Tampa Bay’s strange inability to topple the Mariners this year has begun to look like a legitimate curse. Whatever magic the Mariners have worked to become so fearsome against the Rays became evident in the sixth after an Abraham Toro single turned into a run scored on a series of baffling, cartoonish errors.
With Toro on first, Ryan Sherriff bounced one in front of home plate past a scrambling Mejia, advancing the young bull to second. Joey Wendle’s comical overthrow to first in an attempt to get Jake Fraley out set up runners at the corners for Jarred Kelenic, who struck out looking. Cal Raleigh didn’t fair much better, hitting a ball right to Wander Franco, whose throw to second looked like the start of an inning ending double play.
Instead, Brandon Lowe was overcome by the Mariners’ magic and let the ball dribble down the field, ensuring his opponents got their two-run lead back.
In the words of many a youth, “we take those.”
Despite getting outhit 7-6, the Mariners took it indeed, capitalizing on a solid start from Kikuchi and yet another masterclass from the top names in the bullpen. Despite facing a defense that has been consistently outstanding (top 6 in MLB by UZR, top 5 by DRS), the Mariners watched it collapse behind a pitching staff that couldn’t hold down some of the younger names in the Mariners lineup.
As the veterans and the more impactful bats went down without a fight or got stranded on base, it was Abraham Toro, Jarred Kelenic, Jake Fraley, and Cal Raleigh who engineered the win.
Jake, Jarred, and Cal played small ball in the second, with two sac flies bringing Fraley in to tie the game following his leadoff double, but it was Toro and Kelenic who stole the show against right-hander Luis Patino with not-quite back-to-back home runs in the fourth.
Did we win the trade? Has Kelenic really arrived? These are exciting questions to be able to ask. I’ll let you use your eyes to decide:
Well? Have you made up your mind?
While Toro’s was slightly speedier off the bat, Kelenic’s 104.6 mph blast was even more welcome as it made it’s way out to dead center. Given how many of Jarred’s (admittedly few) XBH have been pulled, it’s encouraging to see a broader power palate forming.
For all the uncertainty young players bring, watching the three youngest on the roster (plus honorary young blood Jake Fraley) come up big in the five- through eight-holes feels huge.
As for Yusei, his numbers were plenty to keep the Mariners in the game, despite his velo being down across the board and despite getting thick into deep counts throughout his outing. The leadoff blast he gave up to Randy “Some MF” Arozarena was excusable and easily surmountable, and the one further run surrendered in his six innings of work was unearned. Fraley’s E7, whether a result of forgetting he was playing baseball and not soccer or caused by the Mariners’ magic unsure if his days with the Rays were over, served as an unwelcome reminder that putting outfielders in the outfield is not a guarantee.
Sadler, Sewald, and Castillo decimated the Rays lineup for the final three home frames with a single and walk highlighting Tampa Bay’s offense in the game’s denouement. After Castillo’s gave up a walk-off home run to Jonah Heim this weekend, I’m sure many Mariners fans were struggling to feel confident he could convert the save opportunity. Nevertheless, he found his groove, the walk he gave up to pinch hitter Ji-Man Choi largely a product of HP umpire Ed Hickox not respecting painters or their craft.
As we come down the stretch, of both the season and the rebuild, there’s something about the wins off the backs of the young talent that feels better than the ones where the offense is headlined by the names Haniger or Seager. I say this with all the love in the world for those two, but the indelible edge to the victories that have a glimmer of the future in them is a high I’ll chase wherever it takes me.
When faced with such promise, there’s no shame in dreaming.
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