After that 19-9 massacre, you’d be hard-pressed to get me to believe the Mariners could come back and win this series on the back of their pitching. But, there was Paxton’s gem in Game 2, and Iwakuma’s mystifyingly good start in the finale, followed by lockdown bullpen work the likes of which has been exceedingly rare thus far this season.
Kuma spun 5.2 innings of slowly-thrown gold, giving up 1 run (0 earned) thanks to a throwing error by Cano. From there, Scrabble bridged us into the seventh, followed by Tony Zych getting us to the ninth. Right now, it feels like open tryouts for that 8th inning bullpen role. Dan Altavilla failed, Evan Scribner has been failing. Nick Vincent would have to be in the running, but I like the idea of giving that job to Zych for as long as he’s mowing people down. We still might be another week or so from Cishek returning, and I have to imagine he’s going to get somewhat of a soft landing upon his call-up, so if Zych could just continue to be amazing for a while, that’d be great.
Also, Edwin Diaz – on the second day of a back-to-back – was dominant in getting his third save of the season.
Offensively, both teams struggled, as Justin Verlander was throwing rocks as well. The Mariners scored an unearned run of their own as Nelson Cruz got to second on an outfield error, then was scored by the return of Seager. It remained tied at 1-1 until the ninth, when Seager doubled with one out and scored on an RBI single by Ben Gamel, who got a second straight start and ended the day with 2 hits.
You know, I’ve been really impressed with our younger players so far this year. Obviously, Mitch Haniger has been a dream come true, but Heredia has been a disruptive force at the top of the lineup (with a little pop in his bat and a LOT of speed), Motter has been on the warpath, and now here we have Ben Gamel coming up right away and being instantly productive. These are the types of players, in years past, who have been the so-called Quad-A guys (too good for Tacoma, not good enough for the Big Leagues) who have stunted this team’s growth. You can’t fill your team with nothing but high-priced free agents; you need a good amount of homegrown guys to fill in the gaps. This year, FINALLY (hopefully) the Mariners are on track with some of their younger guys. Let’s face it, we’re going to need them to continue stepping up if we want to stay in contention. So far so good.
The Mariners go to Cleveland for a weekend series. I’ll have it on the 2nd TV as I watch the NFL Draft tonight on the main TV, so consider today a REALLY great day of sports.