Some things don’t seem like they should work, but they do. For example, in the 1997 Julia Roberts vehicle My Best Friend’s Wedding, there’s a scene where a group of the WASPiest people imagineable break out into a rendition of “I Say A Little Prayer” in the middle of brunch. As described, this should be a disaster, and yet it’s inexpicably one of the great scenes in rom-com history.
Marco Gonzlaes facing the White Sox is like this. Facing lefties this year, the South Siders have a .339 wOBA; facing righties this year, Marco’s giving up a .339 wOBA. As described, this should be a disaster, and yet, Marco basically handled a White Sox lineup in which the batters all hit from the right side.
Marco buttered his bread in the usual way, inducing a lot of weak contact except when he didn’t. He got sixteen balls in play hit under 90 mph, and fourteen under 85. He also collected three strikeouts and allowed just one free pass. He did it by getting some of the clearest separation in his pitches that we’ve seen all year.
By executing all four pitches, he kept Chicago’s hitters on their toes enough to whiff 13 times, a number he’s only surpassed once this year. The vision you have in your head of the White Sox might be a swing happy team based on their 29th-ranked walk rate, but they’re actually middle of the road by swinging-strike rate, so Marco has a real accomplishment here.
Unfortunately, he also gave up three runs, all on the long ball. The first was a second-inning solo shot from AJ Pollock. The second, which came an inning later and with a runner on base, was more unfortunate. For one thing, it came from Elvis Andrus, of all people, his fifth this year at T-Mobile Park. For another, it went in-and-out of Mitch Haniger’s glove. It might have even stayed in the park if Haniger hadn’t touched it (not that he was wrong to try). But them’s the breaks.
Still, it was Marco’s third quality start in a row, and it couldn’t have come at a better time: The rest of the squad had to play through a four-and-a-half hour rain delay (#BuildARoof) and extra innings on a get away day that saw the team arrive in Seattle after 1 in the morning. That’s real leadership from the Mariners union rep on Labor Day.
It’s too bad the Sox put out a rejuvenated Lance Lynn, who absolutely carved through the Mariners lineup. The M’s scratched one across in the second when Cal Raleigh led off the inning with a sharp double down the line, took third on a passed ball, and scored on a flare from Abraham Toro that maybe got lost in the sun. That tied the game at 1 before the Andrus came right back in the next half to make the score 3-1, where it would stay for a long time.
After that sun single from Toro, Lynn retired the next 17 batters he faced. He racked up 25 whiffs from Mariners hitters today, the most of any pitcher this year. It was the kind of performance where all you can do is tip your hat to your opponent. Given that most of the Mariners starters were out of the lineup after yesterday’s debacle, and that my heart grew three sizes during the M’s most recent winning streak, I can’t even be mad about it. This is just so much less annoying when it’s not Justin Verlander.
The Mariners did manage to make it interesting in the final two innings once Lynn came out of the game. With two outs in the eighth, Julio came up to face Kendall Graveman, and the way the crowd was responding, you’d never know that the Mariners were losing 3-1. Julio has had that kind of effect on this city already. He rewarded them with a 107-mph laser through the six hole. He’d also gotten one of the only hits off Lynn when he led off the game with his 22nd infield hit, which is tied for 11th in MLB. Between those two hits, each one indvidually impressive, an outstanding catch, and putting the boom-boom into Seattle’s heart, Julio gets his fourth Sun Hat Award for notable individual contribution.
With Julio on first base, Ty France, who’s got four dingers in his last seven games, sent one that looked so good off the bat that Goldsmith, Rizzs, and most of the comment thread throught it was out. But Ty got one too few grains of the bat’s wood on the ball, and it was caught on the track to end the threat.
But the Mariners were not done yet. Liam Hendricks came in to close out the 3-1 game, but Mitch started off the inning with a copycat of Julio’s eighth inning 107-mph laser through the six hole. Two outs later, Eugenio Suárez worked a four-pitch pinch-hit walk and J.P. Crawford stung an RBI-double into the triangle, bringing the score to 3-2 with runners on second and third. For one glorious moment, it felt like Seattle was going to win this game. But Hendricks struck out a pinch-hitting Adam Frazier on three pitches and that was that. Some things seem like they should work, but they don’t.