I have friends for whom the title of this recap is descriptive. For some it’s a hamburger instead, or another common, relatively universal dish at many restaurants in the United States. You may be such a person, or know folks with similar proclivities. Knowing what you like (or at least are content with) is a lovely thing, and finding satisfaction in consistency is a respectable approach to life that leads to many wonderful choices and approaches in broader application across life. But it also means missing out on the chance to realize something might be even better, and while that opportunity cost is palatable for many people, through nearly two months of ballgames (and, really, stretching back into the past few winters) we have watched the Seattle Mariners choose the same item on the menu at meal after meal, and too often it has fallen far short of the other options.
In today’s 3-2 loss, the M’s fed off a familiar plate. George Kirby was excellent, going a hyper-efficient 7.0 full innings with just 88 pitches and three runs, all earned. He struck out six and walked just one, overall making the best offense in the NL East (and one of the league’s best overall) look tame, much as Logan Gilbert and Bryce Miller had done the past two days and as Kirby has been doing to opponents all spring. Kirby’s hairiest inning was the bottom of the third, where he came a strike away from escaping, were it not for exceptional bat control by Eddie Rosario on a well-executed changeup.
George Kirby on the changeup he threw that led to this off-plate RBI knock from Eddie Rosario:— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) May 21, 2023
"I made the pitch there. He put a good swing on it. I could have put a lower, but I don't want to think about that, you know? I'm just trying to take the positives." pic.twitter.com/iyv3kTpe9M
Despite that bloop, for the third straight night, Seattle’s starters and bullpen had held the Atlanta Braves to just three runs through seven innings. The defense backed Kirby up well, including some creative work by J.P. Crawford and Eugenio Suárez.
Eugenio Suárez has quietly made an early case for a Gold Glove Award. And this might be his play of the year so far. pic.twitter.com/FMMVmyQ5OE— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) May 21, 2023
And yet, it was another loss. This one slipped away as Seattle could not solve struggling Atlanta Braves starter Jared Shuster, nor a bullpen they’d seen used heavily the past two nights. Despite 77 degree weather, the M’s lineup, generally crafted to rely on home runs to drive in baserunners earned with free passes more than string several hits together as they did Saturday night, lost a game in which two of their three most effective hitters just past the quarter mark of the season homered. That is, of course, Jarred Kelenic and Jose Caballero, with the big fly for the latter being the first of his MLB career.
It absolutely rules to see Caballero thrive out of the gate, the type of player whose profile is overlooked because of how many with his skillset cannot maintain it at the sport’s highest level as he has done through his first 23 games. Caballero has wrested the starting role away from the floundering Kolten Wong, whose injured wrist has done him no favors, and today did enough that he should be being discussed as the key player in a surprising series win.
Jose Caballero is the 2nd Mariner with a HR and 3+ SB game.— Gary Hill Jr. (@GaryHillJr) May 21, 2023
Mike Cameron 5/16/2002 at TOR the other
Instead, it is another series loss, a 4-5 road trip that felt summarily 4-5. No bats were solved on the east coast, and indeed besides Kelenic and, albeit in just 66 plate appearances, Caballero, just Cal Raleigh and J.P. Crawford will return home with their wRC+ on the right side of 100. The expectations were higher this season, which makes seeing the small bright spots far less satisfactory, particularly as the non-Athletics in the AL West and fellow wild card contenders who splurged on steak the past couple winters have continued to rocket upwards. The course correction has to come from the folks in the lineup, because these chicken fingers are getting cold and getting old.