Don’t come in here with your macho headgames; this is baseball – ostensibly a kid’s game – there are no points for winning or losing with honor. To put it another way, you’re no more or less of a man for bunting to get on base as you are clubbing a ball into the outfield.
The unwritten rules of baseball are among the stupidest things in all of sports. Chief among them is this concept that you shouldn’t try to bunt to break up a perfect game or a no-hitter. And I’m not buying this whole “grey area” that people are trying to amend to this thing. What’s the difference between the first batter of a game bunting for a base hit, followed by the pitcher getting 27 consecutive outs, and the last batter of a game bunting for a base hit to break up a perfecto?
The job of a hitter in baseball is to help in the facilitation of scoring runs, by any means necessary. Obviously, in a close game, people feel it’s perhaps more justified to bunt to break up the no-no than if it were, say, 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth. But, you know what? This isn’t Brett Favre giving Michael Strahan a record-breaking sack; as the opposing hitter, you don’t have to lay down and die just so someone else can make history. If speed is a big part of your game – the way you make your LIVING, by the way – then obviously the bunt is always going to be on the table. And, if the opposing defense is going to give you this HUGE opening in front of first base – with Miguel Cabrera playing insanely deep against someone known to bunt from time to time – then it’s absolutely your right to do so. First inning, sixth inning, or last inning. Having someone throw a perfect game on you in your own stadium? That’s embarrassing! Way more embarrassing than the temporary “shame” of bunting to get a hit; even if it’s 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth.
Last night, Justin Verlander was rolling. He’s usually been really good against the Mariners throughout his career, but this was another level. 16 guys put down to start off the game; 6 of the first 9 hitters struck out and 9 of the first 15. Good life on his fastball, good movement on his breaking pitches, outstanding command. It really did look like it was going to take a miracle just to get a guy on base. I’ll admit, I almost went to bed after the fourth or fifth inning. I turned the game off, I picked up a book to do some pre-bedtime reading, and right before I considered shuffling off to bed, I checked Twitter.
By this point, the Mariners were down 4-0. James Paxton looked moderately better than he did last time, but by no means his usual dominant self from before the injury. With the way Verlander was going, there was just no way this Mariners team could come back!
But, I checked Twitter maybe 30 seconds after the bunt, and immediately flipped over to the game. I saw Zunino walk, I saw Segura bloop a single in no man’s land that the short stop somehow overran, I saw Gamel continue his torrid June with an RBI single to center, and I saw Robbie Cano strike out.
For what it’s worth, that was a great Cano at bat, but an even-better Verlander sequence. That strike three was, as Aaron Goldsmith described, vicious. Unhittable. But, I also saw a Cano in that at bat who looked remarkably dialed in. He was JUUUUST missing, but his timing was getting awfully close. Close enough that it would only be a matter of time before he started making a huge impact offensively.
That put the M’s at two outs in the inning, though, with only 1 run to show for their rally. Forget the bunt, forget the perfect game and all that, the Mariners had an opportunity here! But, they couldn’t let having men on second and third – with the heart of their lineup at the plate – go by without scoring more than just the 1 run. Thankfully, Nelson Cruz got ahold of a curveball and roped it into left field. To my horror, it looked like Justin Upton might come up with the diving catch to rip our collective guts out, but he came up empty and the Mariners got to within 4-3, with three full innings left to play (and knocked Verlander out of the game in the process).
Mitch Haniger – dropped to 7th in the lineup, with the return of Jean Segura from the DL (the Mariners opted to keep Ben Gamel’s .350+ batting average in the 2-hole, at least against righties, and at least for the time being) – led off the seventh with solo blast to tie the game. With the Tigers’ bullpen sucking all ass around town, this thing felt attainable! They got a couple quick outs, but then the rally train started chugging down the tracks again.
Segura walked and Gamel singled to set the table for Cano. Yep, that Cano. The one who, quite frankly, hasn’t been all that good lately. Coming into the game, he had all of 2 extra-base hits in the month of June, and I don’t know if he’s been all that right since he went on the DL back in May. Obviously, he’s getting his hits, and he’s playing through some pain, and you commend him for that, but he hasn’t been that dynamic superstar we’ve seen him be, at least for the last few weeks.
But, he was due, and he made good on that by lining a double into the gap in right-center field to score Segura and Gamel and give the Mariners an improbable 2-run lead. Cruz would subsequently single in Cano to give the M’s a 3-run cushion, and the damage was done.
Of course, I don’t know if the Mariners would’ve been able to salvage this game without some excellent bullpen work. Tony Zych came into the game in relief of Paxton, with 1 out and 2 on. They’d JUST scored two runs to give them their 4-run lead. But, Zych not only shut them down, he went another inning on top of it without giving up a run. Then, after finally getting a day off the night before, Nick Vincent kept the Tigers off the scoreboard in the eighth. And, in a somewhat questionable move, Scott Servais opted to throw Edwin Diaz out there for a fourth consecutive day. He looked a little wild, and grooved a solo homer to Ian Kinsler; things got really interesting when Cabrera walked to the plate with a runner on first in a 7-5 ballgame. Cabrera is always an MVP-type threat – even if he’s not having that sort of season this year – but that’s not what really terrified me. I was worried what would happen if Cabrera simply singled or walked or otherwise got on base for J.D. Martinez, because HE’S the real killer on that team right now.
Honestly, if Cabrera would’ve gotten on base, I would’ve chosen to walk Martinez. If I’m being REALLY honest? I might have intentionally walked both of those guys to load the bases for Justin Upton; but I guess that’s why they don’t pay me the big bucks to manage a Major League Baseball team (yes, THAT is the reason).
Instead, Diaz worked ahead in the count to Cabrera, and got him to roll over on one to short stop to end the game.
I’m not gonna lie to you, that game was one for the ages. An Instant Classic, at least from a Mariners perspective. I have no idea what it’ll all mean in the grand scheme of things, but isn’t it funny how it took all of that for the Mariners to get back to .500 again, this time at 37-37?
Isn’t it ALSO funny that in today’s slot in the rotation, we were due to start Yovani Gallardo? Our WORST starting pitcher?
Well, it’s like Dipoto and Company knew I’d be freaking out today, because we’ve got moves!
The first, I’ve already alluded to: Jean Segura returned, with Tyler Smith going back to Tacoma. Thanks for the memories Smith, but your services will no longer be required.
The second was an absolute shocker: hotshot prospect Andrew Moore was called up, with Christian Bergman being sent down (and Tyler Cloyd being DFA’d to make room on the 40-man). I talked about it yesterday, and it looks like the Mariners and I were simpatico on the whole Bergman vs. Gaviglio argument, because Gaviglio keeps his spot in the rotation (set to start this Saturday) at least until Iwakuma returns from his rehab assignment.
Andrew Moore was a second round pick in 2015, and one of the top prospects in the Mariners’ farm system. He apparently throws in the low-90s, but has great command of the strike zone, doesn’t walk many guys, and has excelled at every level. In his first professional season, he dominated in Everett. In 2016, he split time between high-A ball and AA. Then, this year, he appeared in 6 games in AA before being promoted to AAA. He appeared in 8 games in Tacoma and now he’s here. Not only is he here, but his Major League career is getting STARTED. He’s not up for a spot start, or to help out in the bullpen in long relief like most of these jokers we’ve brought up from Tacoma; Andrew Moore is getting the start TONIGHT, in place of one Yovani Gallardo.
Sorry, not sorry, but once I realized he last started for Tacoma last Thursday, I was able to put 2+2 together and come to the hypothesis that he was going to take Gallardo’s job. Bergman goes to Tacoma, because apparently he was always going to go to Tacoma regardless, but if my hypothesis holds true, the Mariners will hold onto Gallardo through tonight’s game – in case Moore’s jitters get the better of him and he’s overwhelmed by the Tigers – and then they’ll DFA him when they officially bring Felix back onto the roster.
In other words, unless something crazy happens, we officially have one more day with Yovani Gallardo in our lives.
And I know what you’re thinking, sour grapes and all. Normally, I don’t root for people to lose their jobs, but he’ll be fine. He’s a fucking multi-millionaire who will DEFINITELY get another shot with some other team. So, don’t cry for Gallardo; it’s what’s best for everyone.
I mean, this has to be what’s happening, right? They’ve already officially named Gaviglio the starter for Saturday; I don’t think they’re just going to change their minds and send him down when Felix returns on Friday. The only other move is to keep Gallardo in the bullpen and send someone like Altavilla down to continue to work on his game. At this point, I’d say it’s 50/50 between those two things, but I’ll say this: if Gallardo’s main problem has been giving up too many runs early in games (18 of the 54 runs he’s given up this year – or a full 33% – have been in the first innings of his starts; he’s got a first inning ERA of nearly 11!), what makes you think we can trust him in a relief role? As a reliever, you have to be able to shut guys down RIGHT AWAY! There isn’t time to have one big inning, settle into a game, and make it up by throwing 4-5 shutout innings after that.
So, I dunno. All I know is I’m going to the game tonight with my brochachos and I have the good fortune of witnessing Andrew Moore’s Major League debut and NOT Yovani Gallardo’s final start in a Mariners uniform. Yep, I’m pretty pumped.