Today’s game was a truly 2023 Mariners game, yet another soul-crushing finale for a team that seems to find no shortage of ways to break your heart. Today’s game was actually two different games: the first eight innings, where the Mariners went quietly, losing 2-1, and then the ninth and tenth innings, where the Mariners went less-quietly but ultimately squandered what could have been Kolten Wong’s greatest moment as a Mariner.
Once again, Kenta Maeda enjoyed the MarinersBump™, flirting with a season-high in strikeouts with eight as the Mariners hitters flailed helplessly after his splitter. To their credit, they did exert some pressure against Maeda, getting traffic on in the first four of the first five innings—including Cade Marlowe’s first MLB hit, a ground-ball single, as well as his first stolen base in the bigs—although all they had to show for it was a solo homer from Tom Murphy.
That traffic did add up, however, as the combination of that and some overall lack of sharpness from Maeda despite the strikeouts led to an inflated pitch count. After he walked Ty France and Dylan Moore in the seventh, Rocco Baldelli tapped lefty Jovani Moran to come in, which unfortunately ended Cade Marlowe’s day, as Scott Servais opted to pull a righty off his bench, José Caballero. Caballero flew out, however, and J.P. Crawford couldn’t bail the offense out with a clutch hit, hitting a ball opposite-field but right at Trevor Larnach.
Jordan Balazovic gave up a leadoff single to Julio, but was able to get Suárez and Hernández to ground out before Mike Ford struck out looking on four pitches, leaving Julio standing at third base and Luis Castillo without a well-deserved win.
Castillo did everything he could to keep the Mariners in this game and then some. He was perfect the first time through the lineup, balancing strikeouts with some quick outs, using his changeup effectively at the bottom of the zone and backfooting a ton of sliders that got the lefty-heavy Twins swinging at air. He held up until the fifth, when Max Kepler scalded a ground ball base hit leading off, and two batters later Oregon State product Trevor Larnach destroyed a slider that caught too much of the plate for an RBI triple. Christian Vázquez got lucky with a little bleeder of a single dribbled down the right field line that gave the Twins a 2-1 lead.
Castillo battled through the seventh, running his pitch count up to 104 pitches and ending with nine strikeouts and the two runs on just four hits. Ground ball merchant Justin Topa replaced him in the eighth, getting Vazquez to ground out and striking out Joey Gallo on three pitches before getting Correa to also ground out. Here concludes Game 1: A sleepy, 2-1 loss where the offense again failed to be clutch, punctuated by a couple of fun things (Murphy’s homer driving up his trade value, Cade Marlowe’s pair of MLB firsts), but ultimately a disappointing loss that points to so many of the failures of this team: the excellent starting pitching backed by a lackluster offense, the 50-50 mark on the season the platonic ideal of mediocrity from a mediocre team.
But these 2023 Mariners are mediocre, but they won’t make it easy on you. Cue the rewrites in the eighth inning, when the Mariners went down to their final out quickly against Griffin Jax after Ty France grounded out on the first pitch he saw and Tom Murphy struck out. Up came pinch-hitter Cal Raleigh, who singled, and then Kolten Wong saw an opportunity to do the funniest thing possible when Jax fed him a hanging slider and Wong hit it exactly as hard and far as he needed to:
But then, the heartbreak. Because we Cannot Have Nice Things, Wong’s redemption arc was cut short by the normally sure-handed bullpen giving up the tying and winning runs, as Andrés Muñoz couldn’t get the job done in the ninth and Paul Sewald couldn’t get around the Manfred Man in the tenth, leading to a 4-3 loss. The Mariners were theoretically in position to win this game, with the top of their order leading off in the 10th, but Julio, Suárez, and Teoscar all went quietly to complete a 2-for-15 day for the trio. So in that sense, it was the old familiar heartbreak, after all.