This series set up two teams, each the other’s biggest rival, with the last Wild Card spot in their sights. It’s the stuff of which compelling baseball is made. And the teams haven’t disappointed, trading blows over each of the first three games, giving us the agony and the ecstasy that we come to sports for in the first place. And although both teams came into this weekend hanging onto their playoff aspirations with their fingernails, the Mariners have now won the series.
The game’s intensity started in the first inning, when Julio got spiked in the hand while trying to steal second base. When that was compounded by the crew calling him back to first base on a dead ball thanks to umpire interference on the throw, Julio looked as mad as I have ever seen him.
When he was called out trying to steal again, it was like Joy had gotten caught in a vacuum tube and sucked out of Headquarters, leaving Anger and Disgust in charge.
He was even yelling at a fan on the way back to the dugout. It was an Angels fan, so he probably deserved it. But even so, this isn’t something we’re used to seeing.
But my friends, I believe that the Mariners dugout prefers Good Vibes Only, and Eugenio Suárez was right there to provide some veteran leadership.
By the next inning, Julio had calmed down considerably.
He’d calmed down to the tune of a two-RBI double in his next at-bat, which came within centimeters of being worth a third run, and we saw him genuinely smiling again. He led off the sixth with a with a fan interference double, the second night in a row that the Disney Adults in the Big A stands have beclowned themselves. And in the eighth, he completed his rebound with an infield single, where he’d come around to score the Mariners’ third run of the game.
How consequential was Geno’s talk? I don’t know. Julio’s an incredibly mature guy, and he probably would have calmed himself down regardless. And Julio deserves the credit for winning the game—he was the best hitter, responsible in part for all three runs. But it’s the kind of leadership I just go ga-ga for. So Suárez gets today’s Sun Hat Award, even as he snapped his RBI streak on an 0-for-3 day (though he did reach on a walk).
The WPA leader, however, was on the other side of the ball, as George Kirby had the good fastball tonight. Averaging more than a mile per hour faster than usual, he used it to rack up 9 of his 15 whiffs. And together with his slider and curveball, our edgelord had the ball dancing around the shadow zone so much that I got bored with the broadcast’s graphic of it.
True enough, the Angels do not make the most intimidating lineup, but Kirby was excellent nonetheless, giving up just one run and ending his night with back-to-back strikeouts of Shohei Ohtani and CJ Cron. By completing seven frames, he forced the Angels’ bullpen to cover two more innings than the Mariners’ for the third game in a row. Over the first three games of the series, Anaheim’s relievers have now thrown 254 pitches to Seattle’s 130. That bodes well for tomorrow.
Like any good game, the tension lasted to the very end, with Hunter Renfroe putting up the most impressive at-bat against Matt Brash I’ve seen. After covering 100 on the inside and 92-mph sliders on the outside corner, he finally singled on the 10th pitch, which, by the way, was clocked at 101. But J.P. Crawford bailed Matt Brash out with his second Gold-Glove-caliber play of the night.
Andrés Muñoz started the ninth with a quick two outs, including striking out Shohei. But then he let the Angels get within one and loaded the bases. Yikes. Mercifully, a mound visit was all it took for him to get it back under control and earn the save.
Having now won eight of their last ten series, FanGraphs thinks this victory puts the Mariners’ playoff odds over 25% for the first time since May.
But maybe, just maybe, it’s more satisfing that the Anaheim Angels have now lost five games in a row. The same Angels who just a week ago traded away every prospect worth anything. It was a sign of desperation from a franchise on its last guaranteed year with the Ohtani-Trout duo, having had a losing record in each of the other five seasons.
Now look, I’m a little disinclined to roast the Angels because I don’t like punching down. I don’t want to roast the Angels because I know what it feels like to have the longest playoff drought in MLB. I’m heistant to roast because I’ve seen a team waste a generationally talented player (though never two at once). And I’d feel bad roasting the Angels because it’s sad to watch a team that sees itself as a contender have to roll out a lineup featuring three hitters who played for the 2023 Colorado Rockies.
And of course there’s the horrible risk that they somehow defy the odds and make me look foolish. But what can I say? I’m used to that; I root for the Mariners.
So at the end of the day, the better something-or-others of my nature just aren’t speaking to me. Not after Deadgar Weekend and Lolla-Blue-Za and Jered Weaver and Andrew Wantz. The fact is that the Tomato Men are bad. And thus, here I am, quoting scripture: There goes a would-be American dynasty.
I had a marvelous time ruining everything.