A blistering month of August was quickly forgotten over the ten-game road trip that wrapped up on Sunday down in St. Petersburg, Florida. The then-first place (in the West) Seattle Mariners won just three out of ten games from September 1st through September 10th.
It seems that even though the offense has been there in most of these close losses, the pitching, both starters and relief, has been quite fatigued. A ten-game road trip with no days off, I would imagine, doesn’t cure the fatigued arms. Houston took over the AL West for the first time this season over the rough stretch of Mariners’ baseball, with Seattle and Texas close behind. Tampa Bay has a strong hold of first in the Wild Card, with Seattle, Texas, and Toronto all neck and neck there as well.
Thankfully, the M’s insane run in August, which included two eight-game winning streaks, gave them a bit of cushion if something like a 3-7 stretch were to happen. Seattle looks to put the past three series in the rear-view mirror, as they returned back to the PNW for a brief, two-team home stand. Cali is in the building, where first it is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for three, a day off (kind of forgot those existed), and then the leaders of the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers will face off with the M’s over the weekend.
Before we look ahead to Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts and the Dodgers, the M’s just concluded their series against the Los Angeles Angels, who were without Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout.
Monday’s game couldn’t have started better for Seattle, and they needed this one after losing the final three of four in Tampa. Teoscar Hernandez scored Julio Rodriguez on a sacrifice fly, and Cal Raleigh, just four pitches later, launched a two-run home run to left center, batting from the right side. He passed last year’s home run total Monday, as he continues his strong season both defensively and offensively for the M’s. It was a quick, three-run cushion Logan Gilbert and company.
That three-run advantage quickly vanished to just one on Logan O’Hoppe’s ninth home run of the season, as his day was just getting started. Fast forward a few innings, and with the same 3-2 score, O’Hoppe did it again. This time a solo home run, which happened to be his first career multi-home run ballgame. 3-3 was the score after four innings in Seattle.
Following the Mariners’ three-run first inning, it was crickets throughout the rest of the game. The lone bright spot was, guess this, Julio Rodriguez.
Logan Gilbert’s day was done after seven complete, striking out five, and allowing three on O’Hoppe’s two home runs. Monday’s first of three was headed to extras, where seemingly, the Mariners can’t ever get it done. Following Gilbert was Matt Brash, Andres Munoz, and then Justin Topa pitched the tenth.
After a quick two outs via the flyout, Brandon Drury dug in looking to spark life for the Angels. With two outs and two strikes, he rifled a two-run home run off of the manual scoreboard to give Anaheim a 5-3 lead. It would take a miracle for the M’s to put up two to tie in the bottom half, but miracles sometimes come true when you have a guy with the name Julio Rodriguez on your team.
With Dominic Canzone starting as the ghost runner on second, J.P. Crawford struck out swinging, bringing up August’s AL Player of the Month. On a 1-1 pitch, well below the strike zone, Julio four-ironed his 30th home run of the season to tie it up. Julio became a member of the 30/30 club, the second in Seattle history, (Alex Rodriguez). Following J-Rod, Teo was walked but backup catcher Brian O’Keefe grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. 5-5 was the score heading into the 11th.
Trent Thornton took over for Topa, but again couldn’t get LAA to go down quietly. He gave up a run on an RBI single by Randal Grichuk. Lefty Gabe Speier came into attempt limiting the damage, but an error by Eugenio Suarez, and an RBI single by Nolan Schanuel had the Angels up a field goal.
On a night where Logan Gilbert went seven innings, and Julio went 4-5 with a home run, Seattle went down without a fight in the 11th, as they lost their fourth straight contest, this time by a final of 8-5.
The Mariners used six relievers Monday, which doesn’t bode well with rookie Bryan Woo, who has eclipsed his career high in innings by a landslide. Seattle needed Woo to keep the Angels in check as much as he could, in the least amount of pitches Tuesday.
Like the opener, it was a fantastic start for the M’s on offense. Three runs again, this time on three RBI singles by Eugenio Suarez, Ty France and Dylan Moore in the home first.
Seattle needed Woo, and he was Wo(o)nderful. 5 2/3 inning, eight strikeouts, zero walks, and zero runs. He was also backed by more Mariner offense in the fourth and fifth innings. With the bases loaded and two outs, J.P. launched a ball into the gap, off of Brett Phillips’ glove for a bases-clearing double. Julio followed with an RBI single up the middle. Eugenio Suarez went opposite field for his 20th home run of the 2023 season, and Seattle was up by eight.
Eduard Bazardo and Dominic Leone kept the shutout intact as the M’s got off the schneid, winning in shutout fashion in game two of three Tuesday against Anaheim.
It was a bullpen day for the Angels in the finale up against Luis Castillo, who currently sits in second place for the AL Cy Young power rankings, via MLB. A must win for the M’s, as they face a depleted set of relievers.
It was LAA who got on the board early on La Piedra. Brett Phillips, not exactly known for his power, hit a solo home run in the third, a ball that traveled only 354 feet and had an expected batting average just above .200. But a quick response, thanks to Julio, who did his best Mike Trout impression, by lacing a low pitch to left field on a line. This time it was a double off the wall that scored Josh Rojas.
Again, the Angels scored in the next half inning… a double down the line, where Zach Neto was attempting a steal on the play, so he scored without a doubt.
The two-out success for Seattle continued in the bottom of the fifth. Seattle scored seven of their eight runs Tuesday with two outs, and Wednesday, Cal Raleigh and Teoscar Hernandez knocked in one each to give Seattle the lead for the first time in the game.
Castillo was done after six. A solid day for the rock, where he struck out eight. He’ll need to control the zone a bit better going into his last few regular season starts, but allowing just two runs is as solid as a start gets. Justin Topa and Matt Brash (struck out side, became fifth Mariner to reach 100 strikeouts in a season) followed Luis before Munoz came into shut it down.
Munoz got two batters to strike out and the Big Dumper gunned down Phillips trying to nab second to end the game. A series win that was so badly needed prior to the Dodgers coming to town.
The first day off since August 31st occurs Thursday before the always-elite LA Dodgers make a trip to T-Mobile Park over the weekend. They hold a sizeable lead over their NL West foes, as they are a lock once again for the division. Ranking top three in runs, home runs, RBIs, OBP, SLG… you name it, they have got it under control. Oh yeah, and their pitching staff is pretty solid as well. Here’s what to expect, pitching-matchup wise this weekend, beginning Friday:
- Friday Sept 15th, 7:10 PM PT: RHP Bobby Miller (9-3, 3.98 ERA) vs. RHP George Kirby (10-9, 3.48 ERA)
- Saturday Sept 16th, 6:40 PM PT: LHP Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 2.61 ERA) vs. RHP Bryce Miller (8-5, 4.05 ERA)
- Sunday Sept 17th, 1:10 PM PT: LAD TBD vs. RHP Logan Gilbert (13-5, 3.62 ERA)
American League West standings as of Wednesday evening:
- 1.Houston Astros (82-64)
- 2.Texas Rangers (80-64), 1.0 GB – tied with SEA for 2nd AL WC position
- 3.Seattle Mariners (81-65), 1.0 GB -- tied with TEX for 2nd AL WC position
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