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Mariners attempt to dig out of early hole with plastic spoon, break spoon, stab spoon in eye, lose 7-6


Seattle Mariners v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Tonight I started at least three different recaps, with three different themes, before yet another agonizing, late-game loss. This was a weird, disjointed game, so here’s a weird, disjointed recap about it. The 2023 Mariners: they never seem to run out of new ways to break your heart.

Part 1: The Emily in Paris Recap

At the risk of tipping my hand, this is a recap theme I’ve been sitting on forever, as a tribute to a show that taught me the definition of “hate-watching.” I’ve never really been one for reality TV or other things that people “hate watch,” but somehow Emily in Paris, a soapy drama about a bad person with worse fashion sense, has me in its grasp. I don’t know if it’s the soapy cliffhanger storylines, or the over-the-top marketing campaigns and glamorous office work that make the show feel like a less nihilistic Mad Men, or just the undeniable allure of Paris itself, but for whatever reason, I just keep clicking “next episode” even though I do not like Emily herself, although I do not think we are supposed to, judging by the outfits she is dressed in, which aren’t so much fashion crimes as they are fashion genocides. Here’s a sneak peek from what will have to be a future recap, featuring a recurring quirk of Emily’s wardrobe I call “Stupid Little Hat.” No outfit is complete without Stupid Little Hat, although sometimes it’s Stupid Short Fingerless Gloves instead, and occasionally they even team up and are joined by Stupid Impractical Purse.

There’s also a subset of Stupid Little Hat that is Stupid Little Bucket Hat. In this essay I will

We are supposed to see Emily as an American fashion maverick, I guess, boldly mixing colors, patterns, and styles, but she always looks to me like she’s been blown by a tornado through several backyards’ worth of clotheslines and maybe also some 2000s mall stores and this is the result.

I detest Emily’s recklessness with fashion just a tinge less than I detest her recklessness with other people, and yet I can’t stop watching. That was very much the experience of watching the first five innings of this game, while the Mariners were being perfecto’d by Brady Singer and also losing 3-0 after Logan Gilbert surrendered a three-run home run to Salvador Pérez in the first inning. Gilbert was uncharacteristically off tonight, struggling to land pitches in the zone and failing to get the Royals hitters to chase after them when he did, frequently getting into deep counts. Sometimes Gilbert, with his long levers, just gets out of sync mechanically, and that seemed to be the case tonight, although to his credit, he pulled things together after fighting through those first two innings and running up his pitch count into the 40s.

I’m not sure if I could have gotten away with covering the Mariners getting perfecto’d with an Emily in Paris-themed recap, but I would not have the chance to try, as Cade Marlowe walked in the fifth to break up the perfecto. On to the next idea, then.

Part 2: The battle of the former first-rounders

The perfecto was over but the no-no was still intact. Both Brady Singer and Logan Gilbert were drafted in 2018: Gilbert went 14th, and Singer, just four picks later, at 18th to the Royals. Most outlets saw similar stuff in Gilbert and Singer (except for MLB Pipeline, which at one point had Singer as the second-best prospect in the Draft, behind just Casey Mize), but in the pros, Gilbert quickly started separating himself, showing superior strikeout stuff even as he trailed behind Singer in getting to the bigs. While Gilbert has innovated his arsenal, adding and refining secondaries to back up his fastball, Singer remains largely a two-pitch pitcher, sinker and slider, with a strikeout rate that this season dropped below 20%. His development seems to have stagnated, while Gilbert continues to ascend.

But today it was Gilbert who wobbled, failing to clear the fifth inning, “the bare minimum” a pitcher can do, as he says. To be fair to Logan, Gilbert maybe could have gotten through the fifth, but Dominic Canzone made a historically bad read on a fly ball that allowed Bobby Witt Jr. to hit a Little League home run, making the score 4-0, and after allowing a single to Michael Massey, Gilbert was lifted so Tayler Saucedo could promptly get Perez to ground into a double play.

Meanwhile, Brady Singer continued to cut through the Mariners’ lineup with just his two pitches. It turns out if one of those pitches is a decent slider, you can still make a lot of hay against the Mariners’ lineup. Singer lost the perfecto in the fifth but kept the no-no going until two outs into the seventh, when Dominic Canzone finally was able to turn one of those sliders around. Canzone’s swing-happiness resulting in often poor contact quality can frustrate me, but he did a very nice job in a 1-2 count to drop the barrel on a slider in the lefty loop zone and shoot it (106.1 mph exit velo!) into right field.

The Mariners couldn’t do anything with that single, though, and Singer came back out for the eighth, seeking the shutout.

Part 3: The return of Chaos Ball?

We were talking about this on the podcast we recorded today, but it sure seems like the Orioles are getting all the breaks the Mariners got over their magical 2021 and 2022 seasons. I have said multiple times that I don’t want to depend on luck or Chaos Ball anymore, I just want the Mariners to be reliably good, but if the Orioles are able to The Secret themselves into Chaos Ball wins just by saying “this is ours now,” maybe the Mariners could speak something similar into existence.

So much of this team’s offense is feast or famine, so of course they couldn’t simply score a run and end the shutout and leave the score a respectable, although still painful, 5-1. No, of course not, they had to mount a thrilling comeback, and of course it had to start with Mike Ford coming back to life after seemingly playing himself off the roster over the past week or so, recording the Mariners’ first extra-base hit of the day. Singer then hit Dylan Moore with a pitch in a full count, ending his day and any chance of a CGSO—although he could still be part of a combined shutout.

Except not, because the Royals then brought in Carlos Hernandez, who the broadcast informed me is the Royals’ closer, to attempt to get a...five-out save? But although you can lead a closer to water, you cannot make him close ballgames. Josh Rojas singled on the first pitch he saw to load the bases, which set up Julio to do a Julio thing:

Julio would then steal third base, so when Eugenio Suárez then singled, Julio strolled home to draw the Mariners within a run and that became, for me, the most dangerous part of the evening: the belief part.

After Justin Topa handily disposed of the Royals in the bottom of the eighth, the Royals threw out a rookie, Austin Cox, in the ninth inning, banking on the fact that the Mariners hitters would have very little information about the soft-tossing lefty. Ty France opened with a walk, but pinch-hitter Teoscar Hernández battled for nine pitches but grounded into a force out to wipe out pinch-runner José Caballero at second. Scott sent out another pinch-hitter, Sam Haggerty, in place of Mike Ford, who immediately fell behind 0-2 but battled back to a full count and earned a walk. That prompted Royals manager Matt Quatraro to summon veteran righty Nick Wittgren from the bullpen, so even if the Mariners wound up losing this game, at least it wasn’t a) a perfecto; b) a no-hitter; c) a shutout; d) an opportunity for the Royals to skate through this game with minimal bullpen usage. Wittgren got DMo to fly out, bringing up Josh Rojas with two outs, and I know what you’re thinking. Josh Rojas, again? We’re really testing the limits of even Chaos Ball here.

Rojas fell down in the count 0-2, but then, slithering up out of the fountains in center field: chaos comin’.

It almost felt like a fait accompli when Julio singled to give the Mariners the go-ahead run, utterly eliminating what was a 5-0 deficit but felt like a 15-0 deficit. Somewhere in the corner, BELIEVE signs started unfurling themselves, crawling back into the light.

Part 4: No, not that kind of Chaos Ball/Always a new way to break your heart

But the thing about Chaos Ball is it gives, and it takes. Matt Brash came on. I have this thing about Matt Brash: within a few pitches I feel like I have a sense for whether that day will be Good Matt Brash or Bad Matt Brash. Unfortunately, today

Forgive me for not typing out all the details. If you need them, they’re here. For the third day in a row, the Mariners came within agonizing inches of a win, and did not win. For the second day in a row, a new player for the team came within inches of a folk-hero moment to secure a win, and did not. The thing about new faces is those are new faces for the baseball gods to shove a pie in, I guess. At this point, the callus is thick but three close losses, in three separate agonizing ways, does get under the skin a little bit. Maybe I should have just stuck with the Emily in Paris-themed recap after all and had some fun with Stupid Little Hat.

Ah yes. Stupid Little Hat. A satisfying hate-watch. Wait a minute—