Mariners go Gothic in Gotham, lose their way, game
I love the Gothic sensibility. Not little-g goth like ‘00s mall goths, but capital-G Gothic like madwomen in the attic, spooky castles and country estates, a suspension of time that blurs the waking world and dreamland; terror and wonder existing side-by-side. Always the weather in a Gothic novel is lousy, rain and howling wind, maybe the occasional lightning-blasted tree stump or foreboding (and foreshadowing) rock overlooking a precipitous fall. The weather in a Gothic novel says something bad is about to happen here.
(I’m cheating. This picture isn’t from tonight’s game. There wasn’t a good one to use because the photographers weren’t trying to be out in that either. Make like a 19th century reader and suspend your disbelief.)
Is it ham-handed? Yes. Is it effective? Also yes. The darkened, isolated country house isn’t truly a house of horror until night falls and the weather blurs the outside world enough to make it feel like it’s the only place left in a hostile world. There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
Actually, George Kirby, making the second start of his young career, did give up a walk, although just the one, which unfortunately is also equal to the number of strikeouts he recorded. Much like all the most well-meaning friends and allies are vanished or picked off one-by-one from the hero in a Gothic novel, the large and boisterous Kirby Krew couldn’t help their hero as he struggled against the thronging, pesky, pestilent Mets batters.
The Mets batters were simply unconfounded by Kirby’s stuff. In his first outing against the Rays, Kirby collected 15 swings and misses; today, he had less than half that (7). His CSW% on his fastball went from an outrageously good 46% against the Rays to just 21%, as the Mets seemed to have no trouble on finding the pitch in the zone; they fouled off the pitch 14 times of the 27 they swung at it, and put another six balls in play on it.
Whereas against the Rays, when the fastball wasn’t getting results, Kirby was able to move to his slider; today he had trouble throwing it for strikes, and also saw the CSW% on the pitch cut almost in half from his first outing, from 30% to a subpar 18%. The result was Kirby laboring from the jump, needing 48 pitches to get through just the first two innings. Throwing a ton of strikes is great (Kirby threw 60 of his 89 pitches of the day for strikes), but having a putaway pitch is better, and Kirby just couldn’t seem to get there with any batter, frequently getting into prolonged at-bats that damaged his pitch count and ultimately House of Usher-ed him out of the game after just four innings, having surrendered three runs in two eerie deja-eww innings where Starling Marte and Francisco Lindor teamed up to hang two runs on Kirby, and another sac fly brought in the third, which is honestly less damage than it felt like, largely because of its cyclical nature. Another element of the Gothic checked off in this game, then, as Gothic works of art are often marked by a manipulation of time where time seems to layer, repeat, bend back on itself, or otherwise blur. Also known as, being a Mariners fan for the past twenty years.
The bright side, if you’re looking for a moment of reprieve from this onslaught of Bad Feels, is that not having his two primary pitches forced Kirby to throw his changeup more, and that pitch showed some improved bat-missing ability tonight, from a paltry 13% CSW% the last time up all the way up to 31%, with a similar improvement among his lesser-used curveball. Having the confidence to throw those pitches against the attack-mode Mets batters—and seeing good results from them in the form of whiffs, called strikes, and weak contact—is a positive sign for Kirby’s development moving forward. And being able to command those pitches at all while looking like a Caspar David Friedrich painting is all the more impressive.
You know who couldn’t control his pitches? Our antagonist of the evening, Chris Bassitt. At first, it was just plain old control issues. After getting two quick outs after the game had finally started after an hour-plus rain delay, Bassitt seemingly lost the handle, hitting J.P. Crawford and walking Eugenio Suárez and Jesse Winker back-to-back. This is after, mind you, Bassitt and his catcher, the freshly-recalled Pat
Mazurka Mazeika, had all kinds of trouble getting on the same page, with Bassitt stepping off and calling for time again and again and again in a one-man hourslong ad campaign for Pitch Clocks Now. But, proving once again that the monster at the end of this book is in fact the Mariners themselves, Eugenio Suárez got picked off second base and also kneed in the fact at the same time to end the threat.
After that, Bassitt seemed to find his footing, despite continually needing a minute or two to collect himself before seemingly every pitch, to the point where they might as well have just installed a fainting couch astride the pitcher’s mound. And the Mariners, well, they blundered on through the mist, seeking but never finding, strewing stranded base runners left and right like a sinister gardener beheading roses in the haunted country estate’s garden for the heroine to discover the next morning.
(That one run you see there is courtesy of Steven Souza Jr.’s RBI single, his first as a Mariner, in that same inning. Souza Jr. got someone to do his English homework for him when they were on the Gothic unit, he had practice that day.)
William Penn Murfee has both the name and the rugged good looks and majestic flow of a Gothic hero.
Unfortunately, he also has the luck of one. Murfee’s own madwoman in the attic would prove to be Pete Alonso on his bobblehead night, hitting an RBI double to further stretch the Mets’ lead even before the Mariners were able to scrape one back.
Jesse Winker, while less blessed in the name department than Murfee, also has the dark, brooding look of a romantic Gothic hero (they prized long elegant necks in the Victorian era, didn’t they?) and notably worse luck than Penn’s so far in the 2022 season. On a night when so many Mariners were lost wandering the misty moors of Citi Field, however, Winker leaned into the anti-hero, or heel, role. And I mean leaned into:
Gather ‘round and please enjoy Jesse Winker’s massive tater pic.twitter.com/7fpVIjvLps
— Zach••• (@zachleft) May 15, 2022
Jesse Winker’s relationship with the 2022 Ball has been a delicious slow-burn, enemies-to-friends-to-lovers proliferation of romance tropes. This home run was every bit as necessary and melodramatic and romantic as any scene in any historical romance novel, and his trot around the bases took about as long as reading one.
Also, a thing you will find in Gothic novels: the original gaslighting, as in “making the heroine believe she is crazy to hide someone’s nefarious doings”; or in Jesse Winker’s modern interpretation, proclaiming to the Mets fans in his postgame comments: “This thing we got going on is special.”
— Tyler (@5WrightHOF) May 15, 2022
(Mets fans, r u ok?)
— Dave Goldberg (Heel Bear) (@KayfabianMagic) May 15, 2022
But any reader of Gothic novels knows, any moment of joy is just a respite, a small tower window on the journey to darker and more twisted passages. Credit to tonight’s game for the twist ending: you thought the villain was Chris Bassitt, taking literally forever to make his pitches:
The Mets between pitches vs. The Kentucky Derby from about the half mile pole. pic.twitter.com/FIczgQZhFJ
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 15, 2022
But twist! The villain all along tonight was actually this guy:
That’s right, Bassitt might have been throwing the pitches, but Patrick Mazeika was pulling the strings, including the one he yanked on a Andrés Muñoz first-pitch fastball at the top of the zone to give the Mets the eventual winning run of the game. Guess Bassitt was just Mazeika’s Monster.
The Mariners will try one more time tomorrow to become the first team to take a series from the Mets. Hopefully they’ll return that moonstone/painting/house of seven gables first so they can get this season back on track.