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Virtuous Mariners refuse to use personal data to adjust to desires of fans, escape with 7-6 win

Sometimes the best tech is no tech.

Minnesota Twins v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

In the naïvité of my teenage years, I remember marveling at the work a friend was assisting in for a major tech corporation. “Instead of random decisions, advertisements can be better designed to match the individual preferences and interests of each user based on their activity online!” It’s a reasonable enough premise, and one we’ve seen take precedence worldwide in the past decade and change, ensuring every time my bratwurst of a thumb thuds a moment too long on a specific Instagram post, my browsers will be filigreed with a tri-colored hoodie t-shirt that I am pretty sure would serve as an internationally understood request for someone - anyone - please kick my ass. Rare is the corporation that has eschewed this methodology, and indeed many companies now subsist or are valuated heavily on the user data they can collect and sell, allowing themselves and others to best cater to their customers.

The Seattle Mariners have been iconoclasts in this sense. In spite of constant user feedback and data submissions, solicited and unsolicited, Seattle has been steadfast in their refusal to design a team that wins baseball games comfortably and consistently. Tonight’s 7-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins had every marking of a cruise control victory, slipping instead into a save situation for Paul Sewald late to echo their 2021 and 2022 campaigns on the fields of one-run victory-land. On the other hand, and more importantly, with Minnesota starter Sonny Gray cruising for much of the evening, this was a crucial win the M’s snatched away from the first-place Twins despite courting disaster like a mythical Hellenic hero challenging the gods.

They were not deities, but Logan Gilbert was challenged frequently by Minnesota’s lineup, struggling to put hitters away and seeing his pitch count balloon on foul balls and lengthy innings even as he worked his way to a respectable line that he described postgame as meeting the “bare minimum”. With Seattle in a 2-0 hole as Gilbert stalked off the hill at the end of the 5th, escaping further damage thanks to a wide-ranging play by Jose Caballero, the M’s stared firmly at another poor start to a series.

The frustration showed, as hitters continued showing evidence of pressing. Paul Sewald remarked recently on the club’s awareness that the way they’ve played has placed the next two weeks under a microscope, determining whether they’ll be adding or subtracting from their big league roster this year. J.P. Crawford scowled with frustration upon an inning-ending strikeout in the third, and another bat nearly was reduced to kindling by an exasperated Eugenio Suárez after whiffing to end the fourth despite a hit earlier in the game. Among the club’s most vocal leaders, Suárez led efforts to fire up the club in Sunday’s victory and again was outspoken heading into the fifth inning today, particularly as Scott Servais noted the club was struggling early:

“Instead of just passing the baton off, they’d tend to get caught up in trying to be the hero. And you can’t do that because Sonny Gray is a really good pitcher and is not going to give in to you, but our guys were able to put a big inning together there.”

But the fifth was indeed a turning point, as with one out, Teoscar Hernández amended for an earlier GiDP with a laser double on a hanging breaking ball. What followed was an infectious wave of great plate appearances, as Ty France worked around an atrocious first swing to draw his second walk since June 20th, Mike Ford chose not to swing at a pitch that nicked his left big toe, loading the bases for Caballero to lash a single, meeting the moment in a massive way. Unfortunately, in his wake, Gray got Crawford to pop out to Carlos Correa at short for out number two.

If there’s been an easier point of dissatisfaction for Julio Rodríguez than struggling to rein in his zeal to “be the hero”, I haven’t seen it this year. And yet, down 1-2 early on an unfortunate foul tip, Julio laid off two sliders down and away and a fastball just above the top rail to drive in a run and advance everyone a station.

And of course, what could be less heroic than fighting a fastball off the other way to drive in two runs?

Though Seattle would eventually draw to a 7-3 lead on a Cal Raleigh hit and scoot, as well as a mammoth blast by Suárez, this was the crucial moment this evening. Jarred Kelenic, with the club’s fourth straight bases-loaded plate appearance, punishing an opponent’s mistakes. This evening was flooded with sloppy play by Minnesota, in particular featuring a true butcher’s display from backstop Ryan Jeffers, but the M’s have frequently taken that input and declined its implications as well. Instead, tonight, the Mariners won their own way, grinding out plate appearances and punishing a starter on the third time through the order, and relying on their best bullpen arms to hold the line. Perhaps they are listening after all.