The story on this game, from Seattle’s perspective, at least, was that it was going to be a test of these upstart Mariners facing off against the reigning World Series champions, with the Mariners seeing maybe their best opportunity of the series to win tonight in facing the decidedly mid Charlie Morton. Spoiler alert: they did not win. Not only that, but tonight’s game also showed how far the Mariners have to go to catch an obviously championship-caliber team like Atlanta’s.
Indeed, it was Robbie Ray who would look decidedly mid against a powerful Atlanta lineup, including the not so powerful Robbie Grossman parts. We know that Atlanta is an aggressive team that likes to attack the fastball early in counts, so I was hoping to see Ray pitching backwards, using the slider heavily and maybe even mixing in his largely-discarded curveball to try to get Atlanta’s hitters off his fastball. And while he was able to get a lot of strikes and whiffs off his slider (40% CSW%!), he opted instead to challenge the Atlanta hitters, which resulted in...well, it resulted in a lot of this:
That pitch would wind up crushed into the deepest part of the park; with Acuña on board after dunking a little parachute hit into right field, it was an immediate 2-0 lead for Atlanta.
Ray would give up another run in the fourth, although it wasn’t entirely his fault. Michael Harris took a slider at the bottom of the zone into left field that was probably only a single if the Mariners have a true left fielder out there. Show some urgency, please, Winker! That’s not too much to ask, is it? He’d eventually be brought home on a Robbie Grossman single, another first-pitch swinging base hit off Ray. Yuck. Speaking of yuck, that wouldn’t be Ray’s last run given up on the day, as he fell behind Travis d’Arnaud 3-0 before giving up a long ball, closing the curtains on his outing abruptly after just five innings. Someone explain d’Arnaud’s 2022 season to me like I’m five, because I do not get how a 33-year-old who has consistently been a double-digit wRC+ player his whole career is suddenly the second coming of prime Johnny Bench.
With Ray done but the Mariners trailing, Servais opted to go with the “B” bullpen arms, and Matt Festa had a rough inning, giving up two solo shots in an unpleasant return to his 2019 form, when he had a brutal 18.5% HR/FB rate. To be fair to Festa, the first homer was Micheal Harris just doing MH2 things, and on the second one, he should have had Robbie Grossman struck out the pitch before:
It’s not an excuse to hang a slider like he did, but it’s also pretty frustrating, because it was obviously a blown call.
Also frustrating: the Mariners’ offensive ineptitude tonight. Julio, bless his heart, led off the game with a single and also walked twice, and Ty France doubled with two outs (and was struggled), but Haniger and Suárez each went 0-fer tonight with two strikeouts apiece, and Winker walked twice but also didn’t record a hit. The Mariners’ entire offense came off home runs tonight; Carlos Santana, who loves hitting on Apple TV broadcasts, had two of them, including this game-tying shot in the second that knotted things up after Atlanta had jumped out to an early lead:
He’d add another one on in the 7th, a solo shot that would bring the Mariners as close as they would come on the day.
The Mariners’ other run also came on a solo homer, from maybe a slightly less likely source:
This wasn’t a cheapie, either! This came off the bat at 109 MPH and traveled almost 400 feet, with the highest xBA (.950) of the game. There was the slightest bit of eyebrow raising regarding the way the ball was flying out of T-Mobile on a chilly night in Seattle—apple-juiced balls?—but I think we’ve had ample opportunities to appreciate the fact that J.P. Crawford is clutch, and will show up in big games.
Unfortunately, his teammates largely either didn’t get the clutch memo or said no thank you to the apple juice. In the eighth, Brian Snitker called for Raisel Iglesias, who gleefully broke his Halo over his knee on his way out of Anaheim, to put down an old familiar foe; Iglesias struck out Haniger, struck out Suárez on three pitches, walked Winker because that’s his monkeypaw power, and then struck out Carlos Santana, who couldn’t quite come up with a third home run on the night. I know, right? DFA him immediately. (Kidding, obviously. Thanks for keeping us in this one, ‘Los.) Kenley Jansen came on in the ninth to put the Mariners away quietly, and that’s all she wrote. Frustrating, frustration, frustratement.
With the Astros safely in their rearview for this season, this game was a reminder of how significant the gap can be between the elite teams of MLB, and the Mariners, who fell into the third Wild Card spot tonight because all the other Wild Card teams won, because of course they did. It’s far from time to panic, but it is a harsh reality check that the Mariners have to step up their effort if they want to hang with the big dogs of MLB. Tonight was one of the biggest crowds of the season, with attendance topping over 42K, but the Atlanta fans, rarely treated to the opportunity to see their team in the jewel of T-Mobile Park, were a large part of those 42K; they were loud early on, and got progressively louder as Atlanta put the game out of reach. It’s going to be a long weekend, friends. Buckle in.