In case you didn’t know, legendary singer and entertainer Tina Turner passed away today at the age of 83. Over a career that spanned over half a century, Turner recorded multiple chart-topping hits, performed to record-breaking crowds around the world, served as an inspiration to countless survivors of abusive relationships, wrote a bestselling biography, was elected to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, and in general impacted the cultural landscape in a way few artists do. Tonight the Mariners honored the “Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll” by showing their own tenacity, strength, and a little bit of flash.
Tina Turner rose from humble origins, growing up in the rural community of Nutbush, Tennessee and fighting her way to stardom by literally grabbing the mic. With significantly less adversity but an equally fabulous mane of hair, Bryce Miller—an unheralded fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft—fought his own way up to the big leagues and immediately grabbed the mic, metaphorically speaking. But maybe also literally speaking?
ONLY pitcher to do so in his 1st 5 apps (since at least 1901)— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) May 25, 2023
Much like he did in his debut, Miller came out pumping the fastball, working 94-96 and peppering it all over the zone. He threw eight fastballs and got two outs before opening Seth Brown up with a changeup for a called strike, and proceeded to put him away with a slider for his second strikeout of the day. He had to labor a little more in the second, as the pesky A’s fouled off pitch after pitch. It took him five pitches to put away Langeliers looking on a fastball, eight to get JJ Bleday to flyout on a changeup, and another eight to get Laureano looking at a perfectly spotted fastball.
After that, Miller had to battle a little more as the A’s peskily fouled off multiple pitches and did their best to muddy up his sterling early-season line. He walked Tony Kemp on four pitches in the third and wasn’t able to get the speedy Esteury Ruíz to ground into a double play despite inducing a perfect ground ball, costing him some pitches before he was able to put the A’s away—or rather, the A’s put themselves away as Ryan Noda made the bizarre choice to bunt for a base hit with two runners on, perhaps attempting to bait a bad play out of not-really-a-first-baseman Sam Haggerty (it was not super effective! as Miller and Haggerty completed the play like old hands). He also battled Shea Langeliers for 10 pitches in the fourth inning before getting him to fly out, and worked around a hit by pitch of Esteury Ruíz in the fifth inning. Miller maybe wasn’t as pinpoint sharp with his command as he’s been in other outings, and he went back to leaning heavily on the fastball in this outing after mixing things up a little more against Detroit: look at all that red!
I’m going to assume that’s just Miller doing his own tribute to the Lady in Red herself:
Miller would finish with six strikeouts to just the one walk to Kemp, surrendering just two hits and no runs. And that was him with maybe not his best stuff? This Mariners rotation, guys: it’s Simply The Best.
Best ERA first 5 career games for M's starters:— Gary Hill Jr. (@GaryHillJr) May 25, 2023
1. Bryce Miller 1.15
2. James Paxton 1.16
3. Félix Hernández 1.75
The hitting, well, that’s not been solid gold. However, after squandering some golden opportunities early on, the Mariners finally had their comeback tour moment, donning their Bob Mackie lamé spangled shifts and shaking down Ken Waldichuk for five runs. My frustration with the Mariners offense had just reached a fever pitch when John pointed out in the LL Slack that Waldichuk came into this game with the 4th-highest BB/9 of any starter (45+ IP) and the Mariners had swung at over half of his 44 pitches. Over half! That’s with a zone map that looks like this:
That’s so many pitches not anywhere near the zone! Those pitches are spaced the metaphorical and physical distances away from where Tina Turner was born in rural Tennessee, where she rose to prominence in St. Louis, and where she lived out the last decades of her life as a naturalized Swiss citizen. These things are far-flung, and the Mariners batters were flailing at them and yet somehow missing all those juicy juicy pitches right in the middle, and I was becoming irate.
But then a wonderful thing happened. Cal Raleigh did not miss one of those pitches in the middle of the plate, and jumped on a first-pitch fastball for a single to open up the fourth inning. Teoscar Hernández struck out, but then José Caballero recognized that none (0) of the pitches Waldichuk threw him were in the strike zone, and graciously accepted a walk. AJ Pollock pounced on a first-pitch fastball of his own and scalded a single that unfortunately did not score the elegant yet slow riverboat that is Cal Raleigh, loading the bases for Sam Haggerty, who recognized that we do in fact need another hero, apologies to Tina and her fine work on the Mad Max soundtrack.
Sam Haggerty opens up the scoring pic.twitter.com/UO8h1jAjMR— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) May 25, 2023
That opened up a barrage of hits, with J.P. Crawford hitting an RBI single to push the lead to 3-0, followed by a single off the bat of Julio to make it 4-0 as the big wheel of offense kept on turning. Now it was the Mariners’ turn to honor the Lady in Red:
Cal Raleigh would come up a second time in this inning and accept a bases-loaded walk to push the score to 5-0 and end Waldichuk’s day. Lucas Erceg came on to get Teo to line out softly to end the carnage and start the wheels of the A’s bullpen churning yet once again in this series.
Oakland did manage to avoid a shutout by clawing back a run once Miller finally departed. I don’t know which of the craven and impetuous baseball gods Matt Brash pissed off, but he came on in relief of Miller in the seventh and immediately faced adversity when a hot grounder off the bat of J.J. Bleday utterly consumed Kolten Wong’s soul. Aledmys Díaz would later “double” on a ground ball that replacement third baseman José Caballero couldn’t field—a grand xBA of .070 on the hit—allowing the A’s their first run of the night. He did get a little luck when Tony Kemp knocked a comebacker directly to him; Brash fielded and smartly ran over to get the runner attempting to score, leading to a good old-fashioned 1-5-2-6 rundown; he’d then get Esteury Ruíz to pop out harmlessly to end the inning. Fundamental baseball, it’s as aesthetically pleasing as this pair of stems on Queen Tina.
Teoscar Hernández added a little razzle dazzle to the end of the night, getting that run right back for the Mariners by demolishing a fastball 417 feet into the ‘pen.
that baseball belongs to the 'pen now ♂️ pic.twitter.com/gF9GYlFDqb— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) May 25, 2023
The Mariners summoned the steady back of the bullpen, Gabe Speier and Tayler Saucedo, to bring a stress-free, happy, and peaceful close to the evening by holding Oakland off the board in the eighth and ninth innings, much like I like to imagine Queen Tina spent the later years of her life in the peaceful Swiss countryside before shimmying off to diva heaven. RIP Tina Turner, and thanks for all the fun times I’ve gotten to have at karaoke via your songs.
Sun hat award:
I’m going to steal Zach Mason’s bit here because I couldn’t figure out how to shoehorn this in otherwise. With Ty France nursing a swollen hand after being hit by a pitch, Sam Haggerty was given duties at first base, one of the few positions other than catcher that he’s not maybe as comfortable with. The A’s seemed to know that somehow, slinging balls down the first base line all night for Sam to scoop, pick, and track out of the night sky, at times sacrificing his tiny body into the netting to try to catch one of the many, many foul balls hit by the A’s. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Servais decided to get Eugenio Suárez a mini-rest, plugging in José Caballero at third to play a position that maybe isn’t his best. In the eighth, Cabby sailed a throw over the vertically-challenged Haggerty’s head, causing him to leap and come down with an excellent tag play
With Haggerty limited by injury and the emergence of José Caballero, tonight was a great reminder of what a healthy, effective Haggerty can bring to impact the team: solid fill-in defense all over the diamond, productive plate appearances when others struggle to do so, and the ability to go rolling on the river all over the basepaths.