Players want to be on clubs that are buyers rather than sellers at the trade deadline because they want reinforcements coming in, not going out. So when a team chooses to deal, say, their lockdown closer who is also a steadying veteran force beloved by his teammates, that can take a toll on the remaining players, those battleworn soldiers hoping for help but instead seeing their supplies dwindling as the season wears on.
And initially, that appeared to take a toll on the weary club. George Kirby was uncharacteristically not sharp tonight, and the Red Sox batters were ready to pounce on his every mistake. The game opened, ominously, on an eight-pitch walk to Jarren Duran; Durran then stole second base and made it all the way around to score after a throwing error first by Tom Murphy, who sailed his throw well into center field, then by Julio Rodríguez, who threw the ball past a baffled-seeming Eugenio Suárez to give the Red Sox an early 1-0 lead and a certain feeling of doom to settle around the game.
However, these are not the Mariners of years past, who allow errors and mistakes to compound [a shudder passes over the recap as we remember that disastrous five-error first inning in Yankee Stadium in 2017, leading to a 10-1 drubbing at the hands of the Bronx Bombers]. Instead, Kirby righted the ship, getting Justin Turner swinging after a spicy fastball (98 on the stadium gun) and Masataka Yoshida to ground out harmlessly. However, Rafael Devers then scalded a single that ate up Ty France (102.4 EV), forcing Kirby to spend an additional five pitches striking out Triston Casas. Inning over without further damage, but it would cost Kirby in the pitch count department.
The second inning would also tax Kirby when Alex Verdugo opened with a single, thankfully not doing worse damage to a 97 mph fastball that landed in the middle of the plate. Kirby uncharacteristically battled his command tonight, issuing two free passes (which on the George Kirby scale is akin to walking four and a half batters), and the Red Sox seemed primed on every pitch of his, fouling off pitch after pitch—27 of his 97 pitches went for foul balls and counts where Kirby wasn’t behind, but was having to throw tons of pitches to get out of, and the savvier of the Red Sox hitters were able to take those counts where they had been behind and push Kirby to full counts and tastier pitches. Kirby didn’t have a clean inning in the third, walking Justin Turner, and although he cleared the fourth without issue, the Red Sox hit two more singles off him in the fifth and battled.
Five innings of one-run ball with two walks and seven strikeouts would be a great day at the yard for any other pitcher, if a little short; for Kirby, it was an unacceptable performance. Scott Servais joked he was late to the postgame press conference because he was having to calm Kirby down, and when a surly George sat down to talk for a terse couple of minutes, it became apparent he wasn’t entirely joking.
However, Kirby’s bullpen kept him in it, with Gabe Speier once again called upon to do battle against a slew of lefties in an opposition’s lineup, working around two hits but not allowing any damage, and Matt Brash took on the bottom of the lineup to work a 1-2-3 seventh and stuck around to get Justin Turner to fly out in the eighth, bridging the Mariners’ other lefty, a suddenly much-more-high-leverage Tayler Saucedo. Saucedo got Yoshida but allowed a bad-luck ground ball single to Devers, and also walked pinch-hitter Rob Refsnyder, a righty in for the lefty Casas. Andrés Muñoz has struggled some lately but entered to Farruko’s “Pepas” to put out the fire, striking out Alex Verdugo.
The Mariners had been sleepy on offense against Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta, allowing him to work into the eighth with just one bit of damage: a Cal Raleigh home run in the second that had tied the game at one, where it remained knotted until the seventh, when guess what, Raleigh got Pivetta again.
One for the money:
Two for the show:
With the score Cal Raleigh 2, Red Sox 1, the Mariners needed a little bit of insurance. They got that thanks to a spark from the rookie Cade Marlowe, himself pressed into duty after the Mariners made the worst trade of the deadline (Jarred Kelenic’s foot for a water cooler). Marlowe had struggled in his previous two at-bats against Pivetta, striking out the first time on four pitches, and grounding into a double play the second time up. So it made sense the Red Sox would leave a tiring Pivetta in to face Marlowe, except the thing about Cade Marlowe is a 4.2 GPA while on a science track in college doesn’t just happen. Our boy studies. Pivetta thought he’d get Marlowe on that same pitch away; Marlowe laid off, but Pivetta was gifted a strike call. However, because Cade had neglected to chase the first two curveballs he saw before fouling off a good fastball, that wasn’t yet the death knell for this at-bat. Pivetta came back, further off the plate, and Marlowe spat on the pitch, allowing him to get this fastball he lined into center field for a double (or maybe, a Cade Marlowe double: a single-and-a-half made into a double by Marlowe’s plus speed). I wish there was video of it to show you but like Marlowe’s triple the other night that almost reversed the course of that Saturday night game against Arizona, this has not been deemed important enough by our MLB overlords to become a clip, so we must appreciate it in still life.
But important it was. That ended Pivetta’s night, finally opening the riches of the Red Sox’s bullpen to the Mariners. Out came Joe Jacques, who jingleheimer hit Jose Caballero with a pitch. J.P. Crawford then fought around a painful foul ball fouled off his knee and worked a walk of his own to load up the bases, allowing Julio to have a hero moment and create some insurance:
Then the fun kept funning. Eugenio Suárez singled to push the lead out to 5-1, Raleigh reached on a fielding error, and Teo hit what was effectively a swinging bunt to make it 6-1, creating a lead that got Muñoz to an early ice bath and sent another rookie, Isaiah Campbell, out to protect a five-run lead, which he mostly did, being a little ineffective and getting a little unlucky but only giving up the one run.
Best of all, the early defensive miscues did not haunt the team. Julio made an excellent running catch that only looked easy because he’s Julio. Eugenio made a couple perfect pick and throws at third, showcasing the work he’s put in with Perry Hill in improving his arm and also his case for a Gold Glove. J.P. Crawford had an unfortunate moment where the ball missed his glove, but also made a spectacular leaping catch to end the game.
Postgame, Cal Raleigh, addressing reporters, acknowledged that it’s tough to see Sewald go, but it is a business, adding: “we can look at it two ways: we can pack it in, or we can keep going and try to make this thing real and kind of prove them wrong.”
Here’s to proving them wrong, Cal.