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Mariners snooze, lose 4-1

Sometimes baseball is exciting, sometimes it’s designed in a lab to amplify melatonin production

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

There is too much baseball.

There just is. 162 games is just too many. The thing about baseball is that as much as there are such things as “good players” and “bad players,” at the end of the day, each player is a random number generator. Different things will happen every day even with pretty much identical starting conditions, such as the same people playing the same game on the same field. As I’ve written before, there is very little rhyme or reason to it, and it’s best just to go with the flow.

Sometimes, though, the flow sucks.

So it was tonight. I don’t think any one of us expected this game to be an easy win, not with Verlander on the mound. Intellectually, we knew that his last start in which he gave up four home runs, including ones to Kyle Lewis and Julio Rodríguez, was an outlier rather than the norm. Today in Houston, he pitched like Justin Verlander, allowing just one run in 7 innings and over 100 pitches.

Seattle Starter Chris Flexen also pitched fairly well, although he only made it 6.2 innings. Flex gave up just two runs on a couple of goofy little flare base hits in the bottom of the fourth. That’s all he would surrender, though, so when he left the game, the Mariners were down just one run. Another Quality Start from Flex, another perfectly winnable game for the Mariners.

As usual, however, the Mariners staunchly refused to provide any run support for Chris Flexen, and so he was on the hook for the loss. Pitching wins and losses are silly and don’t really matter, I know. But I would still like for the Seattle Mariners to please score some runs and not waste a great start against the scariest lineup in the division.

Well, let’s talk about this good things from tonight’s game. Penn Murfee entered in relief in the 8th inning and once again prevented any runs from scoring. (Unfortunately and bafflingly, he came in approximately two batters too late, as Scott opted for some dude name Ryan to pitch the 8th, and then subsequently gave up a two run shot to Yordan Álvarez.) But we’re here to talk about good things!

Taylor Trammell and Julio were great in the outfield and both made spectacular sliding catches. Check out some replays:

So that was cool. What else was good? Oh! Altuve fell over trying to leg out a double and then he just kinda laid there until he was tagged out. He wasn’t hurt or anything, he walked right back to the dugout once he was out. Maybe the dirt was just comfy. I guess it doesn’t really count as good, but it was, objectively, very funny.

But now, dear reader, I would like to get on my soapbox and talk about the one run scored by Seattle. See, the only Mariner to come away from this game with an RBI was Abraham Toro, my beloved. And he did so on an RBI fielder’s choice that very much could have become a double play if it weren’t for Toro’s speed and Frazier sliding directly into Jeremy Peña’s leg.

That’s not the kind of batted ball you want to see with the bases loaded and one out. If that had ended the inning, it would have been crushing.

In the eighth inning, Toro came to bat with the bases loaded and one out. This time Adam Frazier did not slide into Peña’s leg, and Toro was not fast enough to beat out the double play. This came after Toro turned on a couple sliders that just, just got foul. If they hadn’t they could have easily been bases clearing doubles. Sometimes baseball just sucks.

And now, constant reader, I have finally arrived at my Point. It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Abraham Toro is good, actually. And, importantly, getting better.

We are probably going to have to deal with some exhausting Toro discourse on Twitter for the next couple of days, so I just want to jump ahead of it and make my case for my beloved.

These dots are redder than last time we saw them
Baseball Savant

I would like to start with a question. Which Mariners player with the largest gap between their xBA and actual BA? It’s not Jesse Winker. It’s Abraham Toro, by a long way. His xBA of .269 puts him in the 63rd percentile, in the upper half of major league hitters. But through that he’s suffering a BA of just .163. His xSLG of .490 is in the 72nd percentile, but he’s carrying a slugging percentage of just .333. He’s been getting super unlucky at the dish.

And he’s doing what he needs to do. This year Toro is pulling the ball more, hitting more line drives and barreling up the ball more. He’s also starting chasing less, perhaps the biggest flaw with his swing from last year.

I probably spend more time on Abraham Toro’s Baseball Savant page than anyone else, including his coaches, so believe me when I tell you that his numbers are getting better, and that he is due for a massive swing in his luck. So in the meantime, we can forgive ABs like the one he had in the 8th inning.

After all, tonight he did something no other Mariner, not Ty France, not Julio Rodriguez, could do. Bat in a run. And that’s all a hitter’s job is.

I started this recap by saying that there’s too much baseball. That’s true, but the good thing about there being so much baseball is that you can shower off bad days and quickly get back on the field. Today sucked, sure, but there’s another game tomorrow, followed by a lengthy and relieving homestand. Tonight’s loss is washed away, and tomorrow’s game starts at a score of 0-0. I’m looking forward to it.