In a game that constantly seemed at war with itself, The Seattle Mariners dropped the second game, and so the series, of their three game set against the Milwaukee Brewers, losing 6-5. In many ways it was truly a roller coaster of a game, with multiple aspects swinging wildly from one extreme to another at times. There were cheers and boos aplenty from the crowd, reflecting the see-saw nature of the whole affair. Good command and bad command (at times from the same pitcher), diving plays and errors, lead changes and ties and even more lead changes (including 10! changes in who had the better win probability), this game had it all (except perhaps.. fun?, and of course, a win for the home team.)
Perhaps the icing on the cake was a strike zone that seemed to shift so wildly from inning to inning, and at times batter to batter, that confusion would be justified to eclipse frustration, although the comparison would be close. I can now answer the question the character of Chastity Church posed in 10 Things I Hate About You: yes, you can in fact just be whelmed, in both its traditional definition and as a middling between underwhelm and overwhelm.
Overall you could chalk Logan Gilbert’s outing to a very mixed bag. Ultimately he put up a line of six innings pitched, five hits, four earned runs, eight strikeouts, and no walks. He never stopped battling, but the Brewers made sure to chip away at him from the very beginning. All of the first three batters ended up working the count full against him, and on the first batter in Christian Yelich that patience paid dividends when Logan missed badly with a middle-middle fast ball and Yelich wasted no time depositing it over the left field wall. That was primarily the story of Logan’s missteps tonight, his fastball finding entirely too much of the zone.
As the game went on, for the most part, Logan settled in nicely, and if he was missing more than he should with his fastball that certainly wasn’t the case with his splitter. Of his ninety-nine pitches sixty-six were thrown for strikes, and Gilbert’s nasty new addition was thrown for twenty out of those ninety-nine, for a CSW% of 50 and being the final pitch on three of his eight strikeouts. We have and will see much better from him this season, so overall today’s outing can be chalked up to an early season nothing-burger sandwiched between a bun of both good and bad things.
The duality and strangeness was even more present in the hitting and fielding than it was in the pitching. Seattle scored five runs on only seven hits, walked six times but struck out ten. Even if you fully understand the how and why of Julio ending the night with the worst WPA on the team despite being 2-for-6 and no strikeouts, and Kolten Wong ending the night with the highest WPA despite going 0-4 with three strikeouts (the entirety of the positive number coming from his appearance as the automatic runner on second in the tenth, where he was able to advance to third on a wild pitch and score on a sacrifice fly), something about it all just feels so very off.
The Mariners first got on the board in the third inning after being down 3-0, and managed to even pull ahead by one until the Brewers tied it up again in the sixth. The third inning alone was a roller coaster and a half, with two Julio and France singles being immediately followed up with Eugenio Suárez getting hit by a pitch right on the point of his elbow and immediately dropping in what was obviously a lot of pain. It was some time before the “funny bone” moment passed, and ultimately Eugenio was able to stay in the game and take his base. One beauty of a Cal Raleigh double later and the M’s were only down by one.
One Teoscar Hernández sacrifice fly later the game was tied, but the lead grabbing run came from one Tommy La Stella, designated hitter, on a weakly slapped ball to shallow left which was fielded by Christian Yelich in such a way that it should be looped with Yakety Sax playing over it.
Setting all weirdness and negativity aside, one upside to today’s game was getting to see Jose Caballero make his major league starting debut. No, he isn’t a heralded top prospect, or even in the Mariners top thirty, but he does have an interesting profile and perhaps most importantly of all given the Mariners recent woes, he’s an infielder. And yes, he can play second base. The crowd was into it too, cheering him with as much enthusiasm as they had booed Jesse Winker. While he didn’t get any hits he did make some decent contact multiple times, with the best contact on his first appearance in the third on a ball that was a split second less of hang time from falling down and finding grass, and reached base twice with a walk and a fielder’s choice. When he reached on the fielder’s choice in the bottom of the eleventh he also notched his first major league steal. Best of all though? Jose Caballero looked very comfortable in the field, charging balls and making plays or at the very least making them close when they shouldn’t be.
Ultimately the difference maker in this game that was surprisingly long for a 2023 outing was the extra innings. In both the tenth and the eleventh inning the Brewers were able to bring the automatic runner around on both a no-out double play and a soft hit ball that hit just a little harder would have been an inning ending double play. The Mariners were only able to score that runner in the tenth, and so the Brew Crew take this one. Seattle did threaten in the eleventh, even making J.P. Crawford work on his day off which he did admirably with a walk that loaded the bases with two outs, but the the threat ended there with a Julio groundout. Seattle lost a tumultuous game of mixed emotions that ultimately taught very little new about the team, but confirmed some concerns. The one-run luck that buoyed them so long was just that, and the offensive holes in the lineup are becoming not only vacuums of production, but of joy, and on a team whose engine is most efficient when being fueled with good vibes. As worrying as that is, it is balanced with the balm of the knowledge that this is still only April, and that those glaring issues can still be addressed or figured out.