I’m not gonna lie to you, it wasn’t looking good last night. Wade LeBlanc just didn’t have it (certainly a byproduct of the Tigers absolutely destroying soft-tossing left-handed pitching), barely made it through 5 innings while giving up 4 runs, and the offense was sputtering. Down 3-0, I tuned into the horror show that was the fourth inning. Cano doubled to lead off the inning and Cruz tripled him in (any competent outfielder would’ve caught that ball for an out, but that’s neither here nor there) to get one back. With no outs, Dae-ho Lee and Kyle Seager both proceeded to fly out to center, neither of which were deep enough to allow Cruz to tag up (apparently, although it sure seemed like he could’ve scored on Lee’s ball). Once we officially Iannetta’d up that scoring opportunity, stranding Cruz at third base, I wouldn’t have blamed myself or any of you for changing the channel or just going to bed extra early. Gotta get that beauty sleep for the Guns N’ Roses show on Friday!
I did, indeed, dip in and out of the game, thanks to various distractions. I was down a mid-90s Aphex Twin worm hole on YouTube when Kyle Seager bashed his game-tying 3-run home run in the bottom of the 8th, but I was more or less glued to the TV from the 9th inning on. Every strike out! Every man left on base! Every time a guy swung for the fences instead of just trying to get on base and string some hits together! I was there! On my couch! Ready to drop this game like a bad habit at the first sign of danger!
The bullpen, to its credit, was phenomenal. I can’t keep track of all the roster moves this team has made over the last couple months, so I really don’t know who’s injured, who’s in Tacoma, who’s been picked up by other teams, and apparently how many people we actually have in our bullpen at the moment! Somewhere in there, in between the trade for Arquimedes Caminero (2 scoreless last night), and the return of Nick Vincent from the DL (1 scoreless, in his first action since June 26th), the Mariners were working with a 6-man bullpen as of yesterday. That will surely change today – since all 6 of them pitched last night, 1-2 innings each – but all 6 of those guys need to be commended for throwing a combined 9 shutout innings. Most remarkable of all was probably Tom Wilhelmsen in the 14th, who allowed the bases to be loaded with only 1 out, before somehow getting out of the inning unscathed. It would be foolish to expect every single member of the bullpen to be ON in the same game, but to see him fight back and get out of trouble was a nice little boost in the 11pm hour.
I won’t lump Ariel Miranda in with the rest of the bullpen, because he was actually slotted to be Friday’s starter in Oakland. He may still start that day anyway, as yesterday was a regular bullpen day for him, but he sure as shit wasn’t sharp last night.
It might be a coincidence that the Tigers scored all of their runs against the only left-handed pitchers we opted to use Hi Vidal Nuno!, but they seemed to blast Miranda with relative ease, leading me to think they probably hit lefties pretty well over in Detroit. Granted, Victor Martinez – who hit the go-ahead home run in the top of the 15th – hits everyone well, from both sides of the plate. But, the next batter had a sharp single to center, followed by 2 line outs to help Miranda get out of the inning. The fact that Miranda gave up only the one run was probably the best case scenario.
Which brought us to the bottom of the 15th. The Tigers, in all of that insanity, managed to preserve their closer all that way! Francisco Rodriguez is a longtime veteran with 418 career saves. And, by the numbers, it looks like he’s having another rock solid season this year, with 32 saves against only (now) 3 blown saves (after last night’s game). But, SPOILER ALERT: the Mariners apparently handle this guy pretty well (I was going to look for the exact numbers, but Baseball Reference is shitting the bed on his splits page right now). No matter, because last night is all that I care about. And, in the bottom of the 15th, with one out, Cruz walked, Lind dropped a single into right field (a byproduct of the outfielders playing so deep to “take away the double”), and Seager went the other way with a single-turned-double thanks to an outfield bobble.
THAT, right there, is exactly what I was looking for. They don’t all have to be walk-off home runs! Them shits is hard to hit! But, get you some walks and some singles going, and now you’ve got the pitcher in trouble. Now, you’ve got the pitcher throwing many multiple pressure pitches. And, if you find the right guy on the right day, it’s only a matter of time before he succumbs to the pressure and gives you something good to hit. In this scenario, of course, you have to look at that pitch to Seager – fat, juicy, right in the middle of the plate. The fact that he went the other way with it – when everyone expects him to pull the ball at all times – was the cherry on top.
The MVP of the game probably goes to Justin Upton on that bobble of Seager’s hit. If he doesn’t botch-toe that thing, I highly doubt Lind gets to third base. It’s impossible to know what would’ve happened had he come up with it cleanly, but in this hypothetical scenario, it’s likely Zunino doesn’t get the game winning hit, and he’s followed by Leonys Martin who struck out a whopping 5 times in 6 official at bats (what comes after Golden Sombrero, btw?). BUT, thanks to Upton, Lind DID get to third base, and all it took was a Zunino sac fly to center – this time, thankfully, deep enough to test the dude’s arm – to bring home the winning run and let us all go to bed early (Wednesday morning). Shit, if it weren’t for Upton, they might still be playing baseball and I might literally be dead by my own hands!
As I noted above, today the Mariners are certain to make a move for bullpen help. It’s also the final game in the series, with King Felix on the mound. I’m sure he’s going to INTEND to bring his A-Game, and try to go at least 8 innings tonight, but he’s been a little dodgy since his return from the DL, so I don’t think it’s something we can depend upon. However, if he does return to form, tonight would be the perfect time. Save the bullpen, with an off-day/travel day tomorrow, followed by 20 games in a row. They’re all important, they’re all must-win, but winning tonight would be extra special.