Ichiro Hall-of-Fame Weekend had T-Mobile Park packed with Mariner fans these past couple days, and Sunday’s spectators drove home happy knowing their team barely missed a sweep of the Cleveland Guardians. Some baseball analysts predict that these past four games, and three of their next six could be a potential postseason series matchup come October.
After losing a heartbreaker to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, Seattle was able to bounce back and take the first two, and the final game of the four-game series against Cleveland.
A team that strikes out the least in all of baseball looked to have met their makers these past four days, striking out 31 total times at the hands of the M’s pitching staff.
Luckily with Seattle’s one loss of the series coming on Saturday, the two teams ahead of the M’s in the wild card race, Tampa Bay and Toronto, both lost as well. Toronto was swept Sunday by the LA Angels. Another team to keep a very close eye on is the Baltimore Orioles, who are only 1.5 games back of the final wild card position.
Now let’s recap all four games of the SEA-CLE series, which began on Thursday afternoon.
All of the offense happened in both halves of the first inning on Thursday, where Cleveland jumped out to a one-run lead, on a fielder’s choice by All-Star Jose Ramirez. He gave Seattle’s Ty France a gnarly blow to the leg when crossing first, where he was removed from the game after also being clipped on the foot on another play later on in the game.
Seattle responded in a big way in the first off of Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie, who struck out 14 in his last start. Julio walked, Jesse Winker followed with a base-hit up the gut and Mitch Haniger donated the ball to the bullpen on a three-run blast.
It was a huge comeback start for Marco Gonzales. He went six innings, allowing only one earned run. The bullpen, or should I say “Los Bomberos”, came in after Marco and did what they typically do best, and shoved. Erik Swanson, Matt Brash and Andres Munoz finished off Cleveland in game one, where Munoz punched out three Guardians over 1 1/3 innings. Seattle took game one by a score of 3-1.
Friday night was the beginning of Ichiro HOF Weekend, and it was quite the thriller, which ended with some fireworks, (… literally).
Logan Gilbert gritted his way through six plus innings, giving up two earned runs. He faced off against 2020 CY Young winner, Shane Bieber, who spun seven innings of two run ball. Yet again, “Los Bomberos” came in after Gilbert and helped keep the game in a deadlock until Mitch Haniger decided enough was enough and hit a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 11th off of All-Star Closer Emmanuel Clase. The final was 3-2 in favor of Seattle after two extra innings.
After winning two straight, Seattle had momentum on their side going into Saturday night’s sellout.
Luis Castillo fought extremely hard to go six innings, allowing one earned, striking out ten Guardians. Seattle had only three hits on the game, and they were all solo home runs. It was the first time since 1901 where a team had three-plus homers, but no other baserunners.
Seattle held a 3-1 lead going into the top of the eighth, and for the first time in a long time, Reliever Andres Munoz was touched up. In his one inning of work, he gave up three runs on two hits and a walk. James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase shut down the Mariners to end it, 4-3 Cleveland.
Sunday’s finale in front of around 42,000 strong at T-Mobile Park featured Robbie Ray, and that ray shined bright, yet again. He threw 103 pitches, striking out seven, and allowing zero free passes over seven innings.
This game was a pitcher’s duel through five innings, until Seattle’s Dylan Moore had something to say about it. In his at-bat in the fifth inning, he hit a pop fly foul ball that, thanks to the first-base, fan-protecting net, was able to stay alive after Cleveland’s Owen Miller couldn’t come up with the play. Next pitch he went yard into Edgar’s, scoring Carlos Santana and Adam Frazier as well. Ty France was able to show some life at the dish for the first time in eight games. He went 2-3, with a solo bomb into the left field bleachers in the seventh. Erik Swanson and Paul Sewald came in after Ray and finished off Cleveland for the shutout, 4-0.
It's an off day tomorrow as the Mariners head to the Motor City to face off against the Detroit Tigers for three games beginning Tuesday. It will be George Kirby vs. Matt Manning Tuesday, Marco Gonzales vs. Tyler Alexander on Wednesday, and Logan Gilbert vs. Eduardo Rodriguez to finish it off for some brunch baseball on Thursday.
Seattle has climbed above Toronto in the wild card race, and sit behind the Tampa Bay Rays by a half game.
Updated American League Wild Card Standings as of Sunday evening:
- Tampa Bay Rays (70-57), +1.5 GB
- Seattle Mariners (70-58), +1.0 GB
- Toronto Blue Jays (68-58), -- GB
- Baltimore Orioles (67-60), 1.5 GB
- Minnesota Twins (65-61), 3.0 GB