A quotable loss on bullpen day
Tonight’s game, the Seattle Mariners elected a bullpen game in lieu of a traditional starter. It was a choice made borne of circumstance but not of necessity, yet most of the moves to the pen went off without a hitch. Their respective segments of the game have been catalogued below.
Erik Swanson got the start, and could scarcely have been asked to do more. Swanson worked two scoreless, aided by a home plate that umpire Alfonso Marquez chose to build a gorgeous, expansive side deck on about four inches wide of the traditional zone. He was so sharp it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see him come out for a third, but it seemed likely his extra pep came with the knowledge that he’d only be expected to work a pair. Domingo Tapia followed, effectively wild and yet ultimately effective enough. His ability to go just a single inning, however, already threw off the hopeful trajectory.
In this part of the game, the offense did nothing against Orioles righty Dean Kremer, their lone rally dying on the vine in the first with a José Marmolejos can of corn.
Will Vest continued his suspect flirtation with major league bats, neither scorning them entirely nor offering his advances fully to their barrels. An inning and two thirds ended with a scoring threat snuffed on an assist by Drew Steckenrider, who himself worked an inning and a third clean himself. Keynan Middleton added to the crescendo with a sterling eight pitch appearance, carrying Seattle through seven scoreless. Still, with so much of the pen expended, not only were the late innings walking a thin line, the next couple days are faced with a more suspect orientation.
A spark!, not only had they chimera’d themselves to a quality start, they were in line for victory, as in this part of the game, the offense did (a very small) something. Tom Murphy ‘rassled a ball over the right field wall in the fifth for a 1-0 lead that seemed as though it might just hold the water back in the dam. Alas.
Anthony Misiewicz was the man of the ill-fated hour tonight, walking career 66 wRC+ hitting Pat Valaika to start things off, then yielding a glove-scraping home run that Mitch Haniger had all the world initially believing he’d retrieved. He made no strides further, allowing a couple more sharply struck balls for a chopping double and fortuitous fly out before getting the hook. Here, both in the moment and posthumously, Seattle’s loss was locked in.
With a bullpen fully taxed already, Seattle turned to rookie Wyatt Mills for a lifeline. Mills delivered admirably, penning a weak grounder J.P. Crawford nearly turned into an out at the plate but settled for a lead-extending fielder’s choice. Recent history hit repeat, unfortunately, as a walk and a bomb followed, warping a 1-0 lead to a 5-1 deficit with just six outs to play.
It could have ended there, with a whimper and 26 heads hung low. But Mitch Haniger had a debt to repay. An 0-2 cutter from Shawn Armstrong caught too much of the plate and suddenly it was just 5-3, with Haniger and Taylor Trammell trotting across the plate. There was just one out, and 2-3-4 upcoming.
Ty France hit a ball 374 feet, just ten feet shorter than Haniger’s home run a few pitches earlier. It landed softly in the glove of Cedric Mullins deep in the left-center gap, a 105+ mph fly out. There was no further threat, and soft-tossing César Valdez utterly undressed the M’s in the ninth to seal the win. Tomorrow, Justin Dunn will have to go at least six innings, a depth he has never exceeded in the bigs, with a bullpen heavily taxed and just a couple arms truly rested.
More than three runs against a subpar pitching staff wouldn’t hurt either.