2017-04-23T17:58:11-07:00Mariners get monkey off back, kill monkey, hold monkey up to other monkeys as example For all the talk about how long a baseball season is, and how change is incremental, sometimes it’s shocking to look back at just a week ago and see how much things have changed. A week ago, Yovani Gallardo was coming off a loss against the Marlins in which he allowed nine hits over six innings, allowing four runs, a home run, and striking out three. A week ago, Dan Vogelbach was playing teams with names like the Chihuahuas and the Isotopes. A week ago, Leonys Martín was a Mariner. Coming into this game, things felt bad, bad, bad. We all knew Leonys had been struggling at the plate, but DFA’ing him still felt harsh and sudden—remember, we are just one month removed from the team hiring a mariachi band for his birthday and him declaring it to be an experience he’d never forget. Kyle Seager was out with something ominously referred to as “a hip thing.” Yovani Gallardo was starting against Andrew Triggs, who was yet to give up an earned run. It seemed like a perfect storm for a sweep in Oakland, and the Mariners limping into Detroit, in the basement of the AL West, morale severely dinged. Instead, currently Scott Servais is draping himself in gold chains and Nelson Cruz’s cleats, because he promised the team if they won by ten runs he’d dress up in their gear. The Swelmet is perched on top of Yovani Gallardo’s head. It all still feels a little weird, a little hollow. The Mariners still lost three of four to Oakland, and Leonys’s locker is still empty. But if there’s going to be a turnaround—and there needs to be, or we really might all need to take up curling—today’s game was a good first step. I’m not going to dip too much into the nitty-gritty of Gallardo’s performance here; Jake will have a breakdown on what exactly made Gallardo so effective tomorrow. But he was excellent over six-plus innings, giving up just one run on four hits and striking out seven. The bullpen was also on lockdown, with Evan Scribner giving up the only hit, a last-gasp double off the bat of Yonder Alonso in the ninth. Marc Rzepczynski was especially effective, needing just eleven pitches to finish off his slice of the A’s order. He threw nine of those eleven pitches for strikes and collected two strikeouts on seven pitches, including a three-pitch strikeout of righty Chad Pinder. The real story today, though, was the offense. The eleven runs they scored was more than they’d scored in the past three games combined, and the ten-run margin of victory is their largest of the season (and double their previous high of five). The game began with the Mariners again small-balling their way to a score. Triggs hit Dyson with a pitch, Haniger rogue bunted him over to second, and then Canó singled to get the Mariners on the board early. Triggs didn’t have great control today, floating the ball all over the strikezone, and the Mariners hitters were patient and took advantage, which was nice to see after they hadn’t been able to take advantage of a similar lack of control out of yesterday’s starter Jharel Cotton. In the third, the Mariners were able to load up the bases off singles from Zunino and Haniger, and consecutive walks to Canó and Cruz pushed a run across. After collecting just four walks over the first half of April, Cruz has eight since the 14th. His strikeouts have fallen over that time, as well, from thirteen down to just six. Plate-patient Nelson Cruz is so much more fun to watch than Plate-Kermit-flail Nelson Cruz. Cruz’s walk not only scored a run, but it also set up Taylor Motter for a date with another pitcher who apparently hasn’t read the—wait what now? Huh. It’s still an inside fastball, but that’s lower than where we’ve maybe seen Motter bust them out. And he clubbed this thing to left-center: 400 feet. A grand salami washed down with some #MotterPop. pic.twitter.com/V1zoyQfv4h— Mariners (@Mariners) April 23, 2017 [...]
It’s unfair of me to use a picture of Iwakuma for this article because he really wasn’t that bad. He was kind of boring, but in the way that Iwakuma is boring, like going to the restaurant in your neighborhood that you know isn’t very good but as long as you just stick to the one or two things they do okay you know things will be mostly fine, and the prices are fair enough and it’s so close to your house and there’s always parking. Fine. So that was Iwakuma’s night. He went five and a third, which is maybe on the lighter side of where you hope your number three starter to go, and gave up three runs, two on solo shots. His control was not great, but it was fine. Overall, it was mostly fine-to-meh, which is about what we can hope for when Iwakuma is in there now.
What we’re supposed to have, though, is an offense that can prop us up on nights where the starters falter. When everyone else isn’t fine, the core is supposed to be fine. Guillermo Heredia, making a start in place of the embattled Leonys Martín, was fine to good, with two hits and some very fine defense. Mitch Haniger was Mitch Haniger, and hit an RBI triple. Nelson Cruz showed some nice plate discipline and took two walks with a hit. Other than that, Kyle Seager got a hit, and everyone else was goose eggs in the hit column. Robinson Canó, in particular, was not fine, going 0-for-everything and failing to make anything resembling hard contact. Anytime the slightest rally would start, it would fizzle like a pinched match. It was bad, and boring. Mike Freeman pinch hit. That’s the kind of bad, boring game it was.
This is where some key insight might normally go, gleaned from watching the broadcast, but reader, I must confess: I had the game on mute. Listening to games from the Coliseum literally gives me a headache. So all I have to offer you is my own observation of what the silver lining to this game might be: the bullpen was not a tire fire. Nick Vincent went one and a third, and gave up no runs and just one walk. James Pazos also went one and a third, and although he gave up a hit it was a pretty nifty piece of hitting by Matt Joyce. He also hit Jaff Decker in the hand, which might make it seem like he didn’t have great control, but Decker was crowding the plate a fair amount and also is my choice for Most Annoying Athletic so I’m signing a pass for him on that. Pazos continues to look better and better each appearance; tonight he was working with a serious mid-to-high-90s fastball (Gameday calls it a sinker, but I politely disagree) that he could just blow by batters.
Only two more games in Oakland, and they’re day games, ones you have an excuse to follow on your phone or out of the corner of your eye while doing other things. And on mute. Definitely on mute.