Mariners lose to Houston 3-2, still find little wins here and there

The Mariners lost a baseball game today. It wasn’t a big game, nor was it a meaningless game. I’d even go as far as saying it wasn’t even a “meh” game. It just felt like a game. Maybe it’s the fact that yesterday we lost Julio Rodríguez and Dylan Moore to what will hopefully be a couple short IL stints, or maybe it’s that a loss to the Houston Astros doesn’t really sting all that much. The Astros aren’t just good, they’re pretty damn good and there’s no shame in admitting that we’re not quite up-to-par with them (yet).

Or maybe it’s that despite losing another game to the Houston Waste Managements, there were several “wins” within the ball game. Sure, they don’t go in the win column, but they’re indicative that this team is on an upward trajectory that is no fluke.

Now, if I may, here’s a good ol’ Good-Bad-Good sandwich that I learned at Leadership Camp. It’s basically just hyping the fellas up twice and saying some kind of bummer stuff in the middle that needs to be said. But, we’re getting some good stuff because I refuse to let the Astros ruin the ~good vibes.~

Jul 31, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher George Kirby (68) pitches against the Houston Astros in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago our young, impressionable (in a good way) rookie, George Kirby, took advantage of the benefits of having a reigning Cy Young teammate who knows a thing or two about what it’s like to be course correct.

As noted across the baseball writer’s sphere, Robbie Ray recently returned to an often used pitch from his time in Arizona: the two-seam fastball. This was a pitch that Ray had handy during his All-Star year in Arizona. His willingness to return to a pitch after a three season break shows he isn’t afraid to re-visit something that worked for him in the past, but under new circumstances. Kinda like when you liked to draw as a kid, let the hobby fall by the wayside, and pick it back up in adulthood with a whole new set of skills from simply just being a grown up.

After seeing Ray’s success after reintroducing the pitch part way through this season, Kirby showed why the Mariners are so keen on the Elon alum. He approached Ray to learn the pitch, wanting to add it to his toolbelt, and in doing so showed his eagerness to learn and grow as a player. So practice he did and soon he was ready to show off his new skills (mom look, look! look what i can do!) in a game.

Here’s the first game of Kirby’s two-seam usage on July 26 vs. Texas:

Young George did what we (who is we?) in what we call a “soft launch” and threw the new pitch a total of seven (7) times. Those pitches resulted in three (3) called strikes, two (2) in-play outs, one (1) foul ball, and one (1) ball. So he dipped his feet in to get a little wet and it resulted in nothing but productive pitches. Kudos.

Here’s his second game using the pitch, today against the Astros:

As you can see, George used his All-Star Break to get more comfortable with the pitch and it shows. Up from 14% usage to 31%, second only to his four-seam fastball at 32%. Today he had a bit of a mixed bag with the results, but that comes with the territory of using the pitch a little more. Check out the results of his two-seamer today:

Like I said, more of a mixed bag. But what’s encouraging to see is that over 13 of the time his two-seamer resulted in a called strike. Yeaaaaaaaah boyiiiiiiiii.

So, the good here is that Kirby went out in his first start against one of the premier teams in the league and wasn’t afraid to throw a pitch he only recently implemented. Why is that important?

It’s important because it shows a drive to get better day-in and day-out. It shows he isn’t afraid to get a little uncomfortable if it means he’ll help himself and his team. It shows that he’s got his mind set on being a competitor, not just a player.

I’ll take that any day of the week.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros

Jul 31, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez (44) hits a walk off and scores center fielder Mauricio Dubon (14) against the Seattle Mariners in the tenth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

If I could just write “The Astros” in this section and leave it, I would. But I won’t. Because I’ve got more to say and I’m also still running on my Adderall kick and if you also participate in the musical stylings of ~medicine~ to get your work done, you know this is a freight train you cannot stop. Case in point, I just wrote three lines about my Adderall kick.

Alright, the Bad.

We lost. But like I said at the top, it didn’t really feel like a loss throughout. However, there were some key moments that left me, a fan, shaking my damn head. Even the cat I was covering the game with wasn’t happy. Okay, she’s never happy.

I know I hyped him up in the previous Good™ section, but George Kirby also deserves an honorable mention to begin this part, as well.

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JULY 31: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros is hit by a pitch in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park on July 31, 2022 in Houston, Texas.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Who knows if it was intentional or not, but for the very first pitch of the game following an injury to your star player to be a HBP on one of their star players? Not a great look. It could’ve slipped, or it could’ve been the unwritten rules. Neither are good. Also not good is Altuve’s smug little smile as he lays in the dirt at the plate. Either he thinks he’s getting in the Mariners head or he likes pain. One I’m okay with because we don’t kink shame around these here parts.

But the circumstance is not good. While I understand the need to stand up for oneself and not be walked over sometimes, this moment was more in the camp of “when they go low, we go high.” The classy-with-ak Astros broadcast then took it upon themselves to paint the Mariners as having a “history” and “reputation” for retaliating. Hmm.

This is the same team that, as stated in the tweet, had a player and their manager suspended for retaliating. Oh, and also the team that set the record for hitting the Mariners with pitches more times in one season than any other opponent in Seattle’s history.

But let me be clear, the worst of this is just the bad vibes it gives off. I don’t think Scott nor Kirby would waste their time igniting a fire without wood or kindling and only newspaper.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros

Jul 31, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) steals home plate as Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh (29) awaits the throw in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Quick little fun fact: our beloved Seattle Mariners rank 1st in all of baseball in not f-cking up, I mean, they have the least amount of errors among the rest of the league at 34 with the next closest being the St. Louis Cardinals with 41. Suffice to say, mistakes aren’t often made by the Ms. But, because life is silly sometimes, the team had an error today following a couple less-than-stellar moments that resulted in Altuve stealing home (with Abraham Toro almost plunking Kirby’s head with the throw to the plate) and Kyle Tucker hitting it past Eugenio at 3rd.

Luckily, the team settled down a bit and escaped with only a two-run deficit.

Seattle Mariners v Washington Nationals - Game Two

Let’s pretend this photo was taken today.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Let me cut to the chase. Our bullpen is good and they continue to be patient when the offense needs a little extra time to get going. Following Kirby’s few innings today, the bullpen (minus Bernardino) tossed five (5) scoreless innings, only giving up two (2) hits and one (1) walk while striking out four.

To be sure, new guy Brennan Bernardino taste gave up the game-winning hit, so the ‘pen wasn’t spotless, but the combo of Murfee, Brash, Sewald, and Swanson continued to show their grit. To come out of a loss and say “hell yeah, our bullpen did well” isn’t normal, but since when are the Mariners normal?

The Mariners bullpen reminds me of the golf mantra, “drive for show, putt for dough.” Sans Munoz and a little bit of Brash, the ‘pen is mostly made up of guys that are a Little League coaches dream: they’re Fundamental Guys. They don’t need to wow the crowd, they don’t need to end up on some Top Play list at the end of the week. They’re tenacious. They’re focused. And they’re here to do their jobs.

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JULY 31: Jesse Winker #27 of the Seattle Mariners shakes hands with Adam Frazier #26 after he hit a two run home run in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on July 31, 2022 in Houston, Texas .
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

*Lifts finger* and one more thing.

Chaos score.

Believe.

Doesn’t matter, get better.

Fun differential.

As mentioned above, the Mariners aren’t a normal team, they’re a cool team (that raises our blood pressure). What’s amazing about this year’s team, in particular, is the palpable competitive drive in our main lineup. It’s the “can’t quit” attitude. It’s the vibes players like Jesse Winker and Carlos Santana and Julio Rodríguez give off that say “I got you, I got you.”

Winker’s 8th inning 2-run home run today exemplified the “can’t quit” attitude. I say “can’t quit” rather than “won’t quit” because if one thing is true about this team it’s that they’re incapable of failing to do their best.

It’s easy to rag on this team and point out each and every flaw. It’s easy to see losses as BAD and reason for anger. The team, like all of us, are human. And they’re strong-willed, fiercely competitive humans, at that.

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