M's fight well in losing cause for two games, give up early in third
Why is this man smiling?
July 1, 2019
On the heels of their promising series win in Milwaukee, the Mariners took on the Astros in Houston for three games to remind us all why this season has been so disappointing.
In the first two of the three, the M's showed some fight. On Friday night, they were largely out matched by Wade Miley (wait, that Wade Miley? Really?), but still entered the eighth inning with a 1-0 lead. The pitching was strong, the defense was sharp, and Seattle was holding their own against a very, very good team. Then Anthony Bass coughed up the tie on a home run to Mariner-killer Josh Reddick and the game went to the tenth inning. Matt Festa had pitched a scoreless ninth, but was left in for the tenth and left a fat one up to Yuri Gurriel, who homered for the walk-off Houston win. Not good, but overall not a horrid game by any stretch. Saturday's contest also went ten innings—the M's battled against Justin Verlander, who only lasted five frames, and overcame a three-run deficit to force extras. Gurriel again won it for the Astros in the bottom of the tenth, doubling in Michael Brantley from second base with nobody out. Again, not a great outcome, but a solid competitive effort for the M's.
There were issues in both contests that frustrated Seattle fans—Crawford scored a run on Friday night but was called out by umpire Jerry Meals. Meals assumed a tag had been made on Crawford, but replays clearly showed otherwise and that Crawford was undeniably safe. However, in this age of replay challenges, manager Scott Servais opted not to challenge the call. Now, generally there is someone back in the clubhouse area looking at video that gets a message to the manager on a challenge-worthy play in time to make that decision, and clearly whoever that person is was asleep on the job; also, Crawford himself did not make enough of a fuss to be noticed by Servais even though he knew full well he had not been tagged. So the blame is shared here, but ultimately it's on Servais and it ended up costing the Mariners the game. Saturday's game was hindered by inconsistent umpiring by home plate ump Tom Woodring, who contributed to Houston's five-run second inning by calling ball three and four on both Brantley and Gurriel when even Fox Sports commentator Joe Girardi noted the pitches should have been called strikes and the Astros would have gone down 1-2-3. Instead, the following error, three hits, and sac fly put the Mariners in a hole that was the difference in the game.
Sunday, though . . . WTF happened there? Well. After J.P. Crawford homered in the first off of All-Star Gerrit Cole, the Astros worked Marco Gonzales hard, scoring just two but forcing Gonzales to throw 34 pitches in the first inning. They worked him for 25 pitches and one run in the third and by the end of the fifth he was well over 100 and done. Still, the M's were only down 3-1. Yes, Cole is formidable, but a two-run deficit in the sixth inning is not a circumstance in which you just throw up your hands and concede. At least, most of us wouldn't, but most of us are not Scott Servais. Servais relieved Marco with twice-this-year-DFA'd Mike Wright, who carried an 8.54 ERA into the game. Despite three baserunners, Wright somehow escaped the sixth and seventh without allowing any more runs, which was, frankly, astonishing and generated sighs of relief all over the Northwest, but—even though there was a day off today and even though the Mariners are dumbly carrying a surplus of relief pitchers—Wright was sent back out again for a third inning of work. The result was predictable, Houston plated three more, and the game was officially out of reach. Now, given the Astros' pitching and Mariner batters' propensity for strikeouts, one could argue that two runs was too much to overcome in four innings and might as well let Wright take whatever lumps the Astros pounded on him. And indeed, the M's were unable to score again. But using Wright in that situation, let alone for multiple innings, was an effective surrender in the middle of the game and shows Servais has either a very low level of confidence in his offense or a very poor understanding of his pitching staff, or that he just isn't paying much attention (as was evidently the case Friday night on Crawford's not-a-run). We've opined before that Servias appears to set his game plans in advance of first pitch and is loathe to deviate from them no matter what happens on the field, but it's hard to imagine a preconceived plan to use Mike Wright for three innings. It seems more like in-game surrender after five frames.
So, not a good weekend in Houston. Poor umpiring. Poor managing. Poor hitting with runners on. Pretty familiar stuff for 2019 and disappointing after the Milwaukee series showed us a preview of what could be on the horizon next year.
Next, the M's come home for an Interleague set vs. the St. Louis Cardinals and a holiday weekend series against the Oakland A's.
Mariners vs. Astros, by the numbers
- Total runs scored: 21 (SEA 7, HOU 14)
- Home runs hit: 7 (SEA 5, HOU 2)
- Bases stolen/attempts: 2/4 (SEA 1 - Moore, HOU 1)
- Errors committed: 2 (SEA 2 - Gordon, Santana)
- Quality starts: 2 (HOU 2 - Miley, Cole)
- Pitching changes: 22 (SEA 9, HOU 13)
- Starters ERA: 3.72 (SEA 4.91, HOU 3.00)
- Bullpen ERA: 2.05 (SEA 2.93, HOU 0.82)
- Runners left on base: 48 (SEA 20, HOU 28)
- Domingo Santana strikeouts: 6
Do you think Scott Servais is doing a good job as manager of the Mariners?