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Walter falters as Mariners fall to Angels 9-4

So this is Christmas (in June) and what have we done?

Seattle Mariners v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In my religion, angels are healers. Not so much the Anaheim Angels of Anaheim. Rather than healing what ails the Mariners with a get-right series, the Angels took the rubber match today and are now 4-2 against the Mariners this year.

The central problem today was Logan Gilbert, whose velocity was way down, and he leaked pitches all over the plate, starting with a home run from Taylor Ward on Logan’s second pitch:

It was probably the worst outing of Logan’s career. By the time the Halos finished their first time through the order, six of the hitters had made contact at harder than 100 miles per hour, capped off by Zach Neto, #9 hitter, bookending things with a home run of his own:

Although Gilbert’s main problem was catching too much of the plate today, I’ll give Neto credit for homering off that pitch that you can see in the clip there was up out of the strike zone. But Logan was otherwise bad. He even allowed Mike Trout’s only hit of the series, destroying the Mariners’ chances of holding Trout hitless for a full series for the first time since 2011, with this third-inning single:

By the time Logan was pulled after letting the first two men reach in the fourth inning, the damage was done. He’d already given up six runs, which were enough to win the game. On the third day of the Angels’ absurd Christmas in June, my true love gave to me 11 hard hit balls; If the Walter nickname comes from “W” for win plus “alter” as in alter ego, then today he was Halter, with the “H” for hard hit.

In fairness to him though, he’s a creature of habit and was asked to adjust his schedule mid-routine to pitch a day early. I get what the Mariners were doing there, trying to help manage the rookie Bryce Miller’s workload. But let’s hope they don’t try that again and Logan can get back to his old self when he faces the White Sox this weekend.

As for the position players, Ty France set the tone in the first inning by getting picked off, continuing a troubling recent trend for the Mariners. J.P. Crawford made his second error of the series. Cal Raleigh finished the road trip 0 for 21. They spoiled seemingly every chance at a rally, most brutally in the sixth, when they had the bases loaded with no outs. They scored one (1) run (on a sac fly), and managed to reload the bases, but then left all the runners out there. Four runs was all they’d get today, not much considering the quality of pitching they faced.

But Mr. Rogers tells us to look for the helpers.

So credit first to the secondary arms in the bullpen for keeping the Mariners in the game, allowing just two runs over the six innings they had to cover. Brash looked good, with four whiffs in ten pitches. And Tayler Suacedo was this close to managing two full clean innings but for an error he himself made that seemed to rattle him into giving up a walk. But he came back to strike out Ohtani on three pitches. Penn Murfee made his return from the Injured List. (Murfee was, however, inexplicably asked to do an up/down and go back out the next inning; he ended up leaving with the trainer.) And Flexen once again took the unglamorous work of handling garbage time without complaint.

Ty France, despite getting picked off, had a three-hit day with a double and an HBP. Mike Ford hit a home run, his second of the series. And Teoscar Hernández gets today’s Sun Hat Award for his three-hit day with a home run:

The homer was a no-doubter off the bat, which was nice to see. But I was even more impressed with his at-bat against Chris Devenski, in which Teo got to two strikes but then fouled off a changeup below the zone and managed to lay off another one. Though they weren’t sliders, these are the kinds of pitches that tied him in knots in the first couple months. Then, with a full count, he singled on a 109-mph line drive.

This completes a very encouraging road trip for Teo. Coming in, he was rocking an 86 wRC+ with a 3.3% walk rate and 33.8% strikeout rate. But in eight games against some pretty solid pitching (today notwithstanding), he went 11 for 29 with a triple, two home runs, and best of all, a 12.1% walk rate to a 24.2% strikeout rate. Maybe, just maybe, the tide is turning for Teo.

And yet, as encouraging as that is, this was a rough one. With Anaheim’s nine runs today, the Mariners have now allowed at least nine runs in fully half of their last 14 games. Good teams play about .500 ball against other good teams. The Mariners are 14-2 against Oakland, Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. But against everyone else, they’re 17-31. It’s not too late to save themselves, but the 2023 Mariners are in deep trouble.