 innings, at a healthy 47.4%. That pitch was a sinker right on the outside corner with a bit of late break - in other words, it’s nearly impossible to do anything with it other than beat it into the ground. And Julio casually flicked it out to dead center field to pull into a tie with Suárez for the team lead in homers. It’s bordered on a meme at this point, but it feels more true with each bomb, stolen base, or outstanding catch in center: is it possible we’re underappreciating Julio Rodríguez? Give him the Soto contract as soon as possible.
Emboldened by a new lead, Gilbert worked around a leadoff single from Stephen Piscotty to retire the side in the fourth, which included an absolute dismantling of Skye Bolt for a three-pitch strikeout. Despite the bottom of the frame getting to two outs pretty quick by way of Toro and Cal Raleigh flying out to nearly the same spot, some more fireworks were on deck for Seattle’s bats. Adam Frazier notched a clean base hit, and Dylan Moore and his Hank Hill booty put yet another inexplicable charge into a 3-2 sinker on the inside corner. I, for one, will be on my deathbed wondering how a man with such narrow hips can generate that much pop.
That dinger proved critical, too, as the A’s got right back to work in the top of the fifth. Neuse snuck a hard-hit grounder under DMo’s glove at short, and after Allen swapped spots with him on a fielder’s choice, Kemp doilied a single over Carlos Santana’s glove at first to put runners on the corners. Laureano fouled off a first-pitch curve in the middle of the zone, but got each and every bit of an 0-1 fastball in the heart of the plate to once again make it a brand new ballgame. Blahhhh. On Pride Night of all nights, too? That, to me, feels a wee bit homophobic.
To his credit, LoGi did bear down after the dinger, getting Brown on a nice play by Eugenio and ringing up Piscotty on a full count slider. For the M’s to pull this out, though, they’d need some weird shit to go down. Even weirder than everything that had happened earlier - and that’s saying a lot considering we’re nearing a thousand words by the bottom of the fifth.
Of course, some weird shit went down. What else did you expect? Chaos is back, babes.
Jesse Winker sandwiched his second hit of the night in between a Julio flyout and an Eugenio strikeout, then Carlos Santana checked in with his first hit as a Mariner, a ringing single that one-hopped to the wall. Crucially, Winker was able to motor into third, and Abraham Toro, our beloved, flicked a single the other way into left to bring him home for the lead. As a treat, Adrián Martínez was also knocked out of the game
“Hey!” you might be saying. “That isn’t weird or chaotic! Winker and Toro have been hot lately, and nothing about that sequence was unthinkable. You yankin’ my chain, Connor?”
I promise you, I am not. Cal Raleigh - the last of three straight switch-hitters in the lineup - fell behind 1-2 to A.J. Puk, got a slider in the zone he could handle, and blew the doors open.
Everything about this sequence is just a delight. The ball clanking off of Bolt’s glove; Santana’s casual little wave towards Toro; the throw bouncing off Cal, who had slammed on the brakes sliding into third before getting the wave from Manny Acta. All of it chaotic, all of it weird, all of it incredible. Cal even got the AC treatment from Julio in the dugout! No more runs would score for the Mariners tonight, but Raleigh did notch a double in the eighth inning to put his wRC+ on the year to 117. Add on a double digit walk rate, increasingly competitive at-bats, and some praise from Scott Servais for emerging as a leader? I think we have a catcher of the future.
we know someone that’ll be sleeping good tonight pic.twitter.com/NSq2MvIE1S— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 1, 2022
Gilbert breezed through the sixth and was sent out to start the seventh, a semi-understandable move that backfired pretty quickly. A walk to Neuse and an infield hit from Allen that Logan threw away was the end of the line for him, and in a lot of ways, this was a 2021 LoGi start. A heavy reliance on fastballs early? Check. A couple homers? Right there. A few long battles with guys where he tries to blow a fastball by them? In the first couple innings, definitely.
And yet, it was enough. Andrés Muñoz came on to prevent Gilbert’s line from becoming even more unsightly, and did so admirably, retiring Kemp, Laureano, and Brown with a respective popout, strikeout, and groundout. Annoyingly, Oakland didn’t go quietly, stringing together two hits and a walk to grab a run in the eighth against the red-hot Diego Castillo. Thank goodness for a little thing called insurance runs, and give it up one more time for Juliooooooooooooo!
Those extra runs proved important once again in the ninth, as Laureano struck once more with a one-out solo shot off Paul Sewald that just snuck over the wall. Thankfully, it didn’t trigger any clenching, as that was the only flaw in a save where Paul struck out the other three hitters he faced.
Phew! Now that was a game worthy of Pride Night. Some back-and-forth, a gutty pitching performance from your ace, strong defense, and a CATCHER TRIPLE make this one of the wildest wins of the year, and one we’ll definitely be looking back on with a grin - not least because the M’s caught the Angels tonight! June is in the books at 15-13, and with three more games on the horizon against these A’s and a softish schedule heading into the break, we’re back in that “anything is possible!” realm, and that is worth celebrating. Happy Pride, folks.