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Marco shines in series win vs. Blue Jays

The annual Canadian Invasion came down this past weekend to see the Mariners host the Toronto Blue Jays just a week after the two teams played out in Ontario. Like in that earlier series, the M's won two out of three with the rubber match featuring a brilliant pitching performance by the Seattle starter.

The Jays were here on "players' weekend," a marketing gimmick designed to sell more jerseys at team stores and let the players have a little fun by wearing goofy nicknames on their backs. This year the players' weekend uniforms were . . . let's call it a failed concept. All games in MLB over the three days featured one team in all black and one in all white, in this case the M's in black and the Jays in white; with the Canadian Invasion turning the ballpark by Elliott Bay into a de facto home crowd for Toronto, maybe it was apropos for them to have the white. Anyway, they all looked weird, the chimney-sweeps vs. the milkmen in an odd homage to 19th-century occupations.

Friday night saw the Mariners and Blue Jays trade leads for six innings and then the M's held on for a 7-4 victory. Kyle Seager continued his hot stretch by reaching base four out of five times with a pair of doubles and two RBI, Dee "Flash" Gordon had a big night with two singles and a triple, Omar "Narvy" Narváez and J.P. "Crawdaddy" Crawford went deep with home runs, and new Mariner Jake Fraley notched his first Major League hit. It was also top prospect Justus "Top Sheff" Sheffield's first big-league start, and the young southpaw lasted only four innings. His 86-pitch effort started off badly, with leadoff man Bo Bichette reaching on screaming line drive hit, followed by another hard-hit single by Derek Fisher; he did get Vlad Guerrero Jr. on a strikeout, but a Fisher steal, a base hit from Justin "Moaky" Smoak, and a bullet double from Teoscar "Mr. Seeds" Hernández quickly made it 2-0 Toronto. Sheffield survived the first without further damage, but continued to look shaky, giving up another run in the third on a double-walk-single sequence to lead off that frame. Sheffield will continue in the Mariners' rotation, presumably through the end of the season, to give him the chance to acclimate to the big leagues and give a proper audition for 2020.

On Saturday Felix Hernández returned from his long stay on the injured list and impressed. The King set down the first six Jays in order before giving up a pair of solo homers in the third, and pitched well into the sixth inning—probably should have been allowed to finish the frame, but OK—and was in line to get the win with the Mariners ahead 5-2 after six. But, perhaps to make Felix feel like things were back to normal for him, the bullpen blew the game. Manager Scott Servais called upon Taylor Guilbeau to finish the sixth, which he did admirably with a strikeout, but for some reason then went to Matt Wisler to start the seventh. Wisler faced four batters, three of whom scored. He was then belatedly replaced with Reggie McClain, who has been pretty good in his brief Mariner tenure, but McClain didn't have it either; McClain also faced four batters and also put three of them on base. Only one of his scored, though, as Anthony "T Fish" Bass came on and got lucky with a line-drive right at Austin Nola at first base to end the inning. Bass would give up a run in the eighth as well on a walk followed by a double by Bichette to end the scoring at 7-5 Toronto.

Like the previous Sunday in Toronto, though, the series finale had the best pitching. Both starters turned in quality starts, with Clay Buchholz coming off the injured list for his first game in three-and-a-half months for the Jays and Marco "Gonzo" Gonzales throwing one of his best games of the year for the M's. Marco went seven strong innings—hitting 99 pitches and thus not allowed by Scott Servais to continue to the eighth—of three-hit ball, walking two and striking out five. The only run scoring off of him came in the sixth, with Bo Bichette (again) doubling and coming in to score two outs later on a ground-ball single. Sam Tuivailala and Matt Magill—who for his players' weekend nickname wore "Goose" on his back, while this Beatles fan thought it should have been "Lil" or "Nancy"—finished things up with a scoreless inning apiece. Tuivailala, it's worth noting, has been excellent since his return from Achilles tendon surgery; in 1313 innings since activation off the injured list, Tui is 1-0 with a sparkling 1.35 ERA and 1.050 WHIP and 14 strikeouts. Seager, Narváez, and Dylan Moore provided the three RBI for the M's—Moore's on a solo homer—while Bichette's run in the sixth was the only tally for the Jays. Marco is now 14-10, besting his career-high for wins set last season, and has lowered his season ERA to 4.17. Discounting the two bad starts he had May 28th and June 2nd, his ERA would be 3.47.

Seager's run of lava-hot hitting has seen his batting average jump from a season-low .186 on July 21st to its current .252. From July 22nd onward, Seager has hit .358/.433/.774 with 11 homers, nine doubles, a triple, and 30 RBI. Going the other direction, though, is Daniel "The Babe" Vogelbach—the Mariners' 2019 All-Star is having a miserable month of August, batting just .131 with 22 strikeouts. His decline started a month before Seager's rise; Vogelbach was at his apex on June 20th, batting .256/.394/.538, but since June 21st his line is just .168/.280/.389, including 58 Ks. Where has your brilliant batting eye gone, Vogey?

Next up: the Evil Empire. Seattle hosts the New York Yankees for three games to close out the homestand.

 

Mariners vs. Blue Jays, by the numbers

  • Total runs scored: 27 (SEA 15, TOR 12)
  • Home runs hit: 6 (SEA 4, TOR 2)
  • Bases stolen/attempts: 4/5 (SEA 3 - Smith 2, Seager; TOR 1)
  • Errors committed: 5 (SEA 3 - Smith, Lopes, Gonzales; TOR 2)
  • Quality starts: 2 (SEA 1 - Gonzales, TOR 1 - Buchholz)
  • Pitching changes: 23 (SEA 12, TOR 11)
  • Starters ERA (includes “openers”): 4.23 (SEA 3.24, TOR 5.73)
  • Bullpen ERA (includes “headliners”): 4.07 (SEA 4.35, TOR 3.86)
  • Runners left on base: 47 (SEA 23, TOR 24)

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