In sweep of doubleheader, the M's start to take shape
Mitch Haniger hit home runs in each game of yesterday's doubleheader sweep by the M's
April 16, 2021
Don't look now, but Your Seattle Mariners are in first place. I said don't look! Now you've jinxed it. Oh well.
The M's moved into the top spot in the American League West by taking three of four from the Baltimore Orioles on their just-concluded road trip, and if not for rain and Commissioner Manfred's inane 7-inning rule for doubleheaders, it might well have been four of four. Because this Mariner team is finding its identity, and its core feature is resilience.
As they showed in the last game of the precious series, when they came back from being down 6-0 after five frames in Minneapolis against the Twins, and throughout the set in Baltimore, given the chance the Mariner lineup will fight. Rafael Montero blew another save? That's OK, we'll score in extras. Down a couple in the late innings? Let the bottom of the order help out with a surprise blast out to the warehouse. Starting pitcher making you crazy? Just wait him out and get into the bullpen, then make your move. Seattle lost the second game of the series when reliever Casey Sadler committed a big two-out error on a weak grounder in the 7th inning that made all the difference in that one, and since all four of these games were played in doubleheaders under the 7-inning rule, there was no chance to come back in the 8th or 9th.
Otherwise, those were comfortable games. All very close, decided by one or two runs, but comfy nonetheless, there was a confidence and a general aura about the team that said "we're in this, we got it, no sweat." When Marco Gonzales started off a bit wonky in his first inning yesterday, serving up a meatball to Trey Mancini that was crushed for a two-run homer, he shrugged it off; he and catcher Luis Torrens had a discussion in the dugout and came back to own the Orioles until he was replaced for the 6th inning by a formula-reliant Scott Servais. In the following game, Justin Dunn was dealing with one of the worst home-plate umpiring performances anyone's ever seen, but he kept his cool and just pitched his game, not even making a fuss when he walked Anthony Santander on what should have been an 0-4 count:
No muss, no fiuss, just get the next guy and move on.
The only area of concern right now with the M's, at least to my mind, is Scott Servais and the bullpen. Montero is showing a better ability to change speeds than his advance scouting suggested before the season started, but he's managing to fit the mold of the nail-biter/white-knuckle Mariner closer nonetheless and Servais seems determined to use him in high-leverage scenarios. Kendall Graveman was used to close out two of the Oriole games, though, and that's a promising change—Servais had said that he'd planned to use The Undertaker in longer relief situations, but trying him out in the closer role would be a welcome move. Still, the relief corps remains a crapshoot; even though Will Vest has been great, he's still only pitched 42 innings above Class-A ball in his young career, and nobody else has looked reliable at all (yet). Good thing we no longer have Dan Altavilla and Taylor Williams, Servais seemed to relish throwing them in at the worst possible moments until they were mercifully traded away.
It's an interesting early season for the M's. We'll see if it continues against the tough Astros and Dodgers on the current homestand.