It’s mind-boggling to think that the Mariners needed a 14-game winning streak, and to win 22 out of 25 games to close out the first half … all to keep themselves in a Wild Card spot by a measly two games. That just goes to show you what kind of offensive problems we’re dealing with on this team. Problems that aren’t going to magically disappear.
Too often, it’s too big of a struggle for the Mariners to score more than a couple runs. And that means if the pitching isn’t perfect, we’re going to fall on the losing end of games we should win. Like half of the games we played against the Angels over the weekend.
The Angels are terrible. Since the big brawl, they’ve gone on a freefall. Now, Mike Trout is hurt, which means they just have the one guy – Shohei Ohtani – and even he’s been flailing quite a bit with the bat of late.
And yet, if you knew nothing about this season or these teams, you might look at the weekend series as a whole and come away thinking the Angels are the better team.
Robbie Ray had it going on Friday, when he went 7 innings, giving up 1 run, while striking out 10. Unfortunately, the Mariners scored exactly 0 runs until the bottom of the ninth inning, when an unlikely rally tied the game at 3-3 (I should point out that the weak link of the bullpen – Ryan Borucki – gave up a 2-run home run in the top of the ninth to make this one even more challenging for the offense). That late explosion of runs didn’t carry over to the tenth, though, as the Angels sacrificed a ghost run across to win it 4-3.
We had even more solid pitching on Saturday afternoon, headlined by George Kirby going 6 innings, giving up 1 run, walking 0, striking out 8, all in 80 pitches. The bullpen was nails from there, and Ty France’s 2-run home run gave us all the cushion we needed, winning the game 2-1.
Saturday evening’s game, though, was a total disaster. This was the second of the two doubleheaders with the Angels we’ve had this season, which presumably cuts one of their trips up to Seattle off of their schedule (the remaining 7 games we play against them are all in SoCal, where they will presumably be free to plunk our guys with impunity). My main concern came to fruition in this one, when it comes to a proposed merging of Kirby and Flexen spots in the rotation. If you pitch Kirby first, that’s only going to allow the opposing team to tee off on Flexen’s slow junk balls. Which they did, albeit a few hours later, on Saturday. 6 innings, 5 runs, 2 homers. The Mariners lost 7-1, because of course the offense couldn’t pick up the slack.
Thankfully, I was there at the stadium on Sunday with my girlfriend, and our powers of luck combined woke up the bats from their hibernation! I was clad in my finest Felix Hernandez shirt and we had some pretty great seats in the first row of section 334; you could draw a straight line from us all the way to the right field foul pole (which will come up again in a bit, I promise).
As it was preordained, Marco Gonzales gave us an unimpressive quality start of 6 innings and 3 runs given up. Was there a rhyme or reason to it? No way! He gave up 8 hits and a walk, but he also somehow found a way to strike out 7. I … I got nothing.
Thankfully, the Mariners jumped all over the Angels’ starter from the get go. We were able to manufacture a run in the first (and could’ve scored a lot more). We did end up taking advantage of that guy’s wildness in the third, when Winker homered with the bases loaded, pulling the ball just inside the foul pole. No one had a better view of it being fair than we did! It was pretty glorious. We added a run in the fifth off of Haggerty’s double, and that was that. All the bullpen needed to do was preserve a 6-3 lead the rest of the way. Munoz, Murfee, Sewald, see ya later.
The day itself was beautiful. Mid-to-high 80s, clear skies. The seats we had, unfortunately, were smack dab in the center of the sun, but we did ultimately get some shade in the fourth inning or so. This came on the heels of a great weekend in general. We went to a wedding, we schmoozed on the observation deck of the Smith Tower, we walked around the waterfront and Pike Place Market, we brunched with some fine folks. The city of Seattle has taken some hits over the last couple decades, but it can still impress you if you know where to look.
The Yankees come to town tonight, and then our remaining schedule gets remarkably easy the rest of the way. We also, not for nothing, have our top three starters going the next three days. It’s not necessarily the same order as one might expect from a playoff series, but it might as well be. Gilbert, Castillo, Ray. I’ll be REALLY curious to see what they’re able to do this week.