In talking about yesterday’s teeter-totter victory, Scott Servais said “That’s how we played a lot of games last year. The never-quit attitude. And to do that, everybody has to chip in, get out of themselves, and be focused on the team, and that’s what you’ve seen the last couple games.” But there’s a part of the quote I failed to transcribe, and it’s the part that failed the Mariners today: you also need a little bit of luck.
Of course, you also have to make your own luck, and the Mariners didn’t do a great job of that today. The Mariners struggled with embattled starter Alek Manoah’s slider: he threw 34 of them, and the Mariners whiffed at the pitch 10 times and saw the pitch called a strike four times. Four of Manoah’s six strikeouts came on the slider, and those 10 whiffs are more swinging strikes than he’s had in over a year. Facing the Mariners offense: it’s good for what ails ya, pitchers. But the Mariners also hit the ball hard against Manoah, only to see balls find leather over and over again.
This image doesn’t even include a 101.1 mph lineout from Suárez that had a .510 xBA.
One ball, however, found the sweet plexiglass embrace of the Hit it Here Café (RIP):
Never, ever, ever, ever seeing that ball again. pic.twitter.com/7hnfISL4GB— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 23, 2023
Mike Ford’s second homer off the café in a week, and his hardest-hit homer at T-Mobile Park this season at 107.9 mph (second only to his 109 mph monster shot in Baltimore) gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead; sadly, that lead wouldn’t last long.
Bryan Woo was perfect his first time through the Blue Jays lineup, nine up and nine down with five strikeouts as the Blue Jays batters helplessly whiffed through his offerings, looking fastball but then getting sinker, or gearing up for the fastball/sinker only to wind up chasing after a slider.
That helped Woo’s secondaries, not his strong suit, play up; Woo threw 10 cutters today, getting swings on five of them and not much in the way of contact, as the Blue Jays either fouled the pitch away or whiffed at it. He struggled a little more with throwing the slider for a strike but it was still tempting enough for Blue Jays hitters to offer at, swinging at it six times and making a lot of weak contact off it; he also collected a strikeout on the pitch. Overall, today was another solid developmental day for Seattle’s newest starter, earning praise from his skipper for both his improved secondaries and aggressiveness in the zone.
The trouble started in the fourth, when he led off by hitting George Springer with a sinker. Woo rebounded to strike out Bichette and Belt, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. managed to get hold of a sinker that caught a little too much of the plate and just snuck it over the fence to tie up the game for the first home run off Woo by a righty all season. A homer in 5/30 parks? That’s baseball, Suzyn.
Woo would again suffer some self-inflicted injuries in the fifth. He opted to go all soft stuff to Whit Merrifield, using only the cutter and slider, and Merrifield wound up punching a cutter into left field. After retiring Dalton Varsho, who really seemed to struggle to catch up with Woo’s pitches today, Woo made things worse for himself by hitting Danny Jansen, the eight-hole hitter, and then Kevin Kiermaier ambushed the first pitch he saw, a fastball in middle of the plate, for a single to load the bases and turn the lineup over. With the crowd getting louder and chanting for the Blue Jays—interspersed with the usual boos for Springer—Woo reached back and found a 97.4 mph sinker that Springer tapped right back into Woo’s glove for an inning-ending double play, with the rookie calmly throwing home for the force.
The Mariners weren’t able to capitalize on that swing in momentum, however, letting Manoah again escape giving up some loud contact but balls that found outfielder’s gloves, including a leaping catch by Kiermaier to rob Suárez. That short inning brought Woo right back out for the sixth, with his pitch count creeping into the 70s. He retired Bo Bichette, again, but then left a pitch in the lefty loop zone for Brandon Belt that just snuck over the fence, with a little help from a leaping Teoscar Hernández—a homer in a whopping 10 of 30 parks, this time, but with a grand xBA of .050. Ouch.
The Mariners struck back in the bottom of the sixth. Cal Raleigh worked a walk off Manoah, and then Ty France, encouragingly, took a sinker on the inner half of the plate and redirected it into left field, ending Manoah’s outing. The Jays opted to bring in lefty Tim Mayza, and Servais immediately countered by tapping in Tom Murphy to hit for Mike Ford, and Dylan Moore to hit for Taylor Trammell. Murphy struck out, but Moore made good on his handedness threat and put a grounder into right field, scoring Cal from second (because Cal Raleigh would like to remind you he is NOT SLOW) to tie up the game again. Curiously, Servais then left Kolten Wong in to face Mayza rather than tap Caballero, which doesn’t feel like a great sign for Cabby. Wong tapped out harmlessly to end the threat.
With the bullpen taxed and his pitch count at 86, Woo came out again for the top of the seventh to face the lower half of the Blue Jays lineup. Woo immediately issued a four-pitch walk to Merrifield, bringing out Scott Servais and the hook, and bringing in Tayler Saucedo. Varsho immediately sacrificed Merrifield to second, bringing up the righty Alejandro Kirk to pinch-hit for the lefty Jansen. Saucedo, seemingly unafraid to put the leadfooted Kirk on with one out, issued an unintentional-intentional walk on four pitches to Kirk, bringing up the righty Santiago Espinal as a pinch-hitter for the lefty Kiermaier. Espinal then snuck a base hit right past the outstretched glove of J.P. Crawford for the go-ahead run. xBA of .240. Baseball. Saucedo then got Springer to ground into his second double play of the day, much to the delight of the Mariners part of the crowd, ending the inning.
The Mariners squandered yet another chance to come back in the bottom of the seventh, when Julio hit an infield single against Erik Swanson (like literally against, it hit him) and then stole second; in a singular “we won the trade” moment for Blue Jays fans, Teoscar popped out harmlessly to end the inning.
Isaiah Campbell fought through some defensive miscues in the ninth to keep things at a one-run deficit, but it didn’t really matter as the Mariners, despite getting the first two runners on against Jordan Romano in the ninth (Dylan Moore HBP, Kolten Wong walk), failed to push that final run across: J.P. Crawford bunted the runners into scoring position, but Julio struck out chasing Romano’s slider and Eugenio Suárez flew out to end the game.
It’s disappointing the Mariners couldn’t make up some ground in the Wild Card race today, but ultimately Servais feels satisfied with the effort his club is putting forward day after day. “We’re playing really good baseball,” he said postgame, praising both his club’s effort and execution.
“The group is coming together, finding ways to create opportunities, and we have been coming through more times than not recently.”
And truthfully, a series win still feels pretty good, even if this does not:
That truly is baseball, Suzyn.