This past Saturday night, the Seattle Kraken absolutely pantsed the Chicago Blackhawks, defeating them at Climate Pledge Arena 7-3, which I’m told is the baseball equivalent of hanging 15 or so runs on a team. You can read the recap from our friends at Davy Jones’ Locker Room here, and while you’re at it, bookmark the site and visit it often—DJLR has gone independent after Vox/SB Nation decided to shutter most of its hockey coverage, and they could use your support! They’re running a GoFundMe here to support their new venture, so even if you’re not a devoted hockey fan, shoot them a donation to help support this new venture—we would consider it a personal favor.
Unfortunately, the Seattle Mariners were not able to replicate said pantsing against the Chicago Cubs tonight, able to scare up just two runs against Drew Smyly and the Cubs bullpen, even in extras. To be fair, the Mariners were battling not just the Cubs, but also the BABIP gods tonight, as they had five hits with an xBA of .500 or more—giving them a 50-50 chance to be a hit—that were all outs.
However, the Mariners batters didn’t help themselves out, either, striking out a half-dozen times against Smyly and his curveball and making a boatload of other weak contact when they weren’t being BABIP’d to death. They scored one run in the third, when the BABIP gods decided to be kind to Ty France, giving him a double down the right-field line that came off the bat at a petite 71 mph. AJ Pollock would later bring him home on a sacrifice fly, but it’s worth noting the Mariners could have had a big inning there, with Eugenio Suárez reaching on a walk and Teoscar Hernández a single, loading the bases with just one out. But Sam Haggerty flew out on a 3-0 count (maybe no green light for Haggerty on a 3-0 count where the pitcher has already issued a walk that inning?), ending the inning with just the one run scored. Outside of the one game where they scored eleventy billion runs, it’s been very frustrating to watch the Mariners batters try to string together multiple runs in an inning.
With staff ace Luis Castillo on the mound, it’s not impossible to think that maybe the Mariners could have made that one run hold up, but sadly any dreams of that were dashed in the half-inning immediately after, thanks again to a combination of some bad BABIP luck and some uncharacteristic shakiness from Castillo. While Castillo started off the game looking like his usual dominant self, carving through the Cubs hitters in the first inning and working around a stupid Eric Hosmer hit in the second where he just threw his bat at a changeup and another single from eternal pest Nico Hoerner in the third, Castillo’s strike-throwing efficiency gradually tailed off after the first, as he fell behind two straight batters in the third and had to work his way back to post a 0.
That wouldn’t be the case in the fourth; having been handed the smallest of leads, Castillo walked the leadoff batter, Ian Happ, who would go on to steal second and then take third on a truly lousy throw from catcher Tom Murphy. Having seen Ty France successfully petition the BABIP gods, Cody Bellinger then scooped a very good changeup at the bottom of the zone for a weakly-hit double of his own (82 mph off the bat, .330 xBA), scoring Happ. Trey Mancini then singled weakly (65.7 mph EV) to move Bellinger to third, and Hosmer drove him in with his second hit of the day, this time a well-struck line drive single. Annoying, but Castillo would rebound to end the inning with just the two runs scored, and hold the Cubs off the board beyond that—and Justin Topa, Gabe Speier, and Paul Sewald all did their jobs as well, holding the Cubs off the board in regulation.
The batters, however, did not do their jobs, squandering run-scoring opportunity after opportunity. In the eighth, a leadoff double from Cooper Hummel went for naught when he was erased heading to third on a J.P. Crawford fielder’s choice out; even as Brad Boxberger hit Julio with a pitch, putting runners on at first and second with just one out, France and Suárez would go empty for another missed opportunity.
You know who doesn’t want to miss opportunities? Jarred Kelenic, who didn’t get the start in this game but came in to replace AJ Pollock. Jarred made sure his first homer of the year would be a memorable one:
That would be the hardest-hit ball of the day today, at 111.1 mph exit velo. In a just world, it’s a difference-maker, a game-winner; the best hit of the day should be that, and this was the best hit of the day. But the arc of Mariners baseball this season, while long, has leaned towards Annoying, at least so far.
Once again, when presented with a golden opportunity to score a go-ahead run or two and win the game in extras, the Mariners offense sputtered and failed. After Jarred’s homer, Kolten Wong attempted to keep the good vibes rolling with a single, but then was caught stealing to shutter the inning, which would put Cal Raleigh as the Manfred Man to start the tenth. Cooper Hummel led off with a walk, putting runners at first and second with no outs, but J.P. Crawford bunt popped out for an unproductive out. Julio then worked a great plate appearance, earning a walk, to load the bases with just one out, but again, Ty France and Eugenio Suárez couldn’t execute. Each plate appearance was bad in its own way; France watched two hittable pitches sail by from wiped-out Cubs reliver Keegan Thompson to put himself an an 0-2 hole before eventually striking out, and Eugenio chased the first pitch he saw for a harmless groundout. It was, in a word, brutal. Ty and Eugenio combined to strand 10 of the 17 runners left on base tonight, mustering just a hit and a walk between the two of them.
Matt Brash came on to try to work the tenth and wound up giving up the winning run when Nick Madrigal stole third and then scored on a bloop single from contact-master Nico Hoerner to give the Mariners their second painful extra-innings loss in a row. Ouch.
It’s early, still. But currently the Astros are getting to beat up on the Pirates, and the Rangers on the Royals. The Mariners will get their chances to play those teams, too. But if they want to join their city-mates the Kraken in qualifying for the playoffs, they’re going to need to start winning some of these winnable games. The bottom of the lineup has to start coming through, for sure, but the top four hitters in the lineup cannot go 2-for-16, like they did tonight. The offense as a whole cannot leave 17 runners on base, or go 1-for-8 with RISP, or saddle their bullpen with extra innings and high-stress pitches. At least—not on a regular basis.
Okay. All that’s a bummer. Let’s focus on the good things to take away from tonight, as thin on the ground as they might be.
- Gabe Speier and Justin Topa both look like legit pieces of the big-league bullpen. Speier was especially sharp, not allowing a hit and striking out a batter in an inning where he faced the top of the Cubs’ lineup. For a guy who’s had to switch teams a bunch and hasn’t really found a big-league home to settle into, it’d sure be nice for Speier to find a consistent spot here.
- I learned tonight there is a part of my brain solely devoted to Jarred Kelenic’s happiness, and it lights up when good things happen for him. Look at all these hugs!
Tom Murphy hug!
These hugs make me so happy because they show that Jarred’s teammates are rooting for him just like we are, and because Smiley Jarred—after years of watching him glower and grimace and fight and frown—makes me genuinely so happy. Here’s hoping Jarred has many more reasons to smile this season.