Game Advisory: Status Change - In Progress
The Mariners scored three runs in the first inning tonight, but not without putting their bodies on the line. It began, of course, with a Ty France hit by pitch, as is tradition.
Kyle Lewis then got on behind France, and they both managed to score runs, but given the state of their knees, I’m using the word “run” loosely. With the score already 2-0, Framber let another one get away from him.
Adam Frazier drove in the Mariners third run of the inning, an inning which, by itself, raised Valdez’s career ERA against the Mariners by 0.56.
Defensive Substitution: Jesse Winker replaces left fielder Dylan Moore, batting 6th, playing left field
Having put his body on the line, we assumed it was a toe injury that caused Jesse Winker to replace Dylan Moore. Midway through the game, we’d learn that the utilityman/thirst-trap-setter was actually taken out for back spasms. According to Ryan Divish, DMo’s been dealing with these spasms for a few days, and “it locked up on him.” This doesn’t sound super serious, but he is likely unavailable tomorrow.
Unfortunately, as eventful as that first inning was, Valdez cruised through the Mariners lineup over the next six innings, getting his curveball under control and complementing it with his sinker that gets more run than any two-seamer this side of George Kirby. I’m giving a special commendation to J.P. Crawford though, for getting one of the two more hits that Valdez would give up, both beating the shift and making Alex Bregman eat it with the same swing.
Pitching Change: Matthew Festa replaces Chris Flexen
With the Mariners having acquired Luis Castillo—wait, did you hear the Mariners acquired Luis Castillo? Because the Mariners acquired Luis Castillo—Seattle’s now got six legitimate starters, and while I’m sure they’ll all get some work down the stretch, Chris Flexen is one of the guys at the biggest risk of losing playing time.
Looking at Flexen’s peripherals, you might think he blew it tonight, with just one strikeout tonight against four walks, and a mere 16 CSW%. But Flexen’s never made his money on his peripherals. He’s a contact manager, and while the Astros hit the ball hard eight times in Flexen’s five and a third, those balls found gloves more often than not, and Flexen escaped having given up just two runs. Was it enough for him to keep a lock on his rotation spot? From my seat, I’d say his performance tonight didn’t move the needle either way.
But if good positioning bailed out Flexen for most of the night, one of Flexen’s runs can be partially charged to Sam Haggerty. In a nod to his Italian heritage, Haggerty turned his arm into a noodle on a run-scoring play. Haggerty’s not that far from his natural position of second base when he makes this throw.
So too can one of Matt Festa’s baserunners be charged to Haggerty, with Altuve tempting fate but ultimately exacting revenge for his five baserunning boners from the last time Seattle was in town by getting into scoring position on a fielding boner from Haggerty.
Game Advisory: Injury Delay
So the score sat at 4-3 Houston coming into the top of the eighth. And if you’ve heard anything about this game before coming to this recap, it’s probably this:
At first, Julio stayed in the game, playing center field in the bottom of the inning, perhaps in an effort to forestall an inevitable meltdown among Mariner fandom. Good luck with that though, Scott, because at least this fan is FREAKING THE HELL OUT.
After the game, Julio got X-Rays but did not speak to the media. We know he felt well enough to play defense, and he was spotted in the celebratory high-five line, but that’s not meaningful knowledge. We’ll have useful information tomorrow. I know a lot of you came here looking for a Julio update, but until the team talks to the media, what more can I say—we all know what Julio means to this team.
Offensive Substitution: Pinch-runner Carlos Santana replaces Kyle Lewis
We got a second Gameday notification in the eighth, after Kyle Lewis reached first base with two outs. Having likely reached the end of his night at the plate, Scott apparently didn’t want to risk Lewis running the bases. Perhaps hoping to appeal to the Chaos Lords, Scott made the weirdest choice possible and called upon Carlos Santana, he of the 15th percentile sprint speed, to make his first pinch-running appearance in his 1,731-game career. Sure, Scott. Tragically, a J.P. Crawford ground out ended the inning before anything got too chaotic.
Offensive Substitution: Pinch-hitter Cal Raleigh replaces Luis Torrens
But come the ninth inning, things got wild. Jesse Winker, who you’ll recall was in the game for an injured Dylan Moore, began the inning with a four-pitch walk. Adam Frazier followed that up with a line drive right off the top of Altuve’s glove to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Sam Haggerty then continued his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day by failing to get the bunt down in any of his three attempts, leading to a strikeout on a strike three I’m sure he’d like to forget.
Then Cal Raleigh, unable to get one goddamn minute to himself, was pressed into duty yet again. In an apparent act of passive resistance, he kept the at-bat as short as possible, putting the first pitch he saw into play for a ground out that moved the runners up. I #StandWithCal and his work stoppage.
Offensive Substitution: Pinch-hitter Abraham Toro replaces Julio Rodriguez
That brought up Julio’s spot in the lineup, but Julio did not come back up to bat, which is when the collective freakout really began in earnest. Of course, part of the freakout was that the substitute was Abraham Toro. I was among the doubters, but I should have known better. While he’s got a career slash line of .206/.280/.347, when Toro faces his former team, he’s slashing .277/.351/.538. Abraham Toro, Our Begrudging. So it was no wonder that he did this:
Defensive Switch: Abraham Toro remains in the game as the right fielder
Defensive Switch from first base to second base for Ty France
Defensive Switch: Carlos Santana remains in the game as the first baseman
Defensive Switch from second base to center field for Adam Frazier
Defensive Switch: Cal Raleigh remains in the game as the catcher
Pitching Change: Paul Sewald replaces Erik Swanson, batting 8th, replacing right fielder Sam Haggerty
This is what an empty bench looks like. Why would Servais put Sewald in the lineup and surrender the DH in case this went to extras?
Haggerty leaving with doctors with a cut on his forehead. Spiked his helmet after failing to get the bunt down, bounced back and got him.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) July 31, 2022
Did I mention that Haggerty was having a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”? I don’t mean to pick on poor Haggerty, but calling it like I see it, the ham was decidedly swagless tonight. Let’s hope he heals quickly and gets back to knocking balls around the park and terrorizing opposing defenses on the basepaths. But his absense left the Mariners with this 2019-esque defensive alignment.
With the potential for some bananas defense, go figure that Sewald only faced three batters: a line drive to Frazier, a popup to J.P., and a grounder to France, all of which were handled with ease and grace. So tonight’s Sun Hat Award goes to Sewald for securing the save while facing the fearsome top of Houston’s lineup with no margin for error lest the Mariners have to bat again. Making this look easy? That’s putting order where chaos should be, and for once, I was here for it.
To take stock, the Mariners got their first win ever against Houston (don’t fact check that), and they did so in cathartic fashion, with a ninth-inning lead change. And combined with losses from Cleveland and Baltimore, the Mariners gained a game of ground in the Wild Card race. But at what cost? After this game the Mariners infirmary is out of beds. In order of apparent seriousness:
- Julio (wrist)
- DMo (back)
- Haggerty (forehead, dignity)
- Kyle (knee—not newly aggravated, but you know, in general)
- Cal (exhaustion (presumably))
Until we get more news, all we can do is wish them all a speedy recovery.