erik lundegaard

Tuesday May 14, 2024

Ms 6, KC 2, and the Black Hole at Second

And the crowd went wild

The announced attendance last night was 14,984 but it felt way sparser than that. It felt like a mid-September game: starting temps in the low 60s dropping into the chilly 50s as the game went on; a handful of fans trying to amuse themselves with scoreboard antics or hydro races; two teams with nowhere players going nowhere fast.

Both teams are actually doing well. Or well-ish. The Mariners, predicted to win the West by some, are in fact in first place in the AL West (by half a game at gamestart), while the Royals, whom nobody predicted to go anywhere, are third in the AL Central but with a better record: 25-17 vs. 22-19. So why wasn't there more excitement?

On the M's side, it's partly that record. We're only in first because everyone else in the division is falling on their faces. We're like the normal guy at the klutz convention, but no one is mistaking us for Fred Astaire. It's also our offense—or lack of it. Halfway through the game, our second baseman and No. 3 hitter Jorge Polanco had to leave with a hamstring pull, and in the reshuffling the new third baseman, Luis Urias, wound up in the three spot. I nudged my friend Tim. “Look at that. Means we have a No. 3 hitter batting below .200.” Then I realized the awful truth. “I guess we began the game that way, didn't we?” In fact three of our starters were below Mendoza: Polanco and the two Mitches—Haniger and Garver—while seven of our starting nine were hitting below .250, and one of those, supposed star Julio Rodriguez, was barely that. In the game he went 1-4 with a single and now sports a .255/.309/.321 line, for a .630 OPS. I know he's a slow starter (a year ago he was at .214/.280./403), but all of that helps account for the meh reaction. This is a meh team. The Mariners are 25th in the Majors in batting (.226) and OBP (.302). The reason we're first in the West is because our starting pitching is superlative: No. 1 in the Majors in quality starts, No. 1 in WHIP, sixth in ERA.

Last night, starter George (“Summer of George!”) Kirby was shaky in the early going. With one out, Bobby Witt Jr. dunked a single to right, then Kirby seemed to lose control: he plunked the next two guys to load the bases. A mound visit seemed to do good for a change: he struck out the next guy, Michael Massey, on three pitches, then got a 6-3 to end the inning. But after two innings he'd thrown 43 pitches and you figured he wasn't long for the game. Except he turned it around. He had a couple of 1-2-3, throwing just 10 and 7 pitches, and he left after seven, ahead 4-0. He threw more than 100 pitches. Can't remember the last guy I saw who threw more than 100 pitches.

Our big bat was Lonesome Luke Raley, a 29-year-old left fielder acquired in the off-season from Tampa Bay, who hit a 2-run homer to dead center in the 2nd. He's an upswing guy—in that last year was his best year by far. He's the opposite of what Jerry DiPoto keeps doing with second base: getting one-time All-Stars who've had bad seasons, thinking they can turn it around. That was Kolten Wong in 2023, Polanco now. In our resumed SubStack the other day, Tim and I went over the black hole that was left field for the 1990s Seattle Mariners and last night we agreed that's now second base. Here are our main second-baggers playing opposite J.P. Crawford for the past few years, along with their OPSes:

  • 2024: Jorge Polanco, .606
  • 2023: Kolten Wong, .468; Jose Caballero, .663
  • 2022: Adam Frazier, .612
  • 2021: Abraham Toro, .695
  • 2020: Shed Long, Jr., .533
  • 2019: Dee Gordon, .663

So Abraham Toro was the high point. Who knew?

M's got two more runs in the 3rd, stringing three singles along. It should've been two singles and a double but when Cal Raleigh's deep drive to center went off the fielder's glove, Polanco, who'd been on first, wasn't ready to run, and could only get to second, stymying Raleigh. Maybe that's when he pulled the hammy? With his bad baserunning? Either way, after Lonesome Luke plated another, it stayed 4-0 until the 8th, when both teams got two: theirs off reliever Ryne “Time to panic” Stanek, ours when Tyrus Raymond France dunked a long fly into the left-field bleachers.

To me, the best-looking player of the game was Bobby Witt, Jr., who went only 1-4 but seemed everywhere: going first to third, running everything out, and with wheels. Right now he's hitting .304/.369/.518, and he's second in the Majors in WAR to Mookie Betts. Those are big boy numbers. Ah yes, I remember them well.

Posted at 11:18 AM on Tuesday May 14, 2024 in category Seattle Mariners  
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