In yesterday’s recap, I bemoaned how the 2023 Mariners find new ways to break your heart. Today, they found a new, weird way to win, landing on the right side of .500, the mark they’ve flirted with all year. As the Indigo Girls might call it, it’s Closer To Fine.
It turns out that having to face the Twins twice in a week can, in fact, bode ill for a righty pitcher. After Kirby pantsed the Twins at home this past week, shutting them out over seven innings with 10 strikeouts, the Twins obviously adjusted their approach this time around, pouncing on Kirby early in counts before he had an opportunity to deploy his secondary stuff. In maybe his most uncharacteristic start of the year, Kirby found himself facing a 4-0 deficit after just the first inning, down 5-1 after three, and unceremoniously ushered from the game due to an inflated pitch count after just four innings despite striking out nine (he also issued one uncharacteristic walk, to Correa, but I choose not to count that as he was shaved at both the top and bottom of the zone by HP umpire Bill Miller, whose zone was consistently wider than it was tall). Servais said postgame that Kirby was willing to go out for the fifth, but with the team down 5-1 at the time, it seemed like a good time to give Kirby a rest after he didn’t have a break during the All-Star Week. Kirby might look like he comes out of 1950, but that doesn’t mean he has to pitch like someone who does.
Kirby has so often been The Only One the Mariners can depend on as a stopper, but tonight the bullpen backed him up, limiting the Twins to just two runs over the rest of the game and adding nine more strikeouts to Kirby’s nine for a total, for those of you who struggle with math as I do, of 18 (!). Gabe Speier struck out the side, moving as efficiently as a Fast Car. Isaiah Campbell struggled, allowing the Twins to get Closer after allowing a run on no hits but two walks, but Tayler Saucedo used the Deceptacon of his changeup to lock things down with a scoreless inning. Things really started to Change in the eighth, when Matt Brash had maybe his sharpest outing of the year, allowing one walk but striking out the side, and a tuckered-out Paul Sewald allowed a homer to Michael A. Taylor—so Curious!— but ultimately secured the save.
With the bullpen mostly holding the Twins in check, the offense was able to go to work after struggling early against Twins starter and former Mariners prospect Pablo López. Julio Rodríguez homered in the second to get the Mariners on the board early, but the only other offense through the first seven innings was Cade Marlowe’s first MLB home run:
However, once López was out of the game, the offense came alive against the Twins’ bullpen, the area where that club does not match up as well against their doppelgänger Mariners. The Mariners hung seven runs against Jovani Moran, former Mariner Emilio Pagán, and Oliver Ortega, who got tagged with the loss after the bullpen blew López’s stellar start. Sorry to Twins fans, but that Make Me Feel good.
The party started against Moran in the eighth, who walked J.P. and Eugenio to open the inning. Cal Raleigh then came through with a double, showing off his switch-hitting ability as he’s able to use Both Hands, scoring Crawford, to halve the Twins’ lead to 6-3. Baldelli then summoned Pagán, who was able to get Teoscar to ground out, scoring the run but recording the first out of the inning. However, Julio, after being Cool For (most of) The Summer, has been finding his power stroke lately:
That blast tied the game, but the Mariners had more work to do. They’d get it done in the eighth, when Cade Marlowe led off with a big-league walk against Oliver Ortega, then showed off his wheels a little, stealing second (shoot, maybe I should have saved Fast Car for here). Kolten Wong then hit the platonic ideal of a bunt, moving Marlowe over but beating out the throw to first. Ortega then hit J.P. with a slider directly on the kneecap, which is the only bummer of this game—postgame, Servais said J.P. will be on the shelf for tomorrow to rest, if nothing else—as Eugenio Suárez then showed the Power of Two, doubling home Marlowe and Wong.
Eugenio Suárez with some 9th-inning magic for the Mariners, pushing them ahead of the first time all night.— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) July 26, 2023
An emphatic comeback. pic.twitter.com/I6nSTeBQRf
A sacrifice fly from Teo made the score 9-6, which is all the cushion Paul Sewald needed. Will this be the Spark the Mariners need? Who knows, but a win’s a win.