Plants make growing look fun and easy. Look, this little seed has sprouted! Now it’s growing leaves! Now it’s flowering! Now it’s making a perfect tiny strawberry! But often, growth is painful. It involves recognizing that something isn’t working and being forced to change it, which is often uncomfortable and usually somewhat scary, like if that perfect tiny strawberry suddenly grew a row of sharp little teeth.
Bryce Miller made the bigs on the strength of his riding fastball. It’s his go-to pitch, his primary weapon, his safety blanket. But man cannot live by fastball alone, and tonight Miller learned that lesson in a painful way, facing down a team that loves hitting the fastball and possesses significantly more firepower than his previous combatants. When the dust had settled on his outing, he’d given twice the number of runs than he had in his entire big-league career up to this point. Growth is painful, and experience is an expeditious but harsh teacher.
The Mariners were able to overcome home plate umpire Ben May’s wandering strikezone and tie it up in the bottom of the second after the Yankees had scored their first run, led by Jarred Kelenic, who had an excellent revenge single after an awful called first strike by May. He then stole second, although he was initially ruled out by the equally terrible CB Bucknor, and took third and scored on two productive outs. It was the grindiest way to score a run.
The Mariners’ second run came in much less grindy fashion, as Julio said, work smarter not harder on a tasty hanging curve from Germán.
Unfortunately at that point the Mariners were already trailing by three runs again, and things would only get worse from there as Miller continued to struggle against the Yankees. Some of the things were within his control, like leaning perhaps too heavily on his fastball against a team that loves hitting the fastball, or choosing to throw Aaron Judge a fastball, period. But other things were not. These were the pitches put in play for runs against Miller.
That big red angry dot in the middle of the plate is an ill-fated fastball Miller threw Judge that was promptly deposited in the Yankees bullpen. I don’t know why he swallowed that fly. The blue dot in the middle of the plate is a straight up bad curveball he threw Bauers for an RBI double. The red dot off the plate is another fastball that Bauers yanked that stayed just fair, sneaking over the right-field fence at 355 feet with a grand xBA of .150. Crushed, it was not. And the two curveballs at the bottom of the zone are two doubles that snuck down the right field and left field lines off the bats of Willie Calhoun and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, respectively; they had an xBA of .250 and .210, respectively.
Miller also had to deal with a wandering zone from HP umpire Ben May, whose initials are BM for a reason. Miller was granted two strike calls off the plate, but also, all these pitches were ruled balls.
A real “what is the strike zone?” “IDK - Guess ;)” moment for Miller but also for the Mariners hitters, who saw all these pitches ruled as strikes for Germán.
To their credit, the Mariners offense didn’t quit against Germán. After Trammell and Caballero both worked walks and advanced to scoring position on a Ty France groundout, Julio carried the mail once again, scoring both of them with a sharp single into right field and drawing the score to 8-4.
Juan Then, doing heroic work in a longer relief outing (2.1 innings), surrendered another home run to Aaron Judge, so prepare to hear all about that for the rest of ever, making the score 9-4, which is thankfully where it would stay*. Teoscar Hernández tried hard to make it 9-5, but Aaron Judge, feeling his highlight reel wasn’t quite packed enough, leaped up to rob him of a homer. It was that kind of night at the ballpark. Again, you’ll hear plenty about that elsewhere, whether you’re trying to or not.
*Narrator: It would not stay there. Chris Flexen loaded the bases in the ninth and a run scored to push the lead out to 10-4, not good buddy. But Flexen, like Then, deserves plaudits for keeping the game close in a decidedly unglamorous mop-up role.
Growth is honestly pretty sucky. Doctors claim growing pains don’t occur during growth spurts but I remember lying awake at night as a tween yelling into a pillow because my lower legs and feet hurt so much. It was decidedly unpleasant, definitely painful and a little scary. But now I’m 5’10”, very much enjoy being a tall person, and am able to reach everything on the grocery store top shelves, which has come in very handy during these times of supply chain issues, particularly. Here’s hoping that after this tough night during which Bryce Miller was probably yelling into something postgame, he also emerges a little taller and more sure of himself.
Today’s Sun Hat Award:
Tonight was pretty crummy, but there were some bright spots, like the continued great play of Julioooooooo. Eugenio Suárez had a quieter night at the dish, with just one walk, but really showed up in the field. He started a key double play in the seventh to bail Juan Then out of a mini-jam, charging forward to collect a slow roller off the bat of Kyle Higashioka and then making an athletic, accurate throw where he had to turn his body midair to begin the double play; earlier in the game, in the fourth, he’d made another play on Higashioka that I’m adding to his Gold Glove highlight reel that I’ll be sending in to the Academy (that’s how those things work, right?)