After a disappointing series split with Washington on the heels of an even more disappointing series loss to the lowly A’s, the Mariners needed to come out strong against the Cleveland Guardians as they open a four-game set with heavy postseason implications. Also, it was a YouTube game, meaning the eyes of a national audience were turned towards the Northwest. Thankfully, the weather showed up, and so did the Mariners, with a 3-1 win.
It didn’t look like things would be starting off well, though. The Mariners fell behind quickly in the first when Cleveland made a lot of hard contact off of Marco Gonzales immediately. This does not look like the start to a promising outing:
Thankfully, Marco was able to cap the damage at just one run, and the Mariners offense, in a refreshing change of pace from yesterday’s game, backed up their starter. Julio led off with a walk, and Jesse Winker continued his Hot Wink August with a single, setting the stage for Perfect Human and Ought To Be A Mariner For Life, Mitch Haniger:
Bad news break: Ty France was lifted from today’s game after sustaining not one but two collisions at first base. The first time he got trucked by José Ramírez as he tried to corral a wayward throw from JP Crawford. The second time, well, why don’t you just have a look:
Official word was he left with a “right calf bruise”, and I should think so. It’s especially annoying, though, because France had hit a ball that came off the bat at 101.3 MPH earlier—a flyout, sure, but it was great to see him both barreling up a ball and getting it in the air, and we were robbed of seeing if that trend would continue. Will Benson, Seattle Public Enemy #1.
After driving up McKenzie’s pitch count in the first two innings, the top of the Mariners lineup went down quietly in the bottom of the third, seeing just six pitches, including a rough three-pitch strikeout from Haniger as McKenzie abandoned his fastball, which was getting torched, for a slew of softer stuff: sliders and curveballs, the Mariners’ nemesis. And so it would go for the next several innings. Lazy pop-ups, soft fly ball outs, and groundouts; the Mariners didn’t get another hit until the fifth inning, when JP Crawford smoked a grounder back up the middle, but McKenzie buckled down to get some soft fly ball outs from Julio and Jesse Winker to quell any scoring threat.
McKenzie was able to get a ton of weak contact, but so did Marco, who matched Cleveland’s star pitcher blow-for-blow with a ton of weak contact of his own. It was especially encourage after such a rough start, and especially-especially encourage against Cleveland’s contact-happy parade of hitters. Unfortunately, all those foul balls did eat into Marco’s pitch count, but he pushed through the sixth inning, ending on this strikeout of Oscar Gonzalez:
Marco’s key to success today was his excellent location; he was all over the edges of the plate, throwing quality strikes, locating everything where the Cleveland batters could just tap after them helplessly.
With Marco done in the sixth, Erik Swanson came on and worked a clean inning, with a little bit of help from JP:
Matt Brash came on in the eighth but couldn’t clear his inning, which means fans in T-Mobile Park were treated to a double-dose of the Bomberos walk-up music: Brash uses “Fire Burning” by Sean Kingston, which he switched recently to fit with the Bomberos theme, and Muñoz uses “Pepas” by Farruko, which is about partying at the club but is also a certified bop so we’ll allow it. Muñoz acted for the fireman for the fireman, striking out José Ramírez to the delight of the 24,084 in attendance.
The Mariners had one more chance in the eighth inning to run up the score and provide some insurance. Eli Morgan walked Jesse Winker, who was pinch run for with Dylan Moore; Moore scooted to third base on a Haniger single, before a walk to Suárez loaded the bases. Unfortunately, Jake Lamb, playing in place of Ty France, struck out to strand the bases loaded. Will Benson, my enemy.
But that would turn out to be okay, because the Mariners have a literal flamethrower as part of the Bomberos, which seems at cross-purposes but he’s awesome so we’ll let it slide. Muñoz struck out the first two batters he saw in the ninth swinging, and then the always-pesky Andrés Gímenez grounded out harmlessly. A little flash at the end of the game after the Mariners offense took an eight-inning nap is always appreciated, Andrés.
Tomorrow the Mariners face off against the Guardians in the second game of this four-game set, but bad news for ROOT Sports lovers: it is on Apple TV, so make sure you’re blocking in sufficient time in your day to explain to your parents how to watch it.