The Mariners offense, when they’re at their best, are supposed to get runners on base, then swat them in with big homers and extra-base hits. Tonight, the Rangers stole their lines, racing out to a 4-0 lead over the first two innings, and expanding that lead to 8-0. To their credit, the Mariners battled back and kept this from being a laugher, but, moral victories aside, at this point in the season, an L in the win/loss column is unfortunately the only currency that matters.
The Rangers jumped out to an early lead, scoring all the runs they’d eventually need to win this game in the first two innings. Mariners starter Bryce Miller made two bad mistakes, and the Rangers, being a lineup composed of Good Hitters, capitalized on them for a pair of home runs: one a solo shot to Corey Seager in the first, gleefully taking up the family mantle of killing an AL West rival; and the real damage, a three-run shot to Evan Carter, the Rangers’ recently-promoted top prospect, in the second. It’s always difficult to pitch to a player where there’s no real MLB track record of a scouting report, but it’s also never a good idea to throw a pitch directly down the middle, which is what Miller did. Unfortunately, due to some bad sequencing luck where Jonah Heim had gotten aboard with a ground-ball single (.160 xBA) and Leody Taveras also singled, the bad pitch wound up doing triple damage: Miller attempted to go to his changeup against Carter; the pitch wound up in the fat part of the plate, and the Rangers wound up with a 4-0 lead.
To his credit, Miller kept scrapping, battling back with 1-2-3 innings in the third and fourth. In the fifth, however, he again faltered against Carter, walking him in a two-strike count; the speedy Carter would then steal second and advance to third on a Seager single. With one out, Scott Servais opted to go to the ‘pen and bring in groundball specialist Tayler Saucedo, and that’s where this game hit a low point for the Mariners. Saucedo got the second out of the inning by getting Nathaniel Lowe to ground out, almost securing the double play but Lowe was able to just beat it out. That allowed the run to score, though, and then Saucedo gave up a single, walk, and another walk to force in another run. Trent Thornton came in to try to stop the bleeding and instead accidentally activated some Wolverine claws, giving up a two-run single to Mitch Garver to push this game firmly into laugher territory, 8-0.
Meanwhile, the offense sleptwalk against Dane Dunning, attempting to be aggressive early in the count but grounding out harmlessly again and again, allowing Dunning to sail through his first five innings with the only damage against him being a Jarred Kelenic walk and double (Teoscar Hernández also worked a walk). The Mariners finally got something going in the sixth against Dunning, showing that the blueprint doesn’t just work for the Rangers: J.P. Crawford led off with a single, and Julio was hit by a pitch (Please Stop Hitting Julio), putting two on for Cal Raleigh. We’ve been watching for Cal Raleigh to hit his 30th home run of the season, making #29 the 29th catcher in MLB history to do so, and he picked a great time for some Big Dumping:
That pushed this game out of “laugher” territory but the deficit was still significant. However, Eugenio Suárez then singled, ending Dunning’s day, and Jarred Kelenic walked—one of the five (FIVE! 5!!!) times he’d reach base today—putting two on with one out. Ty France struck out swinging—one of the zero (ZERO) times he’d reach base today—but Dominic Canzone singled to load the bases, and then Josh Rojas walked to drive in another run and bring the deficit right back to where it was after the second inning. That triggered Bruce Bochy to go to his bullpen yet again, and J.P. Crawford pounced on the first pitch he saw, grounding out easily to end the threat and leave the bases loaded. ARGH.
The Mariners bullpen—well, the Gabe Speier/Isiah Campbell parts—were able to keep the Rangers from adding on to their lead, but the Mariners went down quietly against Heaney in the seventh and eighth innings, which, come on guys. Andrew Heaney. You know him! You’ve done well against him in the past! And maybe with a little more leash the Mariners could have gotten it done, but they just couldn’t make up for those lost, useless early innings against Dunning—they were no-hit into the fifth inning!—in time.
Still, the Mariners did exercise enough pressure to get Bochy to drag out Aroldis Chapman for the ninth, and the Mariners did put pressure on him, with J.P. leading off with a single and Cal Raleigh doubling. With two outs—Julio and Teo both struck out—Eugenio Suárez came through with a big single to cut the lead down to 8-5, and then Jarred walked (we love it) to load the bases for...Ty France. It brings me no joy to say that the LL staffers are basically unanimous in saying Ty France probably shouldn’t be starting every day for the Mariners during this playoff hunt, although we are divided about whether Luis Torrens or Mike Ford are the better second option. Whatever it is, it’s got to be better than France rolling over on the first pitch he saw for an easy groundout. Ouch. Bad Ty!
The Mariners will have to be content with not letting this one get into pure laugher territory, saving their high-leverage arms while forcing Chapman to throw 21 pitches, but at this point in the season, sadly, that’s just not enough. Moral victories don’t count in the playoff standings, and every game matters tenfold in this tight AL West race. Facing Texas’s powerful offense and weaker pitching means the offense has to, for once, carry the load during this series; they need to do a better job of that tomorrow, or the Mariners could find themselves on the outside looking into the playoff picture very quickly.