The Calm Before the Storm

Courtesy Justin Rowland via Unsplash

A seven-game stretch against the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers was always going to be a scary prospect for the Seattle Mariners. It loomed over the horizon for the first few weeks, inching forwards until the Mariners had no choice but to board the plane to Houston and brave the coming storm. They survived.

It wasn’t a pretty start. Due to a last-minute scratch on Aug. 14, Yusei Kikuchi was unavailable and Nestor Cortes Jr. was set to make his first start of the year. He got annihilated. The Astros put across nine runs in the bottom of the first, even after the Mariners took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the inning. He faced nine batters. Springer reached on interference, Reddick singled, Altuve struck out as the only out Cortes would record, Bregman RBI singled, Alvarez hit a three-run home run, Gurriel hit a solo home run, Correa walked, Tucker walked, and Maldonado hit in two with a double. But wait, that’s only seven runs! Bryan Shaw came out in relief, if you can even call it that. Springer singled, Reddick RBI doubled, Altuve reached on an error, Bregman walked, and Alvarez grounded into a double play to end it all. That was most of the damage, the final score was 11-1. Following Shaw, Yohan Ramirez threw three one-hit innings and Brady Lail threw three no-hit innings. The bullpen showed up, but it was the first game of the seven hardest games Seattle would have to play.

Nick Margevicius took the mound the next day in his second start since Kendall Graveman was put on the IL. All things considered, he did well. He went six innings, allowing just two runs on four hits. The Mariner bats fell silent until the top of the eighth when Evan White hit a solo home run to dead center. That evened the score, but that’s as close as they were going to get. The Astros won again 2-1. Following that game, Justus Sheffield got his first start since his first career win his last time around. He put up another good outing, allowing two runs (just one of them earned) on six hits over six innings. The game was even tied when he left it thanks to a two-run third inning featuring RBI singles by Joseph Odom and Kyle Lewis. The game remained 2-2 until the ninth inning when the 23-year-old Kyle Tucker came to bat and smacked a walk-off home run against Kyle Tucker to complete the sweep. Still, the Mariners looked competitive out of the first inning of game one, and hope was as alive as it could be heading into four games against the reigning NL West champions.

Also of note, as the Mariners entered Los Angeles was that Kyle Seager and his brother Corey were going to be playing in their first games together. Last time the Dodgers and Mariners faced off, Kyle was injured and couldn’t play, delaying the family reunion. Kyle actually hit an RBI single in the first to get the scoring started. Nola followed him, while Mookie Betts brought the deficit to one. There was more action in the bottom of the second when the Dodgers scored five more runs off Justin Dunn, capped by Corey getting his turn and mashing a three-run home run. The Mariners were not giving up today as they dropped five of their own in the top of the third off three home runs by Kyle Lewis, Evan White, and Kyle Seager once again! Kyle wasn’t done, hitting another RBI single in the fourth to extend the lead to two runs. The bats quieted until the bottom of the seventh when Matt Magill gave up five more runs to the Dodgers. White hit another solo home run for Seattle in the eighth, but the Dodgers took the 11-9 victory.

Marco Gonzales didn’t know it at the time but he was going to have a career outing the next day. The first five runs were scoreless for both sides in a pitcher’s duel that nobody could have imagined. LA drew first blood in the bottom of the sixth on a Justin Turner RBI single to make it 1-0. Tim Lopes tied it up in the bottom of the inning with an RBI groundout. More silence until the bottom of the eighth, when Corey struck again, hitting an RBI single off Dan Altavilla to take a 2-1 lead that would stick.

Five games, five losses. Game six was off to a rough start, with the Dodgers leading 3-1 heading into the bottom of the third inning. Lewis singled, Seager walked, and Austin Nola mashed a three-run home run to take the lead. J.P. Crawford would add on a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3. Dylan Moore made his name known in the bottom of the sixth inning with a solo home run to make it 6-3 and the Mariners would go on to take a 6-4 victory and avoid the double sweep. Taijuan Walker had a high-quality start, settling down from the first three innings to pitch seven full innings allowing no more runs and netting the win.

The final game wasn’t as pretty. The Dodgers scored four runs off Yusei Kikuchi in the third inning, and that was all they needed. They won 6-1, although Kyle once again took it to his brother by hitting a solo home run as the only run Seattle produced.

It’s never good to look at a 1-6 stretch for your favorite baseball team, but the Mariners simply found yet another way to defy expectations. Through every stretch except the first inning from the first game, the Mariners were a competitive baseball team. Through seven games, excluding Magill’s 5-run inning, the Mariner bullpen allowed just seven runs. They’ve settled. The rotation looked better than expected, with Sheffield particularly surprising everyone. The top of the order is still mashing, while White is starting to come into his own at the plate to compliment his incredible defense. Vogelbach was DFA’d and Mallex Smith was sent down, making room for Braden Bishop and the rookie Sam Haggerty who accumulated two stolen bases in his first two career games. The farm system is widely touted as one of the best in baseball, so the Mariners are keeping it exciting and competitive, and I would hold out hope for a little while longer. For now, they have a slight break with the Rangers before taking on the white-hot San Diego Padres.

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