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M's snap losing streak, split with Padres

The Mariners returned home Tuesday and began a new homestand with two games against their ostensible/former Inerleague "natural rivals," the San Diego Padres, a team that has given them fits over the last couple of years. The teams split the two-game set, giving the M's a 1-7 record vs. San Diego since 2018.

Tuesday's contest was an extension of the horror story that was the previous series in Houston against the Astros; little-known right-hander Dinelson Lamet held the Mariners hitless through six and a third innings before Omar Narváez broke up the no-no with a single to right-center, by which time the Padres had already taken a 5-0 lead. San Diego would add on to make it an 8-0 lead before Seattle got on the board with four in the bottom of the eighth, helped by rookie infielder Tim Lopes' first Major League hit—a two-run homer over the left-center field fence. Lopes was in the game because first baseman Daniel Vogelbach had been ejected by home-plate umpire Mark Wegner the previous inning for complaining about a strike call. Wegner had called Vogelbach out on strikes on a 3-2 pitch that Vogelbach thought was inside and though Vogey did not stand and argue the point, he did make an obvious sweeping gesture as he walked back toward the dugout indicating his displeasure with Wegner's strike zone. After he returned to the dugout, during Narváez's at-bat, Vogelback yelled something further and Wegner ejected him. Lopes replaced Vogey in the lineup playing second base, with Austin Nola shifting from second to first, and made the most of it. Wade LeBlanc had his third poor outing in his last six appearances, giving up five runs in five innings and bringing his ERA up to 5.38. LeBlanc had been relieved by Erik Swanson, the failed starter who has shown promise in short outings only and who began getting hammered in his second inning of work. Zac Grotz, the latest member of Bullpen Tryout Camp who was promoted from Double-A all the way to the Majors during the Houston series, stopped Swanson's bleeding but gave up a run of his own in the ninth to complete the scoring in the 9-4 San Diego victory. 

Wednesday afternoon's game was a much different affair, a low-scoring crisply-played match that saw Yusei Kikuchi deliver one of his better starts. Though lasting just five innings, Kikuchi allowed just one run, a leadoff homer to Fernando Tatis Jr., and struck out eight. Padre starter Joey Lucchesi was nearly as good, also K-ing eight in five and a third frames but left on the short end of a 2-1 score. Brandon Brennan, in his first game back from the injured list, served up a game-tying home run to San Diego DH Francisco Mejia, though, which is where things stood until the bottom of the eighth, when the M's played some uncharacteristic small-ball to plate the go-ahead run: Mallex Smith led things off with a double that just barely eluded left-fielder Wil Myers' glove, and then J.P. Crawford laid down a bunt to sacrifice Smith to third—not a great bunt, it almost failed as Padre catcher Austin Hedges fielded the ball quickly and tried to nail Smith at third base, and would have if Smith was a hair slower as a baserunner—allowing Smith to score on a fielder's choice grounder hit by Vogelbach. The Mariner relief corps did its job after Brennan's inning, with Sam Tuivailala, Matt Magill, and Anthony Bass each turning in a solid, scoreless inning of work. Though the M's did get a home run in the game—a solo shot from Kyle Seager—it was refreshing to see them win one by explicitly not relying on the longball for once.

Miscellaneous observations from the two games:

  • Mallex is an awesome baserunner, evidenced by the double, a stolen base, and successfully reaching third on Crawford's bunt, but he's still striking out too much (four times in the series, bringing his season total up to 106) and his OBP has dropped below .300 again. He's shown us he's better than this. I think he might need a little Willie Mays Hayes type discipline—hit it on the ground and run, make contact, don't strike out.
  • Erik Swanson. . . I don't know how this guy is useful, man. One inning and done, maybe? He seems good for a few batters, anyway, before he torches the place.
  • On the other hand, Bass is really showing me something. A month ago I was wanting to see him DFA'd, but he's been so much better since then, getting really good movement on his pitches and belying his ugly (but getting better!) FIP number. He might be worth keeping around next year after all.
  • How about that Kyle Seager! Come on, admit it, you all thought he was done, washed up and destined to be an albatross on the Mariners with his big contract and no hope for a return to solid production. I know I did. And while his overall season numbers are still terrible, for the past three weeks he's posted a line of .300/.364/.650. Just a hot streak, or has the real Kyle Seager returned to us?
  • I appreciate trying to turn all the bench players into utility guys, really I do, but come on. Stop it with this absurd three-man bench already and just add an outfielder. We do not need 13 pitchers. That's just dumb. Hooray for Tim Lopes and Dylan Moore gamely playing left field when asked, but this is not how you win games over the long run. Sure, some guys can do it—your José Oquendos, your Mark McLemores—and those guys are valuable, but not everybody is cut out for it. The M's, having lost Tim Beckham to cheating, now have three players they consider infielder-outfielders: Lopes, Moore, and Austin Nola. If the club is just using this lost year as an opportunity to see if any of them has the chops to be the next McLemore, then OK, but this strikes me as just a fault of the three-man-bench mentality. You need at least four. In my youth, teams would have five. Just three invites trouble.
  • Still hate the opener.
  • With minor-league outfielder Jake Fraley knocking on the door of the big club, the M's may regret not trading Domingo Santana before the July 31 deadline. Fraley may not be ready for The Show just yet—he's only had 230 ABs at Triple-A and hasn't put up the kind of superior display he did in Double-A—but he likely will be at some point next year and Santana's league-leading strikeout total just hit 150. Maybe Santana will still be sought after in the offseason.

Next up: the return of Mike Zunino, as the Tampa Bay Rays come to town for a three-game weekend series. The Mariners will be celebrating Edgar Martínez's induction into the Hall of Fame with HoF and Edgar-related promotions for all three games.

 

Mariners vs. Padres, by the numbers

  • Total runs scored: 18 (SEA 7, SD 11)
  • Home runs hit: 7 (SEA 2, SD 5)
  • Bases stolen/attempts: 4/4 (SEA 3 - Broxton, Santana, Smith; SD 1)
  • Errors committed: 2 (SD 2)
  • Quality starts: 1 (SD - Lamet)
  • Pitching changes: 11 (SEA 7, SD 4)
  • Starters ERA (includes “openers”): 1.47 (SEA 1.50, SD 1.46)
  • Bullpen ERA (includes “headliners”): 8.10 (SEA 7.50, SD 9.64)
  • Runners left on base: 22 (SEA 11, SD 11)

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