M’s Win Fifth Consecutive Series Over NL East-Leading Braves

Coming off of their fourth-consecutive series win against the 2023 World Series runner-up Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend, the task didn’t get much easier. The past six-time National League East champion, and 2021 World Series-winning Atlanta Braves made their one and only visit to T-Mobile Park this season. If it was anything like the last time the Braves were in town (Sept. 9-11, 2022), this series was going to be full of fun and action… and it most certainly was these past few days.

The M’s beat the red-hot Braves in the first two of three, but ultimately fell in the finale. Nevertheless, it was their fifth-straight series victory, which is an impressive feat – especially with their last three opponents: Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Atlanta Braves. They finished the month of April in sole possession of first in the American League West with 17 wins.

Here’s how it all went down against ATL, starting with Monday’s awesome pitcher’s duel.

Young right-hander Bryce Miller faced off with crafty lefty Max Fried... and it was all Miller and Fried throughout Monday night.

It is evident that Seattle’s starting pitching staff is going on one of the game’s most historic runs, collectively. That said, the M’s offense has yet to find their consistent ability, which has been the case most of the entirety of 2024 to date.

Max Fried spun a no-hitter throughout his start. Bryce Miller spun a perfect game until the top of the sixth inning.

Acuna, despite striking out thrice prior to his fourth at-bat, broke up the then no-hitter on a hard-hit single up the middle that was unable to be fielded properly by Dylan Moore at shortstop. Last year’s National League MVP then stole second and third on back-to-back pitches and scored the first run of the game on an Ozzie Ablies’ RBI double.

The Mariners were hit-less up until the bottom of the eighth inning, where their most consistent bat this season, Josh Rojas, grounded a pinch-hit single through the four hole. Following Rojas was Luke Raley pinch hitting for Sam Haggerty, who loaded the bases on a single, again through the four hole. But a shallow pop-up by Julio Rodriguez, and a Mitch Haniger strike out ended the late-game threat.

Seattle’s Zach Bolton spun a scoreless seventh following Miller’s fine performance, and then Austin Voth struck out the Braves in order in the eighth. The M’s needed one to tie and/or two to win in their last ups.

Lefty A.J. Minter stood high on the mound for Atlanta looking to close this one out.

Jorge Polanco laced a single on the first pitch he saw from the lefty to set up Mitch Garver at the dish as the winning run. Mitch saw three consecutive balls, and then looked at two straight strikes. Full count, and it was the moment all kids dream of in the backyard: full count, and a chance to win it with a walk off bomb, which is exactly what the struggling-Garver did.

An 89-MPH cutter from Minter was blasted 412 feet off of the facing of the Left Field bleachers. A team that didn’t record their first hit until the eighth inning won the opening game of the series via the walk off, two-run home run. 2-1 was the final in favor of the home team.

Atlanta Braves v Seattle Mariners

Seattle's Mitch Garver felt all the weight come off of his shoulders Monday as he is seen flipping his bat here, directly after making contact on his walk-off, two-run home run.Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Luis Castillo, who started the year shaky, has seemed to come into his own over his last handful of starts. He got the nod Tuesday against right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, who came into the game with a sub-one ERA and quality starts in all appearances.

After two scoreless innings were spun by Castillo and Lopez, Seattle was able to strike first on the offensive side.

Josh Rojas worked a five-pitch walk (he reached base all four times Tuesday), setting up the switch-hitting Polanco with a man on. The former-Minnesota Twin lined his fourth home run of the season over the fence in right off of a middle-middle Lopez changeup. This gave the M’s a 2-0 advantage.

Luis Castillo, AKA “La Piedra”, continued his strong stretch of starts Tuesday. The preseason odds-on Cy Young favorite out of this Seattle starting pitching staff finished seven strong shutout innings, striking out seven in the process. Luis gave up just three hits and walked only one.

The M’s carried a three-run lead throughout the ballgame, but things got very interesting following Castillo’s exit. Ryne Stanek relieved Luis of his duties, and within an instant, the Braves were alive.

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud singled and former-Mariner Jarred Kelenic singled, setting up two on, no outs, with Acuna at the dish. Stanek did get Acuna to fly out to right, but couldn’t escape scoreless, as it was Albies again, this time bringing home one on an RBI single.

As Stanek struggled with command of most, especially his secondary pitches, Scott Servais called on Andres Munoz to get out of the eighth inning jam. He faced Austin Riley, who on a well-placed slider, made weak contact and hit a swinging bunt no more than ten feet. It appeared there was some miscommunication between Munoz and Cal Raleigh, where Munoz fired the ball to first, but it sailed well over Ty France, resulting in another Atlanta run.

Now with the bases-loaded (following an intentional walk to Matt Olson), Munoz really needed to bear down. He did such that, getting slugger Marcell Ozuna to punch out, and then getting Orlando Arcia to ground out to Dylan Moore, who made the play of the season to get the final out of the inning.

Atlanta Braves v Seattle Mariners

Dylan Moore, Seattle's interim every day shortstop, is seen here floating at a 45° angle while making an absolute web game of a play late Tuesday night.Photo: Alika Jenner / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Servais stuck with Andres after Seattle couldn’t get any insurance in bottom eight. After going down 3-0 in the count to Michael Harris II, Munoz fought back and struck him out. He then got d’Arnaud to fly out to Julio and it was the matchup we had all been waiting to see… Jarred Kelenic looking to tie it with one swing of the bat against Andres Munoz, looking to get him swinging for the final out of the game.

It was the latter of the two, as Seattle’s closer erased five Atlanta hitters across two innings, resulting in a third-straight win as a starter for Luis Castillo, and Seattle’s fifth consecutive series victory.

It was the first time all year the Braves had lost back-to-back ballgames. The M’s looked for the sweep Wednesday afternoon.

Matinee, get-away-day for the M’s, and it was Emerson Hancock against the forever-nasty Chris Sale on the mound.

Emerson struck out the side in the top half of the first, despite walking two in the inning. Sale struck out two of three in the bottom half, which is not shocking in the slightest.

Top three, and the Braves capitalized on some Hancock hiccups. Two singles, a walk, a throwing error, followed by another walk resulted in a one-run advantage for the away side.

They added on in large fashion the following inning. An Acuna RBI single, Riley two-RBI triple and a Matt Olson RBI single put ATL up by a score of 5-0, ending Hancock’s start. The Georgia-alum, facing his childhood team, struggled. Emerson walked four over three plus innings, allowing five runs, where just one was earned.

Seattle struggled to score, despite several opportunities, against Sale on Wednesday. The veteran lefty punched out nine over five innings, allowing one run on a bloop RBI single by Polanco.

The M’s had more opportunities with RISP in the eighth and the ninth but could not execute late Wednesday. Atlanta took the finale by a final score of 5-2.

Off/travel day for Seattle as they head to H-Town for the first time in 2024. The last-place Astros have been injury-riddled, but still shockingly poor for their typically-high standard throughout the season’s first full month. 2020 AL MVP, 37-year-old Jose Abreu was just optioned to the Astros’ complex in West Palm Beach, Florida as he had started the season with a .099 batting average through 71 at-bats.

But don’ t think that this Astros squad will just roll over. They have won three-straight going into Wednesday, and have more runs scored this season than the first-place M’s. The three-game set opens up on Friday inside Minute Maid Park.

Houston has yet to announce their starting pitchers for their three games against the M’s. For Seattle, it’ll be the trio of righties George Kirby (3-2, 4.18 ERA) on Friday, Logan Gilbert (2-0, 2.03 ERA) on Saturday, and Bryce Miller (3-2, 2.04 ERA) on Sunday.

American League West standings as of 5/1, 3:30 PM:

  1. Seattle Mariners (17-14), -- GB
  2. Texas Rangers (16-14), 0.5 GB
  3. Oakland Athletics (15-17), 2.5 GB
  4. Los Angeles Angels (11-19), 5.5 GB
  5. Houston Astros (10-19), 6.0 GB

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