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Mariners understandably can’t score early, less understandably can’t score late, fall to Mets 2-1

Mariners play the jesters in Queens

Jose Cabellero is picked off first base against the New York Mets during the ninth inning
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Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Pitchers duels are a lot more fun to watch in June than in the September thick of a pennant race. When you’re at the point in the year where you’re living and dying on every pitch, it’s tough to enjoy the tip-your-cap loss. Unfortunately, it’s what the Mariners had in store for us tonight.

Logan Gilbert and Kodai Senga gave us one of the better pitching duels of the Mariners season. They might have pitched the game in Queens, but I think they had their pregame meal at a diner in LA.

The two of them went toe-to-toe all night. Senga started things off striking out J.P. Crawford on a nasty pitch, his trademark ghost forkball looking every bit as real as advertised.

Senga strikes out the Mariners’ best hitter in the first inning? Gilbert can do that too, dotting the absolute corner of the corner with a fastball to Pete Alonso.

All night went on like this. It carried a weird caveat that when batters weren’t striking out, they were torching the ball. Most emblematic was Ronny Mauricio’s first MLB at-bat, in which he recorded the hardest hit ball the Mets have had all year. At 117.1 mph, it was harder than any ball Seattle has hit this year too.

Mostly though, it was Mariners whiffing on forkballs and Mets whiffing on fastballs. At the time I’m writing this, their 16 and 15 whiffs are both in MLB’s top five for the day. Some might be concerned about the Mariners bats, but what the heck were they supposed to do with this?

Kodai Senga’s swinging strikes tonight

Well, it turns out J.P. Crawford could do a little something with one of Senga’s only mistakes, sending a cutter 412 feet into the New York night. But again, the Mets matched that, with Brandon Nimmo launching a middle-middle fastball 416 feet. That’s all the scoring the teams would manage against the starters, though, with very similar lines: 12 Ks and 2 BBs over 7 innings from Senga to 9 Ks and 0 BBs over 6.2 innings from Gilbert. Despite the hard contact, that’s enough for Gilbert to get tonight’s Sun Hat Award. He even managed to get a punch out on a splitter of his own.

Gilbert made a labored attempt to get out of the seventh, but was overthrowing his pitches even after a mound visit, and it was clear he was done. So Senga ends with the honor of having outdueled Walter. Fortunately for the Mariners, Gabe Speier came in and got out of the jam on one pitch thanks to a nice shovel from Josh Rojas, who Kate reports she’s seen working very hard on his defense before games.

The game was then really decided after the starters came out. The eighth inning saw Julio get a two-out double for his 300th career hit, which also gave him 30 hits in his last 11 games. That ties literally Ichiro for the franchise record. But the Mariners left him out there, whereas the Mets were able to do more with their 8th inning.

Facing Andrés Muñoz, who’s clearly still searching for his slider, Francisco Lindor got on, stole second and took third on a wild pitch. In an outcome we probably would have been happy with if the Mariners were out of it, Daniel Vogdor Vogelbach drove him home with the game-winning RBI when he ended a 9-pitch at-bat by serving a ball the opposite way.

A Sugar-free Mets team gave the Mariners a chance in the ninth, with Cal Raleigh working a leadoff walk. But the pinch-running Jose Caballero got himself picked off before the next pitch was even thrown. One wonders what Cabby could have done with Dominic Canzone’s two-out single. We’ll never know.

The 2-1 loss calls to mind the season’s early months, where the Mariners let so many winnable games slip away. I’m not worried about the offense not catching up to a pitcher as good as Senga, especially after the month they just had. But I do worry about wasting opportunities like this when the schedule’s about to get a heck of a lot tougher. Mostly though, I’m grateful that the Mariners have put themselves in a position where I have the luxury of being worried—they’re still in a great spot.