The storm clouds were gathering in Atlanta during the game against the visiting Seattle Mariners, and for the Mariners and their fans the dark clouds have been gathering overhead for the last week as they have struggled to play competitive baseball. The static electricity of the unknown has been hanging in the air, with three distinct futures in play. The Mariners could either keep treading water, they could get swept away in the deluge, or they could become riders on the storm, embrace the trident and rule the seas of the season they still have much left to navigate. That answer remains in the air, hiding in the ethers of the future, but for today at least they broke the storm clouds open and poured on some offense to overcome Atlanta, 7-3.
It’s impossible to talk about today’s win without first mentioning how unlikely it felt, and why. The Mariners offense has been struggling in a particular way that any early lead has felt insurmountable, even if they have managed some comeback wins this year. On the pitching end they have had one of the most, if not the most, solid rotations and bullpens in all of baseball. On days when the starting pitching runs into trouble out of the gate, it surpasses the feeling of getting caught unprepared in a storm, instead feeling like getting caught in a storm while slowly sinking into quicksand, knowing one way or another there would be no room to breathe soon. That was the start to the game Mariners fans were treated to today, with Logan Gilbert giving up a single to Ronald Acuña Jr on only the second pitch. On his second pitch to Matt Olson, this happened.
Gilbert then went on to give up a single to Sean Murphy, collect an out on a fielder’s choice from Austin Riley, then ended the inning by striking out Eddie Rosario and Ozzie Albies. LoGi finished the inning strong, but the sinking feeling was still there, feeling all too familiar. Atlanta had the early lead, and Gilbert was already at twenty three pitches. There remained a sliver of hope, that Atlanta was having a bullpen day, but Seattle fans are conditioned to not look for that glimmer. In truth, Atlanta opener Jesse Chavez hid that shine well when he managed to work into the third, giving up just one hit, one walk, and striking out three. Michael Tonkin came out after Caballero led off the third with a strikeout, and aside from a walk to Crawford, escaped the inning without any damage, collecting a strikeout from Julio to end it.
The two Atlanta runs felt like twenty if the Mariners couldn’t even take advantage of a bullpen day. Jarred Kelenic struck out swinging in his first at bat in the first inning, but if you have been paying attention to his season you know that he has mastered the art of looking for the glimmer of possibility, and embracing it. He lead off the fourth inning with a 0-2 grounder through the middle, notching a single against Tonkin. Eugenio Suárez patiently sat on the first two pitches for balls, and hit the following middle-middle sinker for a line drive single to left field. Now, I’d like to say what happened next was by design, but anyone who knows baseball knows that it also takes a little luck, a little chaos, if you will. Teoscar Hernández hit it right to Orlando Arcia, but he was unable to glove it, and the bases were loaded with no outs on the error. Most fans for most teams would be hyped right now, but Marines fans know to only hold their breath. Taylor Trammell came up to bat, and gave the fans a reason to sigh in relief.
The bases were still loaded with no outs, but the Mariners were still down one. Tom Murphy struck out with a check swing on three pitches, and Seattle fans were back to holding their breath. José Caballero hit it 97.6 mph off the bat, deep into left field, Eddie Rosario going back to the warning track...
...where it was caught for the second out, but Suárez was able to tag up and score on the sacrifice. It was now tied, and while work still needed to be done, it was an admirable effort from Caballero who has been noted at lacking power, and was mere feet away from a grand slam. More work would be done this inning, and it feels good to say it comes as no surprise this season that the work was done by JP Crawford, who laced one into right field for an RBI single (and his 500th career hit).
The Mariners were up 3-2 after their half of the fourth inning, but a one run lead wouldn’t matter if Logan Gilbert gave up contact like he did in the first inning. Gilbert agreed with that sentiment, clearly, because he left the game after those mistakes and brought in his twin, Walter. Not only did Gilbert settle in and not give up any more runs, but he ended up going six innings, throwing sixty-five of his eighty-seven pitches for strikes, and ending the night with just the two earned runs on only four hits, one walk, and striking out nine. His splitter in particular was an electric pitch, with a whiff rate of 47%.
The Home Run Trident (trident, not pitchfork, as the Fox broadcast called it at one point) may be a celebration reserved for the hitting side of the team, but the way Logan Gilbert buckled down today was absolutely worthy of him carrying it. It was enough to keep the game close that if the offense showed up and the bullpen returned to reliability, his team stood a fighting chance. Oh, and the offense showed up again in the fifth before he left the game. Julio Rodríguez drew his second walk of the night, and Jarred Kelenic moved him to third on a single (and then advanced to second on a throw to third that ricocheted off of Julio’s back). Eugenio was able to score Julio on the sac fly, and a Teoscar Hernández single scored Kelenic from second. The Mariners now had a much more comfortable 5-2 lead, and that was all they could muster at the time and the inning ended with a Trammell pop-out and Tom Murphy’s second check-swing strikeout of the night.
Seattle coming back and getting the lead, behind dominant pitching from Gilbert, certainly felt good. Rodríguez and Hernández were showing patience at the plate that has been mostly missing lately, the pitching was pivoting instead of collapsing, but the game still needed a punctation mark. The clouds gave in and the rain had come, but the game needed some lightning, a quick strike of Good Vibes.
Suárez has been drawing a decent walk rate, playing gold glove caliber third base, but has notably been missing one of his strongest tools this season, power at the plate. With his second home run in the last five games, he is possibly signaling a return to last year’s form, and at the very least made this game feel comfortable as much as it can when facing a lineup as potent as Atlanta’s. The offense did its part, the starting pitching in Gilbert certainly did his, but the bullpen would need to do theirs if any of that was going to matter.
Matt Brash took over for Gilbert, and came in to start the bottom of the seventh inning. Matt Brash has been wild lately, and even though his numbers are still overall very good, it can be quite the experience watching him pitch when he struggles with command. He did give up an 0-2 single to Marcell Ozuna, but fairness to Brash that it wasn’t a terrible pitch. And yes, Ozuna did advance to second on a wild pitch, but Brash was able to get out of the inning without allowing any other damage. In fact, he got all three outs on swinging strikeouts, including his 100th of his career.
Career strikeouts 99, 100 and 101 for Matt Brash pic.twitter.com/2wnFPjuft7— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) May 21, 2023
Justin Topa allowed a run in the eighth but was able to work out of any more damage, and Paul Sewald came in and shut the door in the ninth (with just maybe the teeniest bit of help from Blue). It wasn’t a perfect game for the Mariners; every Seattle hitter put up at least one strikeout, and the team totaled fourteen of them, with France and Caballero being the greatest offenders with three apiece. But Julio ended the night with three walks, of the team’s five. Everybody in the lineup except France either got a hit, got on base with a walk, or notched an RBI. The team was 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position, compared to Atlanta’s 0-for-4. The storm broke today in Seattle’s favor, and they washed over Atlanta’s bullpen in such a way that they may have earned the edge in tomorrow’s rubber match.