It’s amazing how quickly it feels like baseball never left. Just two days ago we were all enjoying opening day and watching Ty France hit a three-run home run in the 8th inning that set the crowd on fire. Now, we’re quickly in midseason form and watching the Mariners drop a game that was eminently winnable all the way to the ninth. We are, for sure, back, baby.
I don’t want to sit here and complain about how terrible the game was, or how frustrating it felt to watch Mariners batters watch fastballs or hanging breaking balls down the heart of the plate. I will, however show this image of Guardians starter Aaron Civale.
I don’t know what’s worse, the called strikes or the foul balls. Maybe it’s the cold, maybe its early days, maybe they were just thinking too much, but the Mariners were not seeing the ball well tonight. They got 3 hits. Two were Julio seeing-eye singles, and one was a Tommy La Stella double. You saw the final score, so you know they were stranded. But whatever. Some days are like that, and we still have 159 games to go.
Instead, I’d like to focus on Logan Gilbert’s performance tonight. Famously, the Guardians had the lowest strikeout rate in MLB last year, with 18.2%. For context, the Mariners had the 17th lowest with 22.8%, and Houston had the second lowest with 19.5%. Cleveland knows how to put the bat on the ball.
It’s remarkable, then, that Walter made them do this.
7 strikeouts in 6 innings, or a K% of 38.8%. He made the Guardians into the worst versions of themselves.
That’s not to say he never ran into trouble, though. As you saw in the clip, he had some runners get into scoring position against him. Those runners were a product of the Guardians’ pesky playstyle, grinding out at bats and always making the pitcher work. Credit to them, they made Logan work.
Before the game, Scott made some comments about how he loves Gilbert’s stuff, but wants him to focus on getting his pitch count down and staying competitive with every pitch.
Credit to Logan, most of those are competitive pitches. I count only 15 or so that would be considered “waste” pitches, and most of them were on 2-strike counts where Logan tried to get the batter to expand the zone. There’s work to be done, yes, but this is a good show against the pesky Cleveland hitters.
With one exception. Logan got hit with the loss for tonight, a consequence of a single slider that didn’t slide. It came out of his hand at 88 miles per hour, and went straight down the heart of the plate. 88 mph may be fast enough to travel through time, but it wasn’t fast enough to avoid Josh Naylor’s bat, who promptly deposited the errant ball into section 108 in right field.
Diego Castillo came on to pitch the 7th, and he made the same mistake Logan did by throwing a sinker that didn’t sink, and giving Cleveland their second run of the game.
There was a moment in the bottom of the 8th where it looked like the M’s could pull of a Mariner Miracle. Down 2-0, with two out and two on, Julio stepped up to bat. It was his bobblehead night. He already had two hits. He’s Julio. It was all stacking up in his favor. And yet, despite the home crowd’s best effort to rattle Karinchak into giving up another 8th home run, Julio swung and missed to strike out and retire the side. It was an evil at-bat.
First he watched a hanging curveball go straight down the center of the plate. Then a second curveball a little higher that the TV broadcast saw as a ball, but Savant has as a clear strike. And then he struck out. I’m not being hard on Julio, after all he had 66% of the Mariners hits. But it was a perfect opportunity for a perfect moment. Everybody in the state wanted it. But it passed by.
So tonight’s game was not unfamiliar to longtime M’s fans. Great pitcher makes a single mistake, gets no help from his offense, and gets tagged with the loss. Story of the team since the last millenium.
On nights like this, it’s important to remind ourselves how excited we were for the season to come back. We’re Mariners fans. We know that some games are like this. And it doesn’t matter, really. Regular season baseball can just be for fun. At the end of the day, it’s really just all about the game.