As Mariners fans we are not unfamiliar with making do, finding joy where we can: maybe in a player coming out of nowhere in the midst of a losing season, or a no-hitter tossed in the midst of a losing season, or enjoying spoiling a hated rivals’ attempt at making the post-season in the midst of a losing season. We’ve seen a lot of lost seasons, friends. It’s a little odd sometimes to remember we’re on the other end of the equation this season, that the Mariners are the victors and not the victims more often than not; not playing spoiler but rather looking around nervously for who might be spoiling things for us. Tonight the Mariners defeated the Nationals, as they should have, but we also got a little peek through the window to another time, when we were searching for silver linings in gray clouds rather than enjoying these sunny skies.
Not that it was an easy victory, because what are those. Nats starter Erick Fedde retired the first four batters he saw before Carlos Santana, showing some #VeteranLeadership, bunted into a wide-open left side of the infield for the Mariners’ first hit of the night. I can’t help it, I love him so much. Eugenio Suárez then walked, but the Mariners failed to do anything with it. The Mariners offense limped along against Fedde until the fourth inning, when Mitch Haniger decided he was done with this whole “not scoring against bad teams” thing and cranked this no-doubter:
[extremely REM voice] If you believed...they put a Mitch on the moon, Mitch on the moon
That gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead, and it would be the only runs scored for the first six innings of this game.
I hadn’t heard of Joey Meneses before tonight (he didn’t even warrant a write-up in our series preview!). You, unless you are a Nationals fan or deeply invested in east coast-based minors teams for the past decade, probably haven’t heard of Joey Meneses. His Wikipedia article is painfully brief, with no mention of his amateur career before being drafted, as if he sprung fully formed into Atlanta’s organization in 2011; all that’s listed under “personal information” is that he’s “a fan of Goku,” which, who among us. But Meneses, summoned from Triple-A Rochester earlier this month after Juan Soto’s departure, came into tonight with five homers in his first 69 plate appearances (nice) and an ISO of .242. And on a night that could have belonged to Robbie Ray, the 10-year veteran of the minor leagues instead took a little piece of glory for himself, and to that, I have to tip my cap.
What makes this home run different from all the other ones is this one broke up a no-hitter being tossed by Robbie Ray; see, the thing is, Robbie Ray also doesn’t really know who Joey Meneses is, and decided, leading off the seventh, to challenge him with a 95-MPH sinker in the middle-lower third of the plate, which Meneses redirected 104.7 MPH to dead center. As someone who has been on the other side of things, muttering to myself “I don’t care if we lose just please not a no-hitter,” I know the sweet relief of getting both that first hit and the shutout over with in one swing. I think Nats fans have quite enough to be getting on with this year and am deeply unbothered about Ray making a poor pitch and losing the no-no; however, what did make this a tricky wicket from a Mariners fan perspective is that it cut the Mariners’ lead to just one run, 2-1.
Robbie Ray was good enough tonight that he maybe could have protected that kind of a lead, though. I could nitpick the two walks, especially one on four pitches to Cesar Hernández in an uncompetitive at-bat, but his 14 swing-and-misses were tied for third-best in MLB tonight as he sliced through a pretty lousy Nationals lineup, racking up seven strikeouts in his 6.2 innings. The reason I nitpick the walks is Ray probably couldn’t have completed the no-hitter even without the hits he gave up in the seventh, as his pitch count was already nearly 90 at the end of the sixth thanks to some unnecessary traffic on the bases due to the two walks and a couple of full counts, as it took him a little bit to find his slider tonight. Once he did, though, he racked up some absolutely embarrassing swings, either on the slider or the way the slider played with his high fastball:
Pitch count aside, Ray might have been in a place to hold down that lead, but Eugenio Suárez has had enough of one-run games, thankyouverymuch:
We’re in to bullpens by this point (Andrés Muñoz had come in to bail out Ray in the top of the seventh, striking out his lone batter and earning that “bomberos” nickname for the bullpen). That is old friend Steve Cishek on the mound, finding himself in some danger in the club in the bottom of the seventh after walking Carlos Santana to lead off the inning. I understand wanting to get back into the count but this is just not the place to leave an 89 MPH sinker to the homerun-hitting machine that is Eugenio Suárez:
That stretched the Mariners’ lead to 4-1, all they’d need on the night against the Sans-Soto Nationals with the newly-christened “bomberos” bullpen living up to their name and mostly shutting the door on any Nationals rally—although Joey Meneses, who wasn’t done rewarding Nats fans for sticking through this game (series, season), creamed yet another extra-base hit, getting a leadoff double off Sewald, and eventually came around to score for a 4-2 final. If I’m being greedy, I’d say I’m a little concerned the Mariners got all their runs on two big swings from the ever-reliable Haniger and the occasionally-reliable Suárez, and very little from any other member of the lineup; six hits is not a great number of hits against Erick Fedde and the 14th-worst in the NL Nats bullpen. But I am famously Not Greedy*, so I will simply say good game, Mariners, way to get a win against a team you should get a win against, and on to the next. And to the Nats fans: enjoy the Joey Meneseses(eses?) of this rebuilding era, and may your tenure with them be both delightful and brief.
*Anyone who knows me knows I am in fact a greedy little garter snake, so here is some exclusive bonus content for all the other greedy little goblins out there. Greedy goblins only, though! None of you nice, selfless people allowed. Go get a kitten out of a tree or help a friend move or something.
- Julio is fond of saying “I never lose; I win, or I learn.” Tonight was one of those learning nights, as Eric Fedde victimized him with his curveball, getting a groundout and a strikeout as well as another strikeout on a sinker well-set-up by the curve; in the seventh, Cory Abbott struck him out chasing a sweeping slider, something we don’t often see him doing. Julio is elite at making adjustments and I’m sure will be watching back film of those at-bats and figuring out what went wrong, but it was definitely a tough night for the rookie.
- Tonight was also a tough night for Cal Raleigh, who did have a walk but also struck out and left two on base. Raleigh’s approach of being aggressive early in counts against the fastball and then laying back against the off-speed didn’t work awesomely for him the first time around, when he got caught chasing a Fedde curve for strike three; the second time worked out better for him, as he was able to lay off the curve a couple times, work the count full, and eventually get a pitch he could handle—he flew out on the 90 MPH sinker because he hit it to the wrong part of the park, dead-center, but made solid contact (102.7 EV, the fourth-hardest-hit ball of the night). We love a learner!
- I admit that when I wrote the article about Ty France’s struggles I was hoping to enact the ages-old LL curse of writing something about a player only to immediately have them disprove the entire thesis of the article. Sadly, that was not the case tonight; Ty went 0-for-3. He grounded out, popped out, and popped out harmlessly in the seventh to end a Mariners scoring threat. If we’re looking for a silver lining on this gloomy cloud, it’s good to see him not pounding the ball into the ground as much, but the pop-ups are concerning in a different way, as again, they point to a timing/contact issue. Get well soon, Ty.