In years of rebuilding, we often speak of a “cold” or “perfect” loss. A loss where even though the final score indicates a snoozer, there is still enough individual performance left for you to come away optimistic, especially if it’s a starting pitcher or a young player who had a good night’s sleep. After all, you didn’t expect these Mariners to compete for a playoff spot, did you? Aren’t you amused by their dropping to # 3 in the Kumar Rocker draw?
Well, I am not. Sorry. Losing sucks.
It’s not like Yusei Kikuchi isn’t decent, despite his warm final line. Outside of the forward run Garrett Hampson, he was a master of weak contact during his first two innings of work, relying on a strict fastpitch / cutter regime for most of his first time in sequence. While Matt Kemp, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan McMahon each worked on the bats in the second, Kikuchi was able to send them off with some pretty routine failures. The bats even spotted him a thin mine at the bottom of the frame!
Dude, did Mallex need this? Sadly, the gods of BABIP would turn their backs on Kikuchi in the third, with Chris Owings reaching six inches from the outside corner to dip a single into right field and Elias Díaz turning that into a double:
The two points would come in depending on the defender’s choice, the first on a Hampson pitch where Dee Gordon, spotting JP Crawford at shortstop, made a good play and the second coming off a slow roll from Trevor Story in the third that Kyle Seager couldn’t make a solid throw on. Boooooo. Kikuchi would happily stop the bleeding after a nine-step brawl with McMahon, alternating his fastball and front cutter finally flip a slider down and it was harmless at first.
Yusei also passed the fifth and threw a brave cutter on a full count at Owings that ripped the poor dude to shreds:
Despite a clean fifth, the wheels came off in the fourth. After sandwiching a Story strikethrough and a Nolan Arenado flyover around a Charlie Blackom single, Matt Kemp (yes, that Matt Kemp) sort of tapped into his 2011 self and pulled off a double of that swing. :
Rats. Oh, well, there are two outs, a one-set deficit, Yusei has been working out of jams all night. Just find the next guy and enjoy the quality start.
Ouch. It was a particularly cruel decree on the part of the BABIP gods, and it came from the bat of an unrepentant homophobe stings even harder. Kikuchi would give way to Erik Swanson, who quickly blown Ryan McMahon away on three straight quickshots. And look, the bats got in!
After an insignificant turn on a double in the eighth, Austin Nola sat on a nice cutoff line of .324 / .395 / .588, with a 179 WRC + that made me swoon at first glance. While there is certainly a regression to come, his effective framing and blocking behind the dish was a nice surprise to see, and he was one of the leading attackers tonight. Hooray for the good catchers!
After Swanson completed the seventh inning of work around a solo shot from Hampson, Yohan Ramírez was loaded for the last two inning of work, and he worked out of the gate, serving a dinger to Charlie Blackmon on an account 1-0 to open the eighth, walk Kemp (yeah seriously, it’s 2011 again, that dude is good) with one out, and let the homophobe strike again:
After that dinger, however, Ramírez settled in, not allowing more runs on his next 1.2 frames, although he had to work through them. Battling a flickering command by walking three, he was still able to flash a video game move on his cursor and caught four strikeouts, including Kemp’s in the ninth to leave the bases loaded:
As with any other sleep loss, there were still a few observations to make:
Dylan Moore started second in the roster again and smoked a warning lane roster to right field his first time. Sadly, he was hitting the plate his next four times, becoming the first Mariner of the season to win a Golden Sombrero. More worryingly, he looked absolutely lost against anything hunched over, and his .086 xBA on breaking pitches tonight strongly implies he’s spoiling fastballs. Let him not be Taylor Motter 2.0.
Kyle Lewis kept his contact oriented approach intact tonight, pushing a single down the middle in the eighth and hitting only once. If you’ve followed, Lewis has only hit once in his last thirteen home plate appearances, and with his walk rate hovering around 8%, his K rate has started to drop to the “upper end.” of the acceptable ”. Are we not lucky to be able to watch it?
Dee Gordon continued his surprisingly strong defensive campaign, making several good shortstop plays, including picking a skillful outfielder in the first inning after Blackmon was able to foil the change juuuuust enough to avoid an easy double play. . Although he only cuts 0.148 / .207 / .185 after tonight, Dee has been solid in his time in left field and has filled JP admirably tonight, and at this point that’s about it. which you can ask a 32-year-old bench player. Oh, and he’s one of the few players that I’ve noticed wearing a mask at all times. More of that, please!
There’s a lot of talk about first-choice draws, individual performances, any other rationalization. And all are valid! None of this changes the fact that it was a pretty tough game to watch, and it’s a game that in a normal year would be easily knocked out. Not so much when each game counts for 1.66% of the season. Either way, the Mariners and Rockies continue to march, with Ryan Castellani likely to make his Major League debut against Nick Margevicius, who is making his first steps into his new organization. We can only hope, even fleetingly, for a perfect victory.