No less a sage than Frank Zappa once told the world that ugly outnumbers beautiful, and that was the case in tonight’s game. The Mariners scraped just two runs in this game, both on solo home runs. They were 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position. They left ten runners on base. They won anyway, 2-0, thanks largely to a dominant performance from their pitching staff, and the continued brilliance of their franchise superstar.
Bryce Miller, pitching in his home state with friends and family in attendance for the second time, didn’t seem to miss a beat after his last strong performance against the Astros in Minute Maid Park, the team he grew up rooting for. He held the Astros to just two hits over 6.1 innings, pitching to contact: he only struck out two hitters, but also issued just one walk while keeping his pitch count in line, needing just 82 pitches to work into the seventh inning. Miller mixed his pitches well again tonight, alternating between his four-seam and sinker, and mixing in his slider and sweeping slider. The off-speed wasn’t super-effective as a whiff-getting pitch, but Miller was able to throw it with enough conviction that it set up his four-seamer and sinker, which both elicited a lot of weak contact flyouts and groundouts, keeping the line moving along for Miller.
Miller looked a little dismayed when a José Caballero error in the seventh led to him getting lifted after having already gotten past Álvarez, but Justin Topa was able to keep the Astros off the board, striking out Jon Singleton and getting Chas McCormick to pop out easily. Topa worked another clean 1-2-3 inning against the bottom of the lineup and Andrés Muñoz was able to close it out despite some annoyingness that had him in danger despite not allowing a ball to leave the infield.
That sloppy defense was indicative of how the non-pitching-staff part of the team played tonight, with the exception of course of Golden God Julio Rodríguez, who continued his hot stretch of play by giving the Mariners an early lead in the third, ambushing a first-pitch cutter from J.P. France that landed right in Julio’s happy zone:
Julio said who needs the stupid little Crawford Boxes (the Mariners do. Please, Ty, Julio, Teo, etc., please feel free to take advantage of those over this series.)
Mike Ford would provide the only other Mariners offense of the day, with a blast of his own in the sixth off a tiring J.P. France. This was his 99th pitch of the day, and it would be sent deep to right field on the eighth pitch of the at-bat:
I guess that’s why it’s good to lift your starter before they get too tired.
The Mariners had many other opportunities in this game, though, starting from the jump: Julio led off the game with a single and stole second, only to be stranded there after the next three hitters struck out. Teoscar Hernández opened the second with a single, and made it to second on a pickoff error, but was left stranded there—along with Jose Caballero, who was hit by a pitch. Teo would also lead off the fourth with a double, but would be thrown out at home on the contact play, and the Mariners would fail to score again. Somewhere, Rick Rizzs is quietly, Italiningly, furious. In the fifth, Julio again tried to lift the team on his back, leading off with a single with Eugenio Suárez singling behind him, only to have the next three batters make outs.
Julio would reach again in the seventh on a fielding error by not-Rookie-of-the-Year Jeremy Peña, and get all the way to third on a throwing error by new pitcher Kendall Graveman, but again, would be stranded. You guys, stop embarrassing us in front of Julio. Julio would get left on base one more time in the ninth, when he singled with one out and stole second, only to be left again. Anytime the rest of you want to start picking up some of the slack for Julio, guys. We’ll give Suárez a pass because he did have a hit tonight, and also bailed out the pitching multiple times with some simply stellar defense at the hot corner:
The body control here is just incredible. Matt Chapman can suck a lemon; Geno is my Gold Glover at third this year.
Thanks to the pitching staff, those measly two solo home runs were able to hold up, but the Mariners absolutely have to start getting more out of the part of the lineup not named Julio Rodríguez, who—outside of Teo, who is blameless tonight, with a three-hit night—had two combined hits over 28 plate appearances (a case can also be made for Caballero, who walked and had a Cabby Special, getting HBP), with 11 strikeouts. Caballero took tonight’s only walk, as well.
A win is a win, but the Mariners simply can’t get this kind of offensive production from the lineup and count on winning a lot of games against the Astros. Julio is otherworldly right now, but he is also one person, and there’s only so much room on those shoulders, which have already carried so much weight in his young career. Thankfully, for tonight at least, ugly outnumbered beautiful on the scoreboard as well as in real life.