Ten. Ten wins in a row. For the first time since 2002, before this humble site existed. The last time the Mariners had a streak like this going, I was ten months old.
How did we get here? It feels like last week when depression had seemingly overtaken the community, and I was writing a think piece on the joys of nihilism in baseball. Less than a month ago the Mariners lost four of five games to the Disgraced Former Anaheim Angels, including both games of a double-header. (on my birthday no less!) But since that series, the Mariners have won seven series in a row, including four sweeps. How did that happen? Maybe the answer lies in this afternoon’s game.
The Mariners sent George Kirby down to Tacoma to manage his workload going into the break, so this game was a planned bullpen game. Not a problem, since the Mariners bullpen has been the best in MLB however you want to measure it; FIP, SIERA, ERA, and, most crucially for relievers, LOB%.
Erik Swanson opened the game, going two innings without allowing a baserunner and striking out one batter. Tommy Milone pitched the bulk of the game, going 3.1 innings. He allowed 3 hits and a couple walks, but no runs, thanks in part to Torrens throwing out Luis Garcia as he tried to steal second, right before Lan Thomas hit a double well over Winker’s head.
Matt Brash was, well, Matt Brash. He had filthy movement and speed, but had a hard time throwing his stuff for strikes. With two outs in the 7th he walked himself into a bases loaded jam, and Diego Castillo had to come in to dig him out. Which he did with this crime of a slider.
Sewald came in to close for the second time today, and although his appearance wasn’t flawless (Juan Soto is a menace), he did what he was asked to do, and that was to end the game with the Mariners on top.
It was a bit touch-and-go for a few spots, but for a bullpen game it was pretty good stuff.
I’m focusing on the pitching here because the hitting was fine. It was ok. I would describe the hitting as “inoffensive,” as much as leaving the bases loaded is always going to make me grumble. Mariner’s hitters did get robbed on a few balls in play with high xBA (Santana on .890, Torrens on .710, Haggerty on .580, .620, AND .710), and they still managed to tag Nationals starter Erick Fedde with 6 hits and 3 walks, so it’s hard to be too mad. Oh and Jesse hit this 106 mph bullet:
So the Mariners won the today the same way they’ve won 17 of their last 20: excellent pitching and solid ABs that, if not stellar, is consistently workable.
But what about their opponents for today’s series, the Washington Nationals? I don’t think it’s too off base to call the Nationals the Mariners’ dark reflection. On the other side of the country there is a baseball team that, but a month ago, had a very similar record to our beloved M’s.
One month ago, the team from the other Washington, 23-39 on June 13 (Mariners 27-34), was about to kick off a losing stretch that almost exactly mirrors the Mariners winning stretch. The Nationals, much like the Mariners, are no stranger to losing seasons, and 2022 will likely be more of the same for them.
As the ROOT Sports broadcast kept pointing out this afternoon, Julio and Juan Soto’s stats for their first 88 games had a remarkably similar profile (Except with Julio stealing 19 more bases). And what did the Nationals do with their young Dominican outfielder? While they parlayed his sophomore season into a world series win in 2019 (goodforher.jpg), they followed that up with two straight seasons finishing last in their division. All the while Soto has been an all star, racked up MVP votes, and won two Silver Sluggers. Put simply, they are wasting him.
What I’m trying to say, is “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” Today’s double-header could have been a fourth place team squeaking out wins against a fifth place team in a stadium with less than 1,000 fans present. But somehow, some force is compelling the Mariners, these Mariners, who have provided us frustration and heartache, to wins. And even more importantly, to relevance.
Whatever is responsible for this hot streak, a higher power, team spirit, Mike Cameron’s sage burning, or just plain old luck, appreciate it. It could have just as easily gone the other way.