Mariners Refusing to Back Down

The worst was over as the Seattle Mariners returned to town. Seven games against the Dodgers and Astros was the worst a schedule could possibly get, and they even managed to look pretty good during it. It was now time to see if that same level of competitiveness would hold up in three games against Texas, starting on Aug. 21.

The floodgates opened in game one, with the Mariners dropping four runs in the bottom of the first. If that weren’t enough, they dropped two more runs over the next two innings, one of which was a home run off the bat of Kyle Lewis. Of course, the Rangers kept it competitive. Scott Heineman took Nick Margevicius deep for two runs in the fifth, and a solo home run by Danny Santana spear-headed a two-run sixth inning. Still, it wasn’t enough and the Mariners took a 7-4 win.

They made it look easy in game two, putting up three runs in the first inning and five runs in the third, with five of those runs coming off the bat of the red-hot Evan White. Justus Sheffield held his end of the bargain, allowing just one run in six innings en route to his second win of the year. The Mariners trickled in two more runs, yet another one from White, as they took the victory 10-1.

They came out of the gates swinging again in game three. Kyle Lewis hit a solo homer off Mike Minor in the first, Austin Nola did the same in the secondm, and Sam Haggerty hit his first major league home run in the fifth, a two-run shot off Minor yet again. The score was 4-0, and the Mariners coasted on it until the eighth when Jeff Mathis hit a solo home run off Dan Altavilla to narrow the gap to three runs. The last five outs came with ease and the Mariners took game two 4-1, in particular thanks to Justin Dunn pitching six innings of one-hit baseball.

The Rangers were swept thanks to the continued efforts on both sides of the ball. However, the Rangers aren’t necessarily a good team, and three games against Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Padres were bound to be far harder for the Mariners.

Sure enough, Seattle continued their onslaught. Kyle Seager and Evan White both hit in runs in the first inning, with a two-run home run by J.P. Crawford in the second making it 4-0 early on. However, the San Diego bats came online in the third, with an Eric Hosmer two-run home run and a Ty France RBI double making it 4-3. The game was quiet until the sixth, when Nola led the inning with a solo home run, while Crawford slapped an RBI double to extend the lead to 6-3. The final runs of the game came in the seventh when White and Tim Lopes both hit RBI singles to make it 8-3 as the Mariners extended their win streak to four games.

The Mariners and Padres didn’t play the next day as sports all across the country cancelled games in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. All the baseball teams that sat that day rescheduled for a double-header on Aug. 27. This would be the first time a team in the West divisions would see the new seven-inning doubleheader, and it brought a lot of excitement to Mariner baseball.

Ljay Newsome (yes, that is spelled correctly) took the mound for his first career start in impromptu fashion as Taijuan Walker was traded that morning to the Blue Jays. His four innings of one-run baseball were the last things the Mariners had to celebrate that day.

The scoring kicked off in the top of the fourth for game one of the double-header. Jose Marmolejos took over for Evan White, who left the game with a shoulder injury, and hit a two-run home run in his first plate appearance. Later in that same inning, Shed Long Jr. singled to score a third run before the inning ended. The Padres tied it over the next two innings thanks to three solo home runs, two of which by Manny Machado. What followed might have been the most exciting single inning of baseball the Mariners had ever seen.

Dee Gordon led with a single, with Crawford getting hit by a pitch. The first run scored when Haggerty came through with an RBI single. Haggerty stole a base, leaving runners on second and third with no outs. Lewis singled and Seager singled. Suddenly, it was 6-3 with no outs. Nola hit a run in with a sacrifice fly before Marmolejos and Fraley struck out, giving Seattle a comfortable 7-3 lead heading into the bottom of the inning. Taylor Williams came out of the pen and retired the first two batters on eight pitches. The game was all but over.

He hit Austin Hedges and walked Trent Grisham. A wild pitch advanced them. Fernando Tatis Jr. walked. Machado singled to score two. Wild pitch. Wild pitch. Eric Hosmer singled to score Machado. The game was suddenly tied at seven. Dan Altavilla came out in a desperate attempt to save the game. Jake Cronenworth singled, advancing the winning run to third. Wil Myers stepped to the plate and blasted a pitch 411 feet to take the 10-7 walk-off victory and ruin Seattle’s winning streak.

How would the Mariners come out and take the field just 30 minutes later for the second round after being devastated like that?

It turned out quite well. The Mariner batters were not keen on giving the Padres any way to come back. Crawford singled, Haggerty singled, Lewis walked, and Seager drove in one with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. It continued. Nola walked to load the bases for Marmolejos, who hit his first ever grand slam. The score quickly became 5-0 as Marmolejos became the first Mariner to hit homers in both games of a double-header since Alex Rodriguez in 2000. That wasn’t even all of the scoring in the first, as Long hit a solo home run to make it 6-0. The Mariner pitching held it down as the Mariners eventually won 8-3.

The Mariners have officially exceeded all expectations. They looked competitive in losses and just won five of their last six, with the one loss being an unprecedented comeback. Haggerty got to make a stunning debut as he’s hit in each of his first nine career games. Jake Fraley’s gotten to return to the big stage. The Mariners saw debuts by pitchers in Newsome, Aaron Fletcher, and Yoshi Hirano, all of whom have been quite good. They’re still a ways out, but it wouldn’t be too unreasonable to say this edition of the Mariners deserves a playoff chance.