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Mariners don’t forget to not lose, beat White Sox 3-2

baseball is, turns out, good

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Seattle Mariners Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, as the game was starting, I was still finishing up making dinner. We made spaetzle with a mushroom dill cream sauce, topped with some exquisite bratwurst from a local farm (shoutout Alluvial Farms in Everson, if you want ethical-er and absolutely delicious pork, I can’t recommend them enough). I thought of the idea partially to use the extra bratwursts we got from Alluvial, but I also thought of it because I have recently been missing one of my best friends. She’s German and was born in Germany (or at least spent a lot of time there as a kid) (??? sorry for forgetting part of your lore Katie), and like most German people I’ve met, believes that her people have perfected food and that German food is untouchable in the culinary canon. And so, I was introduced to spaetzle when we lived together.

In this day and age, it seems very silly to miss someone when it has literally never been easier to stay in contact with someone. The generation of my grandparents were alive when people were communicating by telegram, and their parents used literal birds to send messages! And yet, here I am, unable to remember to send a text message from a computer that I have on me at all times to Olympia to someone I care about.

And yet, I know that once I finally pick up the phone, it’ll be exactly like it was when we lived together, and would sit and talk for hours. I’ll catch up on her life, she’ll catch up on mine. The time and distance will fade away. Genuine friendship is one of those precious things in life that, no matter how long of a break you take from it, remains perfectly preserved, waiting for you exactly as you left it, without judgment or decay.

Baseball is another one of those things. In my last recap, about a full month ago (no one tell Kate!), I wrote about inviting you to take a weekend off from a thus-far frustrating 21-23 season. It turns out I was writing that to myself. This season has been difficult to watch in a way that other seasons have not been - or rather, it’s been the worst parts of those seasons amplified to a million.

The lack of care and dedication to anything but their pocketbooks from the front office (and the ruinous effect that had on what FOs would call the “on-field product”) had, at least temporarily, neutered my ability to derive joy from mediocre baseball. This is a skill I’ve trained my entire life to perfect, mind you.

So, I took some time away from diligent, loyal Mariners watching. I checked the score most nights, but have probably only watched 3 or 4 full games since then. I took my needed time away, to let the broiling flames of rage against a billion-dollar machine fade to sour distaste.

I returned tonight to recap this game, and found myself feeling like I was picking up the phone and calling an old friend, relishing that congenial familiarity and the sense of companionship.

My return to the most beautiful game was rewarded with a lovely gem of a game on the national Apple TV broadcast (which, by the way, slaps. D-Train is so compelling to listen to!).

Bryan Woo absolutely shoved tonight. He started the night out strong, racking up a handful of K’s while I was still finishing my spaetzle and wurst. The way his two-seamer and his slider play together is similar to Kirby’s nasty combination, though unlike Kirby, Woo’s slider is the money pitch.

The sinker really is no slouch either, though.

This was, by far, Woo’s best start of his young career. He generated a wild 54% whiff rate on his slider (18 total whiffs for the outing), lasting 5.2 innings. He gave up just two runs on three hits while striking out nine. These are all certified Good Numbers. If you want to bask in the “nine” part of that sentence in particular, see below:

His two runs allowed came on some, frankly, cowpoop solo shots, one against the man who has not hit a home run since last August, and another line drive that would have been a not-homer in 27/30 MLB ballparks.

He was excellent.

Time for some not good numbers! Through the first 5 innings, the Mariners averaged 2 runners left on base per inning. 2! Per inning! You can only get to 3!

What this means is that through the first 5, Seattle had 6 hits, 6 walks, and just one run. But, what a great run it was! Julio and Teoscar had back-to-back doubles that drove in the Mariners first run, a response to the aforementioned cheapo-homer which came in the top of the fifth.

There were two things that compelled me the most about the game-tying sequence.

First, Julio’s aggressive baserunning and attempted steal of third opened up a gap on the left side of the infield, turning a routine 6-3 to Seattle’s first run of the game. Julio, and, per the transitive property and his monstrous contract, the Mariners, are at their best when he is using his powerful bat to get on board, and then using his speed to wreak havoc on the basepaths.

Second is the emotion that shines through from both of them. This team feels like it has been searching for its spark and fire, and games like this make me think they’re close.

Chicago answered back in the top of the sixth with the aforementioned Benintendi homer, taking a 2-1 lead and knocking Woo out of the game.

The Mariners, taking up the oldest tradition in music, showed their mastery of the call-and-response in the bottom of the sixth. JP Crawford scorched a one-out double at 107 mph off the bat, building off of his newfound exit velocity increase, taking him from the bottom decile to above average in exit velocity.

Ty France, in the most Ty way possible, drove JP in with a hard grounder to the left side before getting TOOTBLAN’d, appearing to just…give up?

Still, he drove in Seattle’s second game-tying run, setting the stage for the new co-team homer leader to put the Mariners ahead for good in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Look how happy he is! The joy! The catharsis! I know he’s had a truly wretched start to the season, but I think Mariners fans are finally realizing and getting to see how good of a hitter Teo is, and how much fun he’s going to be to watch once he gets hot-hot.

The bullpen was nails tonight. Brash, Muñoz and Sewald shut the Southsiders down to the tune of two hits over 3.1 innings versus 7 strikeouts. The tres Bomberos were all at their individual best.

Brash was locating his dangerous heaters well, but the real story of his outing was pitching his absurd sweeper perfectly, generating sword after sword and whiff after whiff. He threw 23 pitches, 19 sliders! And he still generated a 77% whiff rate. Turns out, in short stints, there seems to be no upper limit on the effectiveness of a Brash slider when well-located.

Muñoz also threw a ton of sliders. His hard and sharp breaking balls were also well-located, scraping the bottom of the zone and generating his own whiffs, while the four fastballs he threw averaged 99 mph.

Sewald, you’ll never guess this, also threw a ton of sliders. His flat-frisbee slider, different from both of his teammates, was, again located well, and, you’ll never guess this, got plenty of swing-and-miss.

They combined for a 78% slider rate, and a 74% whiff rate [Boi-oi-oi-oi-oing sound effect].

This is how the 2023 Mariners are supposed to, in a frictionless world, look and feel. Strong, young starting pitching and a lockdown bullpen to protect an offense that is able to score just enough to win games. How this team should have and could look and feel is a different conversation. But for now, I’ll savor the feeling of having come back to Mariners baseball after a needed breather.

It’s okay for any Seattle baseball enjoyer to take a mental health break - this team in particular is uniquely frustrating. Baseball will still be there when you come back. The rhythm of a game, of an inning, of an at-bat, stands mountainous and unchanged against the river-flow of your daily life. It’s nice to be back.