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Mariners enact rom-com, make grand gesture to take sole possession of first place’s heart

A 3-2 win over the Royals, or, How to Get a Divisional Lead in 11 Days

Kansas City Royals v Seattle Mariners Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

One of my favorite factoids about Mariners Coms person/Spanish translator Fredy Llanos is he’s a huge, unabashed fan of rom-coms, specifically the “golden age” of rom-coms of the 90s-early 2000s (see: While You Were Sleeping, You’ve Got Mail, Maid In Manhattan, etc.). Today the Mariners enacted the plot of their own rom-com, specifically the “enemies to lovers” trope, as they learned that while Wild Card might seem like Mr. Right, it’s actually the once-haughty, seemingly out-of-reach Divisional Lead that’s their true love.

The 2023 Seattle Mariners present: While You Were Sweeping, or, How to Get a Division Lead in 11 Days.

11 days ago. We were all so young.

The first act of a rom-com is the “Meet” stage, where our two protagonists are introduced to each other. For the Royals, though, this was anything but a meet-cute, as Luis Castillo was brutally efficient from the jump today, setting down the Royals 1-2-3 over the first two innings before running into a bit of a sticky wicket in the third when he walked Matt Beaty on five pitches and allowed a base hit to Maikel García. Castillo would get out of it, however, when Bobby Witt Jr. went after a slider for an easy, inning-ending groundout. That hit and walk, both in the third, would be the only baserunners he would allow all day.

After the third, Castillo was in cruise control mode, picking up momentum as the game went along, as is so often his way. Castillo cruised through the next three innings, sending the Royals back to the dugout in order, although he got a little help from his defense in each of those innings: in the fourth, Cade Marlowe ran down a lineout off a pitch practically in the other batter’s box that MJ Melendez nonetheless redirected into left field; in the fifth, Eugenio made another fantastic throw from deep in the hole at third to nail Nelson Velazquez at first; and in the sixth, Dominic Canzone had another Sunday Signature moment with this catch:

Castillo would come back for one more ruthlessly efficient inning in the seventh, adding another strikeout when he got Melendez to expand the top of the zone, giving him six on the day.

On the offensive side, Alec Marsh did his level best to hold the Mariners off from their happily ever after, striking out nine batters over 5.2 innings of work. He’d ultimately get a hard-luck loss, though, thanks to two Mariners hitters doing a meet-cute of their own, specifically the two hottest players on the Mariners over the past couple weeks, Teoscar Hernández and Julio Rodríguez each taking another star turn. First up was Teo giving the Mariners an early lead by absolutely destroying one of Marsh’s few truly terrible pitches of the day, a hanging slider that wound up right in the middle of the plate. Ball, meet bat:

If there’s one quibble on Sweepsmas it’s that the Mariners hitters didn’t offer quite enough resistance to Marsh, specifically the lefty hitters, who largely weren’t able to take advantage of Marsh’s dreadful walk rate against lefties. Josh Rojas was one of the few who did, working a walk and then stealing second, and then Julio, who prefers action movies, said “thanks for the effort but let’s make this easy”:

But this is a Mariners-Royals game, and if you expected it to be easy, you didn’t watch the trailer. The second act of the rom-com is the “Lose” stage, and the Mariners came very close to losing their lead in the eighth, when former Royal Gabe Speier took over for Castillo and was not as sharp as he’d been earlier in the series, allowing a leadoff single followed by a two-run home run that cut the Mariners’ lead to just one run. Speier then got unlucky when pinch-hitter Matt Duffy sent a comebacker right at him that Speier was able to knock down but not make a play on, bringing up the extremely pesky Kyle Isbel, who of course put the bat on the ball, because Royals hitters gonna Royal. However, once again, Suárez was the man on the scene, making a great diving play to get the speedy pinch-runner Blanco at second, something Scott Servais made mention of in his postgame presser as a key moment of the game but no outlet seems to deem worthy of a gif. Get with the program, MLB Film Room! Gold Glove for Geno or we riot. [Update: you can see the play here]

With two outs, Servais went to Justin Topa to get the final out of the inning, which just so happened to be Salvador Pérez. If you were screaming “JUST WALK HIM!” like people trying to warn a movie protagonist not to go down in that creepy basement, you were not alone. Topa and Salvy battled for seven pitches, with Topa expanding the zone, throwing everything in his arsenal—a slider, cutter, and sinker—before getting Salvy swinging after a changeup, a pitch Topa had actually shelved for a while before working on it with Mariners pitching development.

In the bottom of the eighth, John McMillon fed Julio three straight cutters for a strikeout, struck out Eugenio on that same cutter, and Cal flew out on 98, meaning once again it was up to one of Seattle’s high-variance young arms to protect a one-run lead against the Royals. This time it was Andrés Muñoz out for the final act of the rom-com: “Get.”

Maybe Muñoz—who is close with Freddy, who also serves as his interpreter—is also a fan of the rom-com genre, because he took “Get” to mean “strike out the side on fourteen pitches and end the game.”

And also: “Get that sole possession of first place in the AL West.”

Four stars, two thumbs up, 10/10 would watch again.