After a scuffling homestand where they won just two of seven games, the next stretch for the Seattle Mariners looked to be even tougher: three games against the national league’s best team, the New York Mets, and three games against the Toronto Blue Jays, who boast some of the best young stars in baseball.
The challenge factor was amped to 11 for the very first game, when three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer took the mound for New York. He performed just as advertised, throwing seven strong innings, allowing just one run. However, Marco Gonzales matched him step-for-step, allowing one run in 6.2 innings of his own. Tied 1-1 with the bullpen taking over, the Mariners jumped Drew Smith and took a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning on a Ty France RBI single. Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider closed the game with two perfect innings to take game one of the series for the Mariners.
George Kirby made his second start of his young career the next day, hoping to build off of his excellent debut. It didn’t go as smoothly, as he allowed three runs (one earned) in four innings. Penn Murfee allowed the first earned run of his career in the fifth, but the Seattle offense stayed competitive and tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the seventh, thanks largely to Jesse Winker’s second home run of the year driving in three. However, Mets catcher Patrick Mazeika took the first pitch from Andres Munoz deep to strike back and eventually win 5-4.
The rubber match of the series featured Robbie Ray and Carlos Carrasco going at it, though neither of them really played a role. The two starters allowed a combined nine runs in ten and a third innings, though the Mets led 5-4 through four innings. That quickly came to an end when Julio Rodriguez and Cal Raleigh blasted a pair of home runs in the sixth to take a 7-5 lead. It was 8-5 heading into the bottom of the ninth where the Mets would make their valiant final stand. Four consecutive hits left runners on second and third with one out, and now only one run of deficit. Struggling reliever Diego Castillo came in to finish the job, striking out Starling Marte, intentionally walking Francisco Lindor and then striking out Pete Alonso to take the series win.
The Mariners left for Toronto feeling pretty good about their performance, and ready to meet an old friend. The first game pitted Chris Flexen up against the former Mariner himself, Yusei Kikuchi. Kikuchi, despite a season ERA above 4.00, decimated the Mariners lineup to the tune of six scoreless innings. Flexen only allowed three runs over 5.1 innings himself, but it didn’t really matter. The Mariners mustered just four hits all game and would lose 6-2.
The Mariners threatened early in game two against Jose Berrios. Loading the bases with one out had hometown kid Steven Souza Jr. stepping to the plate in the biggest moment of his Mariner career. Souza turned on the first pitch of that at-bat, grounding to the shortstop for a double play. All momentum halted, and the Mariners never picked it back up. Despite an incredibly strong showing by Logan Gilbert and a scoreless inning by Penn Murfee, Seattle could never put a run-up on the board and lost 3-0.
Game three looked to be the toughest challenge yet, with Gonzales facing off the NL Cy Young runner-up Kevin Gausman. Gonzales delivered for the second time this week, allowing one run in six innings. More importantly, the offense was firing on all cylinders against Gausman. Seattle struck as early as the first, thanks to a Winker sacrifice fly. The Mariners scored once more against Gausman in the form of a Raleigh home run, his third of the year. Gausman exited the game after five innings, due to take the loss if his team couldn’t overcome the 2-1 deficit. France lit up Trevor Richards in the sixth with a two-run blast, extending the lead to 4-1. An Abraham Toro home run in the ninth off Ross Stripling was the final damage they put across, taking the game 5-1.
Going an even 3-3 against the Mets and Jays is a good start, but they will likely want more from their next seven games: four at Boston, and three at home against the Oakland Athletics.