It’s getting to be football season, so tonight let’s roll an old football chestnut out of the mothballs they’ve been keeping all summer and say tonight’s game was a tale of two halves. Except they weren’t halves, really, they were the parts of the game where the starters were and the parts where they weren’t, and also if anything approaching the chaos that happened in tonight’s game happened on a football field and Cris Collinsworth. had to describe it he would run off into the night, never to be heard from again. But first half things first!
It was somewhat surprising to see the relative lack of national attention paid to tonight’s game. An All-Star vs. reigning MVP, Ace vs. ace, with Luis Castillo facing Shohei Ohtani in an AL West matchup, with the Mariners desperately struggling to break their historic playoff drought and the once-high-flying Angels now eagerly looking to play spoiler? It seems like a big deal to us, but what do we know, MLB is Belle whirling through the streets of her provincial village singing about how this little town sucks, actually, and meanwhile we’re this lady:
Anyway, maybe it was right that there wasn’t a lot of hype built into this game because for a battle of aces it was… a bit of a letdown, actually. Neither Ohtani nor Castillo seemed to have their best stuff, and neither offense exactly set the world on fire. The Mariners immediately got on the board in this game when, with two outs, Jesse Winker heard you talk some bullshit:
Mitch Haniger followed with a single, but the Mariners couldn’t do anything beyond that. What they could do was take care of Ohtani’s pitch count, costing him 21 pitches in the first, mostly driven up by an eight-pitch at-bat on Haniger’s single. Never leave us, Mitch.
Unfortunately, the Angels came right back in the bottom of the first. It looked like it was going to be a quick inning for Castillo after he got two quick touchdowns, and extra good news for the Mariners when Ohtani fouled off a few balls in his at-bat, but Luis Rengifo jumped on Castillo’s first pitch — a 98. MPH fastball that caught too much plate—and after some unnecessary outfield hijinks where either Mitch or Julio could have caught the ball but neither did and then oh, it was ruled a home run anyway, how I loathe Angel Stadium, suddenly the game was a 1. -1 tie. Same, Louis, same.
In the third, it looked like Julio had put the Mariners ahead on a ball that hooked over the fence into the right-field corner, but Phil Nevin couldn’t challenge it fast enough and upon review it was ruled a foul ball (note that I doesn’t say as “shown” because I’m still waiting for that visual confirmation), so of course he ended up striking out instead. Baseball gods, why do you hate fun. I don’t mean that the swing of going from a potential home run to a strikeout is a perfect metaphor for how poorly the Mariners have played so far in their so-called soft schedule, but also, if the stretched metaphor is appropriate. Ty France, still arguing at the plate, then grounded out on the first pitch. Womp womp.
But then! Jesse Winker singled and Mitch Haniger worked a rare walk off Ohtani, bringing up JP Crawford. At this point it’s important to mention that there was a strong Mariners contingent in the building for the game, and they brought their “JP” chants, which is probably what propelled this two-out RBI single off the bat of JP Crawford that continues . to warm up after a strong showing from an otherwise disappointing Texas series. Adam Frazier then struck out to end the inning, but the inning pushed Ohtani’s pitch count to 61 through three.
But things didn’t get any easier after that. The always pesky David Fletcher led off the third by jumping on Castillo’s hanging slider, putting a runner on first immediately. Castillo then fell behind Ohtani 3-1 and things looked bad before rebounding to strike him out with some perfectly painted 98 MPH heat.
Luis Rengifo then grounded into a double play to save Castillo from the inning with his pitch count intact, but the Mariners could not capitalize in the fourth despite a Jake Lamb double that missed being a home run by. this much. To say it again: I hate Angel Stadium and all its accompanying paraphernalia. Still, at 104.9 at bat and an xBA of .800, that’s encouraging from Lamb.
Less encouraging: the bottom of the fourth. Taylor Ward started off the inning with a double on another bad slider by Castillo, and then Jared Walsh took a medium-medium fastball and singled him home and Ty France got sloppy on the relay, allowing the runner to advance to second. Ty, that’s fifty Perry Hill pushups pre-game tomorrow. Castillo was able to escape the inning without further damage, including a nice catch on a returner as if to show off his infield. this is how it’s done guys, but by this point, Ohtani had cruised, forcing Castillo right back in there. He got a soft start with Andrew Velazquez, literally only on this team because he has a shortstop, and then Castillo right after David Fletcher, who I like to believe bothers La Piedra as much as he bothers me. Castillo got Fletcher 1-2, but then he worked the count full because Castillo might be La Piedra, but Fletcher is La Piedra in El Zapato, and chewed up a bunch more of Castillo’s pitches before singling up the middle. How I hate him. Again, Castillo wiggled out of trouble, but it felt like a non-stop slog up with his command tonight, with little to no support from his offense.
Castillo battled through the sixth so both starters would clear six innings, but it wasn’t easy. He led off the inning by hitting Taylor Ward on a full count, and then another full count to Jared Walsh, who is just Plan A Reverse Taylor Ward, before striking him out. That pushed him to pitch 100 in an at-bat against Steven Duggar, significantly less efficient than we’ve seen Castillo in the past. Thanks to Laz Diaz is as good at umpiring as I am at writing a concise summary, Castillo had to throw five strikes to strike him out, making Duggar a chasing changeup for strike three and his eighth strikeout of the day, but also pushing his. pitch count well in the red line zone. However, Servais opted to stick with Castillo against Max Stassi to try and finish off the sixth, and Castillo responded:
We love that! It’s so amazing to see that even on a night when Castillo doesn’t have his best stuff, he can stand up and execute when he has to; hopefully next time his offense will give him a little more courage support so he doesn’t have to grind so hard.
With Act I of this baseball game over, it’s time to move on to Act II, although really, it’s more like Act V, or wherever things start to go wrong for Shakespeare’s characters, which in this case are the Disgraced Former California Angels, playing appropriately. enough, behind the proscenium arch of the most ersatz, shamelessly manufactured park in baseball. Diego Castillo shut out the Angels in the seventh despite some command we’ll call “effectively wild” and Andrés Muñoz shut out the Angels in his inning despite some trashy little weak-contact hits that brought the Mariners up to face Aaron Loup in the. top of the ninth. Dave Sims’ comment about Loup was “I thought he was traded!” and well, that’s less an indictment of Sims and more of Loup and the Angels, or the Angels themselves, as a concept.
Loup may wish he was traded after tonight, because while the first half of this game/game followed a traditional, familiar arc—the battle of the aces, the batters trying to react and adjust—the top of the ninth was clean experimental theatre. . Bertolt Brecht was on the sidelines saying, “hang on guys, this might be a bit much.”
It started, as most good things do lately, with Sam Haggerty:
What made it even more incredible was just a few pitches earlier, Haggerty swung and missed at a pitch that hit him on the ankle and spent quite a bit of time spinning around in the dirt at home plate before having to be helped off. Laz Diaz. But, fully embodying the “i lived” Self, Haggerty swiped second when Max Stassi got an itchy trigger finger behind the plate, sailing a ball into center after Haggerty faked a steal of second. Thanks so much for the free base, Max! Then Haggerty swung third, because if you give Swaggerty a base, he’ll just want another:
OK, I thought, just have to run over here and deliver it to Sewald. But these chaotic Mariners had other designs. First of all, Carlos Santana, batting for Jake Lamb, somehow cast his magic spell on Laz Diaz and convinced him it was a 3-1 count rather than a 2-2 count, leading to a walk and an almost immediate pinch-runner for Santana in Dylan Moore . Then the Angels… I’m not sure how to put that into words. I need hand puppets or a set of colorful scarves or a set of carefully trained birds. But I will do my best.
First. Julio hit a ball at 107.5 MPH right at Luis Rengifo, who of course, drops it. DMo hesitates for a second, realizes he’s probably meat, and starts going to second anyway, hoping they can get the run to score and maybe stay out of the double play.
The inning does not end on the double play. Instead, Rengifo, probably still seeing his life flash before his eyes, elects to throw home to end the run from scoring, as at this point the double play is probably out of order after he dropped the ball.
This causes Haggerty to enter a run between third and home, hoping to advance DMo now:
Then at some point, like the Distracted Boyfriend meme, José Rojas is more concerned about Dylan Moore, who takes a third without stopping, and also, there is no one at home to throw to anyway, because Aaron Loup fell except for an upset Jared Walsh, who has a giant case of Toasterhands . “Aha,” thinks Rojas, “at least I’ll drop this runner, and get out second on the board.”
There will be no second out on the board as Moore gets in safely. Spare a thought for Rengifo here, forced to watch first his life flash before his eyes, then the life of his baseball team.
Surrender Cobras around.
I can only hope that these fans are gone, because they seem to be at Maximum Discontent, and I’m not happy to say that these freeze frames of things past are about to get a lot worse (I’m absolutely happy about that).
You know how in baseball, the old chestnut is that if you come to the ballpark every day, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before? Well sometimes you see exactly what you just saw on back to back plays. Ty France hit this ball—and unlike Julio’s this one wasn’t blazing, just 86.6 MPH off the bat—that should have been a double play, except it can’t be, because Julio almost stands a second before the fielder even has the ball
So the Angels make the ill-advised attempt to do the impossible: throw an out against the Mariners at home plate.
He’s out, isn’t he? DMo is so out here, he’s the most out that ever came out, he’s the Mayor of Outsville, Population Him.
Except, alas! The ball bounced off like an evil bunny in a picture book. The Very Reluctant Rabbit or something. That ball would eventually roll all the way to the backfield, putting runners at second and third instead of two or even three out on the board. Too bad for the Angels. Great for us. 4-2 Sailors.
Jesse Winker then grounded out and the Angels actually skillfully fielded it, but it still scored another run, and then JP Crawford singled to bring in another run to bring it to 6-2 Mariners, and that’s where the fun would end, because the Angels. dragged Jesse Chavez out of his cryogenic dorm room and forced him to finish the inning. Then Paul Sewald jumped out of the sea pit, cheerfully put away the Angels 1-2-3, and told us all to brush our teeth and go to bed, though not before injecting some last-minute mayhem himself, striking Jo Adell out on a pitch that appeared to hit him.
Was it a nice win? No, not really. But it was a win, and a win that recalled the best times of last season, the wild but wonderful, anything-can-happen, Chaos Ball Mariners. That team is capable of inducing chaos in the same way that team was: grinding out batters, forcing the other team into making mistakes by disrupting things on the basepaths, playing clean defense themselves, and locking things down on the pitching side. It feels like magic, but it’s not, really. It’s an opportunity, and it’s knocking.