Continuing probably their toughest stretch of the season, the Seattle Mariners finished their three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers and went to Houston to play four against the Astros before traveling again to New York and playing three against the Yankees. Not only are these the two best teams in the American League, but the Mariners also wouldn’t get a day off until after the Yankees series; meaning they would have played 13 straight in three different cities.
The second Astros series in 10 games started off decently, with Logan Gilbert putting up six innings of two-run baseball and getting two runs of support. However, things turned sour in the bottom of the eighth when 23-year-old Andres Munoz took the mound and allowed two runs to give the Astros their final 4-2 lead.
Game two went quite a bit worse, as Robbie Ray was pulled after 2.2 innings, having allowed four runs. Little did the Mariners know that this was the least of their worries that day. Penn Murfee allowed a run in the fourth, Tommy Milone allowed four runs in the sixth and Ryan Borucki allowed another in the seventh. The game got so bad that the Mariners brought in backup catcher Luis Torrens to pitch the eighth where he allowed the Astros’ eleventh run of the game. The Mariners put up a measly one in return thanks to a Julio Rodriguez RBI double, leading to the worst loss of the week and possibly the season.
The Mariners wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in game three, putting up three runs over five baserunners in the first inning. The Astros clawed away the deficit, scoring four runs of their own in seven innings off Chris Flexen and Matthew Festa. With a deficit heading into the ninth inning yet again, the Seattle offense got two runners into scoring position with two outs for Abraham Toro, pinch-hitting for Rodriguez. With Astros closer Ryan Pressly on the mound, Toro took the first pitch into right field for a two-run single to take the lead and eventually the game. The Mariners showed an unrivaled fighting spirit, but the losses were great. Ty France was sidelined with a wrist injury, Julio was placed on the Injured List (IL) after getting hit in the wrist by a pitch, Sam Haggerty had stitches in his forehead and Dylan Moore was placed on the IL with back spasms. The Mariners were now down two key bats and two utility players heading into the final game.
The lack of offense was sorely experienced by the Mariners as they put up two runs in regulation. Fortunately, the Astros only managed two of their own, giving Seattle another shot in extra innings. Unfortunately, facing Hector Neris, the Mariners could not score their runner from second base: Toro popped up, Jarred Kelenic and Adam Frazier struck out. Rookie Brennan Bernardino made his MLB debut in the bottom of the tenth with the same goal. Jose Altuve was intentionally walked before Yuli Gurriel lined out and advanced their runner from second to third. All-star slugger Yordan Alvarez was the hero of the day, walking off the Mariners with a single into left field.
The woes continued into the Yankee series. The Mariners put up two runs in the first four innings in the series opener, but in that same time, the Yankees managed six. The bullpen shut New York down for the rest of the game but the offense could not make up the difference.
Game two was a different beast entirely. The Mariners scored in each of the first three innings, thanks to home runs by Eugenio Suarez and Cal Raleigh. The Yankees tightened the gap with three runs in the fourth, but Seattle scored again in the fifth to give them a 6-3 lead. Unfortunately, the Yankees grabbed three more off Logan Gilbert in the sixth to tie it. Pinch-hitting to lead off the seventh inning was Sam “the Godfather” Haggerty, who roped his third home run of the series into left field. The Mariners took a 7-6 lead and would add another in the ninth to take the game 8-6.
Game three was particularly exciting in more ways than one. It marked the Mariner debut for Luis Castillo, an All-Star pitcher they acquired from the Cincinnati Reds last week. Castillo ended up going 6.2 innings, allowing just three runs on five hits and striking out eight. However, between the questionable umpiring and him staying in exactly two batters too long, he pitched even better than his stats would show. Meanwhile, the offense went up against perennial Cy Young candidate Gerrit Cole.
And they smoked him. The Mariners were firing on all cylinders offensively. Frazier led off the game with a single. Jesse Winker drew a walk behind him. Suarez mashed a first-inning home run for the second time in as many games, giving the Mariners a 3-0 lead in the first, but they were not done. Carlos Santana mashed his own home run immediately after. J.P. Crawford singled and was eventually driven in by a Kelenic home run. With six runs in the first, the Mariners coasted to a victory. They played elite defense behind Castillo and even drove in an extra run when Winker took Wandy Peralta deep in the seventh.
The Mariners have to be feeling good after taking a series against the Yankees. They officially have the easiest remaining schedule in baseball, though you wouldn’t be able to tell with another Yankee series on the horizon. After a well-earned day off, they will take the field at home for six games against the Los Angeles Angels and Yankees. The playoffs are looking more and more like reality for this team who deserves it so much.