Was there a less-watched game in baseball today? Probably not. In-game attendance for the bottom-of-the-division Athletics was listed at just 4,733, and the TV numbers probably weren’t much better here in the Northwest after a dreadful, disastrous weekend series against the Angels that was likely the final nail in the Mariners’ playoff hopes. But maybe like a watch pot the Mariners offense needed fans to walk away in order to get boiling, or maybe they just needed to face the Athletics pitching staff. Who can say.
Actually, starter James Kaprielian held things together pretty well for the A’s, working into the sixth inning with seven strikeouts and just two runs on five hits. The only real damage against him for the first half of the game came via Taylor Trammell pounced on a first-pitch fastball as the first batter in the third inning. It wasn’t exactly a cookie pitch, well-located on the outside edge, but TT showed off some of its raw strength, crushing this pitch at 103.4 MPH to dead-center at the Coliseum:
That’s all the Mariners were able to get going over the first five innings of the game, and it was looking like it’d be another low-offense effort from the Mariners while their starter labored on the hill. Marco Gonzales was excellent tonight, pitching into the seventh inning without allowing a run until he got into a little spot of trouble there in the seventh. But mostly Marco was excellent, keeping the A’s wrong-footed with his changeup and collecting 12 groundball outs. His one mistake came in the seventh on a poorly-located changeup to 5’8 ”Nick Allen, the baseball equivalent of two kids in a trenchcoat, who hit his first career homer against Marco—On a ball with a mere xBA of .250, hit at 96 MPH off the bat, or what Julio calls “a weak ground ball.” You know that’s gotta rankle Marco and I expect if he sees Allen again he’ll be seeing three of Marco’s best pitches all year.
There’s an alternate version of this game, and it’s one where the Mariners lose this game 2-1 on that stupid little home run, and the vibes continue to deteriorate. Thankfully, that’s not the story we’re here to tell, because in the sixth inning, Julio led off with a single and took off for a second while Jesse Winker was batting; Winker then doubled down the right field line which allowed Julio to score from first. He’s in the A’s car, vroom vroom:
Winker was pretty happy about it:
That gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead, which felt a skosh more comfortable considering how Marco pitched but was still dangerously close considering how the team’s been playing lately. Luckily, the sixth inning would just be an appetizer for the main meal coming in the seventh.
It initially looked like the Mariners would be squandering yet another excellent scoring opportunity in the seventh. With Kirby Snead on the mound, who had replaced Kaprielian after he gave up the run last inning, Taylor Trammell and Cal Raleigh worked walks to lead off the inning, but JP Crawford — who quietly had an awful day today — grounded into a double play to give the Mariners a quick two outs. For reasons unbeknown to me, A’s manager Mark Kotsay then opted to replace the lefty Snead with Austin Pruitt to face Ty France, which, woof, tough assignment. Because of course Ty France, who’s been in maybe the teeniest-tiniest slump lately, can smell a base hit RBI when there are runners in scoring position like no one else:
Watching Ty France bat reminds me of the peak Seager-Canó-Cruz days, when you just knew one of those guys coming up would get the job done. It’s a deeply comforting feeling and once I don’t take it for granted. All hail Ty France.
3-0 would have been enough for an eventual win, Nick Allen aside, but the 2022 Mariners are absolutely horrendous at portion control, and Austin Pruitt’s pitches were looking tasty to them. This game probably would have gone unremarked upon had it been a sleepy one-run win between two flailing teams in the mid-to-upper left of the country, but Julio, Winker, and Suárez decided to launch themselves into national highlight reels by going back-to-back-to-back with homers:
Usually when you see a Mariners highlight on the MLB official account it’s because they’re the role players in someone else’s hero moment, so that’s nice.
After a very un-fun weekend, some fun was much appreciated by both the Mariners and the fans watching this game (and your humble recapper):
That’s the first time the Mariners have gone back-to-back-to-back in almost two decades. Are you prepared to remember some guys? Gird your loins:
Here’s the boxscore from that game back on August 27, 2004 vs. the Royals at then Safeco Field. Miguel Olivo, Jose Lopez and Hiram Bocachica hit back-to-back-to-back solo homers off a rookie named Zack Greinke. Mariners only won 7-5. https://t.co/W2mUwAYXHH
– Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) June 22, 2022
As the Eternal Optimist of the staff Zach Mason pointed out, hey, at least now Austin Pruitt can say he has something in common with Zack Greinke.
After Allen’s homer at the bottom of the inning, the Mariners got one more insurance run against A’s reliever Adam Oller, just in case: Ty France led off with a single, Julio got grazed by a pitch, and Jesse Winker walked to load the bases . The Mariners could have done more damage but alas, they would come away with just one run on a Justin Upton single, his first RBI as a Mariner. It feels greedy to ask for even more in an 8-2 win but it does make me nervous to see shades of the Bad Mariners pop up even in a fun, decisive win. This team just loves leaving men on base.
But those bad vibes were momentary, wiped away quickly by Ken Giles’s first appearance as a Mariner, where he set down the 1-2-3 side and showed off that nasty slider that’s been his bread and butter as a pro. It had been almost 650 days since Giles’s last appearance in the big leagues, over a long and fraught recovery from first TJ surgery and then a nagging thumb injury, so it was nice to see him get back.
The Mariners scored as many runs tonight as they did over the last three games against the Angels, although it’s now the second time in five games they have scored eight runs. Please, Mariners, just a little moderation, I am begging, but if the team has to be feast or famine, well, at least tonight is one of the feast nights.