Sometimes you can dread something so much that actually doing it feels like a relief, as you realize actually doing the thing isn’t as bad as dreading doing the thing. Hey, this hill is really hard to climb! Just like I knew it would be! Ouch! But okay! And sometimes you start doing the thing you dread, and even though you’ve mentally prepared yourself for how much it’s going to suck—oh my gosh this hill is so high it hurts so much I regret everything—it still sucks because your tiny human mind wasn’t able to fully conceptualize all the different ways this thing would suck out loud, and that’s what going from playing the Astros at home to playing the Yankees at home is going to be like. We can Ralph Wiggum ourselves as much as we want...
...but actually being in Yankee Stadium and throwing out the Mariners’ worst starter against the AL’s best lineup? While missing their two best players? I don’t blame anyone who noped on out of this game early on:
I said this last time when I recapped a Marco start against the Astros, but the Yankees are basically the Astros with an Amex black card and a trust fund, so it still holds: a pitcher like Marco has to be perfect against a team that can attack in the zone like this, and Marco was not perfect. Maybe you can blame the game plan here—I’m not sure what possessed Marco to throw only his worst pitch, his fastball (along with the cutter and one lonely little curveball) to the first three batters of the game, but it resulted in this sequence of events: a DJ LeMahieu single, an Aaron Judge double, and an Anthony Rizzo three-run homer. I understand wanting to establish the zone but feeding Judge a 90 MPH fastball anywhere on the plate feels like not so much establishing the zone as handing it to the likely AL MVP on a silver platter.
Marco did start establishing the curveball and changeup in the back part of that inning, walking Benintendi after throwing him a bunch of changeups but then getting Hicks to fly out to end the inning on another change, and things looked to be off to a better start in the second inning as Marco got two quick outs with a more robust pitch mix. However, he then walked LeMahieu on seven pitches, missing with a changeup for Ball Four, and then Aaron Judge ambushed a first-pitch cutter to put the Yankees out to a 5-1 lead, to which again I point to the Marco Must Be Perfect principle, and then to the location of this pitch:
That’s just too much of a tasty morsel right in Judge’s sweet spot. Forget Perfect; that pitch is Putrid. Marco did come back later and start working in the changeup more, including using it to strike out Judge in a key spot in the fourth, but he struggled to command it, throwing it for a ball more often than as a strike, which is dangerous business in a Fisher-Price stadium. He got three outs on the changeup and one strikeout, but also allowed a hit on it and walked two.
That would be all the offense the Yankees would need on the day, and it was literally the second inning, meaning we had to watch Marco labor through another four innings before his pitch count finally climbed too high for even Servais, determined to wring every pitch out of Marco’s left arm tonight, to ignore. That brought out Matt Festa with two on and one out to face Aaron Judge, who got away with hanging one slider to Judge, one fastball in the middle of the plate Judge fouled off, and finally got him to miss a barrel, popping out harmlessly. Festa, a Staten Island native, then proceeded to strike out Anthony Rizzo, a Florida native, proving who owns the Italian-American bragging rights at Yankee Stadium.
Festa also worked a clean and very quick seventh inning, or the inning he would have gotten if he hadn’t had to bail out Marco with two extra batters. Good stuff, Fes.
The Yankees got their seventh run when Ryan Borucki, who covered the eighth, left a slider up in the zone for Jose Trevino to hit his second homer of the game—not a cheapie, either, but to center field. Poor Borucki thought he had escaped the clutches of Yankee Stadium forever. Hopefully he won’t have to be called on again this series.
Meanwhile, the Mariners offense wasn’t able to get much going, which is disappointing because Domingo Germán is probably the Yankees’ worst starter, as it stands currently, which means the slog up that hill won’t get any easier for the Mariners’ offense this series. It looked like the Mariners might get something cooking right away in the first, when, with two outs, Jesse Winker singled sharply through the right side of the infield and Carlos Santana followed that up with a walk, but alas, J.P. Crawford couldn’t beat out a slow roller to third fielded by Donaldson and despite some shaky command from Germán—17 pitches, only 9 strikes—he escaped the first without damage.
Kyle Lewis, because he is a good person, made sure Mariners fans would have at least one highlight to cling to for this game, homering in the second inning for the first time since returning from his rehab assignment:
Kyle Lewis leaves the yard! pic.twitter.com/79EFKqaiCA— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) August 1, 2022
The Mariners also put a little additional pressure on the Yankees in the third when they loaded the bases on two walks and Carlos Santana’s 1500th MLB hit (congratulations to him), which brought up Lewis again, but alas, the magic was not to recur as KLew grounded out to end the inning without damage. They finally squeaked across a second run in the fourth after Adam Frazier singled home Abraham Toro, who had hit a two-out double, but Frazier was stranded when Jesse Winker flew out harmlessly, having failed to straighten out this deeply punishable pitch from Germán:
Oh man Jesse this was a pitch to deposit in New Jersey pic.twitter.com/sIiKqQT0Du— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) August 2, 2022
Meanwhile, the Yankees got that run right back in the bottom of the fourth when Jose Trevino yanked the third home run of the game for the Yankees, again jumping on the first pitch offered by Marco in the at-bat.
And that’s the story of this game: the Mariners not jumping on mistakes, and the Yankees doing so. Because that’s what good teams do; they take advantage of mistakes. Obviously it sucks not to have the Mariners’ two best players available to help, but there were opportunities here—some shaky command from Germán, another seven batters left on base plus some stranded via double plays, punishable pitches left unpunished and juicy 3-0 counts that turned into easy groundouts—and they weren’t taken advantage of. Watching this game felt like sitting in the chair of a not particularly skilled dentist: interminable, unpleasant, and somehow, worse than you thought it was going to be.
On the bright side, Logan Gilbert gets to test his mettle in the Bronx tomorrow—you’ll remember he had quite the star turn against the Yankees last season—and we’ll get to see the debut of the biggest player added at the deadline so far, Luis Castillo, make his Mariner debut the day after that. So maybe this is the top of the hill, as far as this arduous climb of nigh-unwatchable games goes. Let’s hope so.