Sailors are doing what they have been doing all year 2021, absurdly earning
It can’t keep happening, but it keeps happening.
At some level, we know this shouldn’t continue to happen. Friday’s and yesterday’s performance against the Astros should tell us. The Mariners are giving all they can to grab a wild card spot. They travel to Houston to take on a quality, division-leading team and get absolutely trampled. It wasn’t the kind of loss that gave fans anything to be optimistic about. They were sobering losses, losses that are meant to bring you back to reality.
And then, uh, the Mariners baseball immediately got drunk again.
It took time, of course. The offense turned out to be as flat as it had been all weekend, compiling just four baserunners in seven innings against Astros starter Framber Valdez.
Tyler Anderson, on the other hand, looked pretty decent. He certainly had some luck, blocking seven runners in 5.1 innings while allowing just two runs. Since joining the Mariners, however, Anderson has yet to allow more than three runs in a start or pitch less than five innings. He was as good as the Mariners could have hoped for.
Valdez was approaching 100 pitches after seven innings, so the Astros were forced to go to the pen. It was great, because Valdez had been untouchable. It wasn’t that great, however, because of those the Mariners found watching them from the mound down 2-0.
That’s right: it was Kendall Graveman. Graveman had been mad since being traded to the Astros, allowing just one run in eight innings while striking out ten. Graveman’s streak of successes and the Mariners’ streak of ineffectiveness looked set to continue following the rapid retirement of Jake Fraley and Jarred Kelenic. Scott Servais chose to pinch Jake Bauers for Dylan Moore, which seemed a bit like going for creamed spinach over marinated chicken feet.
Miraculously, Bauers scored a brace. JP Crawford then jumped on a fastball down the middle, crushing it in the gap for a brace, scoring Bauers to make it a 2-1 game.
After Mitch Haniger pulled out to end the set, the Astros threatened to extend their lead for a split second. Yuli Gurriel hit a practice line between first and second, a 98 mph hit with an expected hit percentage of 61%. Ty France did that.
Especially in the past month, France have been a revelation on first base. In fact, one of the few things that surpassed his defensive abilities was his home plate prowess. He immediately demonstrated it in the ninth inning.
The M’s easily pulled the Astros down in the ninth inning to send the game into extra innings. And, while logically we know this shouldn’t continue, the extra innings are where the Mariners have thrived this season.
Luis Torrens, who started the set on second, seemed particularly keen for the Mariners’ extra performance to decline to average. Jake Fraley landed softly on the shortstop and Torrens inexplicably took off from second to third, getting beaten by about three paces. Even with a brace from Cal Raleigh, the Mariners failed to score, setting the stage for a certain demise with the top of the Astros order ahead.
I said certain? I meant almost certain. Martin Maldonado, who made the last of the ninth inning, was ready to start the inning on second base. Rather than let the incredibly slow veteran wide receiver run the basics, the Astros opted to run starting pitcher Lance McCullers for Maldonado.
An early single from José Altuve sent McCullers to third, and an intentional march from Michael Brantley charged the goals. Paul Sewald had no choice but to remove Carlos Correa, Jason Castro and Yuli Gurriel in order.
Correa, by far the scariest of the three, saw a few shots before ending up in a 1-2 hole. Luckily for Correa, Paul Sewald got it wrong with a slider inside. Luckily for the Mariners, plate umpire Brian Gorman had one of the worst days behind plate in recent memory.
Number four was called a third hit. Phew.
Jason Castro came on, to whom Sewald threw four almost identical fastballs just up the area. Castros swung through one, called a blow, and swung another to strike.
This brought Gurriel. Veteran Astro, with a terrifying .312 this season, fouled a fastball and signed up for the first strike. A slider right next to the plate was taken for the first ball, before another fastball got fouled.
Rhythmically, Sewald curved another slider just off the plate to make the 2-2 count. He tried again with the exact same step, seeming to grab a corner of the plate. Gorman said no, but it’s not like the Mariners can reasonably complain about what happened to Correa.
Sewald responded by throwing an identical fastball. Ball foul. Another. Ball foul.
After seven pitches, the count was 3-2. Sewald had thrown what amounted to two different throws: the rising fastball and the outside corner slider. Gurriel’s ears, filled with the excited buzz of the crowd, failed to pick up a telling metallic ringing to let him know what was to come. Sewald stepped back, kicked and fired.
The fastball struck Cal Raleigh’s glove for the third strike. Sewald screamed, having just performed what seemed like a little miracle.
Sewald’s heroic tenth round set the stage for the Mariner’s core team in eleventh. A march from Mitch Haniger preceded a single from Ty France to score JP Crawford with second. This single set the stage for Kyle Seager to do it.
Seager cleared a moon shot down the right center aisle, making it a three-innings game and effectively sealing a victory.
Of course, it couldn’t be that easy. Having previously cast Sewald, Drew Steckenrider and Anthony Misiewicz, Scott Servais found his options somewhat limited for the bottom of the eleventh. He chose Keynan Middleton.
It turned out to be a bad choice. Middleton managed to induce a Groundout, but was followed by two well-hitting singles to score a point and a step to charge the goals. Not only did the Astros suddenly have the victory point at home, but it was already José Altuve’s turn to get back to normal.
Fortunately, Servais had seen enough of Middleton. Came Yohan Ramírez, once the de facto closest to the 2020 Mariners.
Altuve, who was 3-for-5 at the time, was initially patient against a wild Ramírez. Yohan threw a fastball for the first strike before planting two sliders in the dirt. After raising the blood pressure of the Mariners collective fan base, Yohan was able to come back with a fastball and a well-placed cursor to take out Altuve for number two.
A surprisingly relaxed flying ball from Michael Brantley went straight into Jarred Kelenic’s for the third out, ending the game in an almost anti-climatic fashion.
The Mariners came out of the series after being outscored by the Astros 30-10. Despite the imbalanced race differential, they went 1-2 and didn’t lose any ground in the wild card race. It’s been the best and worst of the Mariners – looking like a non-competitor to finally put our dreams to rest before bringing everyone back with a game like today’s. Depending on how Boston fares, the Mariners could win their next two games against the As and wake up to just one playoff game on Wednesday.
Whatever they do next month, it’s been a fun ride.