Demonstrating poorer capitalization than an undergrad basing their writing style entirely around Ernest Hemingway’s affects, the Seattle Mariners lost to the Anaheim Angels 4-3 Friday evening. The 42k strong fireworks night crowd was poised for joyous comeback victory, or really any offense whatsoever that might’ve mitigated the stress. Instead, they were treated to a true clunker, unbefitting of the dominant performance Seattle received from their big offseason addition.
Robbie Ray was strong, bordering on sensational. Invigorated by a combination of his club’s acquisition of another ace, a return to the friendly confines of T-Mobile Park, and (most pertinent) not facing the Houston Astros anymore. He struck out 10, a level he’s reached four times this year, while allowing just the one run, scampered across by Luis Rengifo on a bloop single from Jo Adell in the 1st inning that would be his only blemish. In working 7.0 strong frames, he helped save his bullpen while also keeping the club in the game. Whereas Ray had been forced by the infuriatingly patient Houston Astros to bring his pitches over the heart of the plate as they spit on his efforts to get them to chase, Anaheim brought no such reservations, they took after Ray’s slider like greyhounds.
Unfortunately, the M’s offense made no headway in holding up their end of the bargain. Despite wildness from Angels LHP Patrick Sandoval, Seattle stranded 10 LOBsters, clicking their claws in the wind after a pair of double plays and an empty bases-loaded opportunity. Sandoval’s quality shouldn’t be overlooked; the lefty is Anaheim’s lone remaining truly quality starter behind Shohei Ohtani, and it is in large part because of his ability to induce grounders to erase the ills of his free passes. But in failing to punish the mistakes Sandoval left, Seattle left open the door for a decimated Angels club to slip past them needlessly.
In what can only be interpreted as a statement of some sort by Scott Servais to his offense, and perhaps the front office, the M’s manager went to lefty Ryan Borucki for the top of the 9th after Erik Swanson skated by for a scoreless 8th. With the score still 1-0 and two lefties due up in the frame, it’s not too hard to grasp why Servais wanted his lefty in. On the other hand, Borucki being the club’s best and only southpaw in the pen is a limitation the club is mostly locked into at this point. When the inconsistent 28-year-old flounders, as he did this evening with a hit by pitch to Mickey Moniak followed by a solo homer to righty swinging Max Stassi, it’s hard to overlook that Seattle’s bullpen is currently a huge swath of highly effective pitchers with almost the same profile. Sewald, Muñoz, Brash, Festa, and Murfee are all fastball/slider savants with brilliant offerings, and each has shown the ability to handle high-leverage work. But if Seattle doesn’t trust them with lefties in a one-run game in the 9th, or sees them as inferior on at least a day of rest to Borucki, there is a wrench in the roster as currently oriented, exacerbated by the current six-man rotation.
Fortunately, Seattle’s bats awoke in a fury, limbs akimbo as they attempted to brush their teeth, put their shoes on, and select clean underwear in one fell swoop. Jesse Winker walked, new arrival Jake Lamb made a spectacular first impression in his homecoming debut with a single up the middle, and with two outs Adam Frazier stayed hot and knocked a double in the corner to draw the score to 3-1. Ty France, bless his heart, made small amends for what had been thus far a supremely disappointing return to action, cracking a quintessential unshiftable single directly past Jesse Chavez, notably not Raisel Iglesias.
France gets credit every time he smacks a single the other way from one broadcaster or another for using the whole field, and it’s a lovely trait to be sure. But when it really can count is moments like this, where for many hitters their tendencies are such that good contact is often a waste. Jesse Winker made nearly this exact same hit earlier in the game, but with a defender stationed right behind the keystone, it was a simple groundout. Not so for France, and hon hon hon here came Eugenio Suárez. Despite every fiber of desire in the body and voice of Dave Sims, the 3B’s fly ball could not carry past (to?) the warning track in right field. Extras it was. A loss it would be.
I don’t have much to say on the happenings in the 10th. Paul Sewald did just fine, albeit frustratingly leaving a slider far too much over the plate with two strikes to Taylor Ward to allow a solidly struck sacrifice fly. At the same time, Seattle’s best reliever came in and got groundout, flyout, strikeout to the 9-1-2 of the order. Don’t swat at the gnats when a bear is standing in the trail, as they say. The Mariners offense is the bear in this case, except a bear is typically scary, at least when encountered at night. Hopefully tomorrow we can see them roar.