For those on the Monday through Friday grind, the weekend is an escape from the seemingly inescapable drudgery, and for fans of all schedules, watching baseball is often that escape as well. The combination of a sunny summer game on the weekend is one that has wide appeal, and offers a certain brand of escapism that is particularly appealing, as Nick Vitalis so beautifully captured in their recap of yesterday’s game. It’s amazing when it all works out and we get to watch our team win on these types of days, but they too are human and need off days as well. Today the Seattle Mariners had a decidedly off day, and dropped game two of three to the Oakland Athletics, losing 3-4 in walk-off fashion in the extra innings.
For me personally, whether today would have ended in a win or loss was irrelevant. My day job is at a local news station, and after working an overnight shift last night and facing another tonight, I was just glad to be able to find a brief respite from the often grim and depressing twenty-four hour news cycle from which I cannot avoid. That’s what Mariners baseball has always been to me, yes, even when they have been objectively bad. This year, they have been mostly good, and have afforded me not just an escape but many moments of pure joy. Obviously though, I would have preferred a win today.
For the Mariners over this week, they also decided to change things up a bit, scoring buckets of runs in wins that were not even close, but most of those runs being scored late into the game. Today was not one of those kind of games, but not always necessarily in a bad way, as they wasted no time getting on the board. Leading off in the first, Julio Rodríguez hit an 0-2 fastball at the top of the zone for a triple, and was quickly brought home on a sac fly from France. No more runners would reach in the first, let alone score, but an early lead is never a bad thing.
They liked what they did in the first so much, they decided to do it again in the fourth inning, near exactly. Eugenio Suárez hit a one out triple to the warning track that Chad Pinder was right there for but unable to make the play on, and Adam Frazier immediately followed that with a sacrifice fly to send him home.
Logan Gilbert came into this game probably hoping for his own break getting to face the cellar-dwelling Athletics, having scuffled in his last several starts and looking like a different pitcher than he was at the start of the season.
For the first four innings, his stuff was working. His location with his fastball was often good enough, but not always, and he was relying too heavily on it and gave up some hard contact. In the fifth inning, he ran into some trouble. Because of his recent struggles, and his sequencing not inspiring confidence, it would be easy to pin the fifth inning on the young pitcher. That’s not the full story though. Vimael Machín led off the inning and hit a grounder right to Adam Frazier, and while it certainly seemed like an easy enough ball to field at first, on second glance it did take a bit of a weird hop and Frazier might also have been battling some sun in his eyes, but it was still scored an error against him. Jonah Bride then singled to left moving Machín to third, and Nick Allen only needed two pitches after that to single on a line drive to right, scoring Machín and moving Bride to second. Allen did make contact with a fastball that caught too much of the plate, but it was a liner to right field that looked entirely catchable.
Maybe it was the sun, sure, but that was a terrible read and route from Jake Lamb, who put no visible hustle into the play. Tony Kemp then only needed to see the first pitch, a fastball that caught too much of the top of the zone (this sounds familiar..), and he hit a grounder up the middle to score both runners and pull the A’s ahead by one. LoGi got out of the inning by striking out Seth Brown looking on a changeup, and getting Sean Murphy to pop out in foul territory. It ended Gilbert’s night on only 66 pitches, 46 for strikes, two earned runs on six hits, and four strikeouts with no walks. On the surface the no walks is encouraging, but unfortunately it is also a signifier of the problem with Gilbert lately. For what it’s worth, he did get six whiffs, four on his fastball and two on his changeup. But he’s relying far too much on the fastball, hoping to just blow it by batters in the zone, and rarely adjusting and getting them to chase his secondaries. So while today’s blame is shared with the glaring August sun and some poor defense, he still has progress to make if he is going to be effective long term.
Seattle was able to answer back and tie the game in the eighth inning, keeping hope alive. Haniger worked a one out single, and Crawford was able to move him to second with a ground out. Eugenio then tied it up with a perfectly placed liner to left field for a single as well.
After Gilbert’s exit, most of the bullpen kept doing what they have done best lately and kept the Mariners in the game with style. Matt Festa, Erik Swanson, and Paul Sewald all worked a scoreless inning apiece and each getting one strikeout. Andrés Muñoz then came in to work the bottom of the ninth, and absolutely stepped up to the moment. He struck out Nick Allen on a full count, chasing his slider. He then struck out Cal Stevenson swinging, on his slider. At the risk of sounding repetitive, he then struck out Tony Kemp swinging, chasing his slider, on only three pitches. The three strikeouts really was a highlight reel of Muñoz’ dominance lately.
The tenth inning was decidedly less fun. The Mariners offense hit balls right at Oakland defenders, and Ty France was TOOTBLANed out of his Manfred man position at second attempting to get to third on an easy grounder. The Mariners decided they were going to take no risks in the bottom of the tenth, but that may have been their undoing. First, they intentionally walked Seth Brown. Then, after Sean Murphy drew a walk and there still being no outs, they brought in Haggerty from the outfield to have enough infielder’s to attempt to get the out at home. Sheldon Neuse seemed to play right into their plan with an infield grounder, but when Castillo attempted to field it, he couldn’t, and the walk-off run scored.
I know some of that was just bad luck, but the decision Castillo made to run to the infielder’s territory to make a play that they had extra infielders there to make is a bit of a baffling one. All in all though, Castillo has been solid lately, and pitcher’s rarely have to field so it’s less egregious than if the error had been made by anyone else on the infield.
Today’s game was a break, but not a break in the way one might hope for when looking for an escape. However, this season Mariner’s fans are truly blessed in that games like this are the exception, not the rule. Defensive miscues have happened, but much more we have seen defensive wonders. Close games have been lost, but much more close games have been won. The way the Mariners have scored runs this week, they earned themselves a break, as no team can win them all. It wasn’t all bad today either. Julio had a 3-for-5 night with a triple, Eugenio went 2-for-3 with a walk and a triple, and Muñoz was lights out. Tomorrow, it’s easy Sunday baseball against the same team that barely squeaked by them today, and with ace Luis Castillo on the mound. No matter how bad or unavoidable the news can be at times, with this year’s team, there is always good news waiting just around the corner.