You never want to put too much stock in any one series, but this past weekend’s set against the Atlanta Braves was a good barometer to see where the Mariners are at among playoff contenders. Granted, the odds of actually facing the Braves in the playoffs are astronomical – both teams would have to endure their respective gauntlets to meet in the World Series – but it’s still important to see the Mariners play good teams and actually perform accordingly.
Friday’s 6-4 loss was a little wonky, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see the likes of it come playoff time. Robbie Ray was just a little off. He gave up a couple homers (4 runs in total) in five innings; it wasn’t his best work. But, then again, the Braves have an outstanding lineup, so you kind of expect them to lean into some of these pitches. Then, Matt Festa came in and gave up a couple of solo jobs that proved to be the deciding runs of the game. The only noteworthy hitting performance by the M’s was Carlos Santana’s 2 homers. But, obviously, he can’t do everything himself.
I was in attendance for Saturday’s 3-1 victory, and it was everything I could ever want. It was a fun pitcher’s duel, with George Kirby really putting his stamp on being this team’s third-best starter. He made it through the first six innings with ease, and should’ve gone further were it not for an untimely J.P. Crawford error that cost us at least one, if not two outs. With two runners on and no outs in the top of the sixth – against that Braves lineup – Scott Servais did the sensible thing and went to Andres Munoz, who got out of the jam while only giving up the one (unearned) inherited run. Very nice line for Kirby overall: 6 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 earned runs, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts. Swanson and Sewald closed it out from there.
Offensively, we had a Sam Haggerty solo homer to kick off the scoring in the bottom of the fifth (he also made a couple of fantastic defensive plays in left, proving once again why he needs to be this team’s everyday left fielder). Eugenio Suarez mashed a solo bomb in the bottom of the sixth to give us our winning run. And Julio Rodriguez clubbed a double in the bottom of the seventh to give the game its final score. All in all, a fun and entertaining game throughout (capped by a White Sox fan (?) running onto the field in the middle of it).
Sunday’s 8-7 victory topped them all though. Marco Gonzales continued his hot streak, going 6 innings and limiting the Braves to 1 run on 2 hits (0 walks, 5 strikeouts), in what might be his best performance of the year (especially when you factor in the offense he was going up against). It looked like we were going to cruise to a 6-2 victory, thanks to a J-Rod homer in the first, a Suarez homer in the fifth, and some nice rallies in the 4th and 6th innings to give us a nice little cushion.
But, Swanson gave up a run in the 8th, and Diego Castillo came in to close out the 9th with a 4-run lead. He proceeded to basically give it all away, giving up 3 runs in 0.2 innings. Paul Sewald had to come in and try to salvage the game, but he too didn’t have it, giving up a go-ahead 2-run bomb. All told, the game went from a sure-thing series win, to the Mariners being down 7-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
I don’t know who the Braves’ closer is, but apparently he’s pretty highly regarded. Seems suspect to me, given his numbers. This would be his 7th blown save on the season, which seems absurdly high for someone who’s supposed to be elite. Anyway, with one out, Julio jerked a slider harder than anyone’s ever hit anything in life, for the tying solo homer. Then, with two outs, Eugenio Suarez muscled a fastball to left center for the game-winner. That’s 25 homers (and counting) for Julio, and 30 homers (and counting) for Suarez, who have both been pretty red-hot of late.
We’re now 79-61 on the year, and we close out this homestand with two against the Padres starting tomorrow. I believe those are our final games against winning teams until the playoffs. We’re in a virtual tie for the top wild card spot with Tampa (they have one fewer victory and one fewer defeat), which means we’re in the second wild card spot (a half-game – in the win column – ahead of the Blue Jays). More importantly, though, we’re 6 games ahead of Baltimore (who are on the outside of the playoffs, looking in). Our odds of making the playoffs are 99.8%. There are 22 games remaining.
What a wonderful time we’re all having right now!