Business-hustler types like to say there’s no thing as luck, only hashtag-the-grind, if you’re sleeping more than five hours a night you’re slacking, if you have fewer than five side hustles you’re slacking, buy these ketones to be energized and #crushyourMonday! But most of us know that success comes from hard work, yes, but also a good dose of luck: finding the right job at the right time, working under a boss who’s able to see your talents and help you grow, developing a skill that becomes in-demand in the industry. Baseball is a lot of skill, but also a lot of luck, and today the Mariners were on the wrong side of the luck dragons for a good portion of the game, which no amount of ketones or compression socks can salvage.
Everyone makes mistakes, and some amount of luck is necessary to mitigate those mistakes. George Kirby was excellent today, outside of one or two mistakes, which unfortunately would hang over his head for the course of the game. In the first inning, Kirby took a little while to settle into his command, starting off the game by issuing a rare walk to Tony Kemp. Ramón Laureano would then dunk a little wounded-duck single into right field (exit velocity a blazing 72.8 MPH) to put two on with none out, pushing the speedy Kemp to third before a sacrifice fly from Sean Murphy brought him home. One walk; one bad-luck dunkaroo single on a good pitch; one pitch that caught a little too much of the plate for a sac fly, and that would be the A’s first run of the game. Thanks to George Kirby (and Ryan Borucki and Diego Castillo), it would also be their only run of the game.
In the second, Kirby would allow Vimael Machin to reach, trying to go to his fastball well one too many times and leaving one out for Machin to poke through the 5/6 hole. He would then go on to retire the next 13 batters, striking out five of those 13 en route to a nine-strikeout day tying a season-high, before Sean Murphy hit an infield single to start the seventh—a hit with an xBA of .030. Unlucky! But again, Kirby proved he could make his own luck by rebounding to strike out Stephen Piscotty before retiring Stephen Vogt and Skye Bolt to clear seven innings with just that one run from the first inning looming.
Unfortunately, that one run loomed pretty large because the Mariners once again couldn’t get anything going off the starting pitcher, in this case, one-time Mariner Paul Blackburn. The Mariners did have opportunities: to start the game, Julio took the first pitch he saw from Blackburn straight up the middle, then proceeded to steal second and take third on an overthrow. But you pretty much know how things end up when the Mariners have a runner on third with no one out. This time it wasn’t exactly pure offensive ineptitude—Eugenio Suárez hit the ball sharply but directly into the shortstop’s glove, who was able to toss over easily to get Julio at third.
The Mariners also had a chance in the second, when a ground-rule double from Adam Frazier bounced over the fence, keeping Abraham Toro at third base with two outs and thus setting the stage for another hapless Mariners LOBster to go into 2022’s cavernous pot. That wouldn’t even be the first bad luck for Frazier today: Cal Raleigh doubled in the seventh, knocking Blackburn out of the game, and Abraham Toro singled off new reliever Domingo Acevedo to put runners on the corners with just one out. Frazier, the Unluckiest Boy in Seattle, then lined into an unassisted double play at first. Baseball! Sometimes (often) it will kick you in the teeth, and you cannot out#hustle or out#grind it.
But sometimes, life finds a way. Or more accurately, A.J. Puk finds a way to blow it against the Seattle Mariners.
In addition to this being Upton’s first home run as a Mariner, it was also Justin Upton’s first career pinch-hit home run. Sometimes you really do just need a little bit of luck, and also to run into a fastball at the right time.
Upton’s homer got Kirby off the hook for what would have been a very tough-luck loss considering how well he had pitched, but it would not be enough. Eugenio Suárez kicked things off with a walk from Lou Trivino, and then Carlos Santana worked a ground ball single for his second hit of the day. Then a little more luck was necessary: Cal Raleigh stepped to the plate facing a five-infielder shift and made a poor swing decision, chasing the first pitch he saw from Trivino off the edge of the plate and chopping it up the middle. However, the normally surehanded Nick Allen couldn’t handle the pitch, allowing Cal to reach safely and saving an out for the Mariners. In some ways, that felt like a payback for Cal’s work all day: he stole multiple strikes for Kirby, made a great running catch on a foul popup at a key moment, and had hit the double earlier. Just another quietly great day for Raleigh, who luckily didn’t get punished for his one mistake. That brought up Abraham Toro, someone who could use a fair dose of luck himself: his expected metrics trail his actual metrics by a gap as large as 100 points (his slugging: xSLG of .451 vs. actual slugging of .333), and he’s been the poster child/scapegoat on Mariners Twitter for the offensive struggles of late for this team.
Not today, bad vibes; Abraham Toro Our Beloved is in full effect.
Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re good, but usually to win baseball games, you have to be both. I’m not sure what the exact breakdown of luck-vs.-goodness today is (especially considering the A’s badness), but I’m taking the W and not looking back.