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

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

Or maybe despite losing another game to the Houston Waste Managements, there were multiple “wins” in the ball game. Sure, they don’t go in the win column, but they do indicate that this team is on an upward trajectory which is no accident.

Now, if I may, here’s a good old good-bad-good sandwich I learned at leadership camp. It’s basically just overdoing the guys twice and saying some kind of disappointing thing in the middle that needs to be said. But, we get good stuff because I refuse to let the Astros mess up the ~good vibes.~

Jul 31, 2022; Houston, TX, 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 impressionable (in a good way) young rookie, George Kirby, reaped the benefits of having a titular Cy Young teammate who knows a thing or two about what it’s like to correct his journey.

As has been noted in the baseball writer’s sphere, Robbie Ray recently returned to an oft-used pitch of his time in Arizona: the two-seam fastball. It was land Ray had on hand during his All-Star year at Arizona. His willingness to return to a pitch after a three-season hiatus shows he’s not afraid to revisit something that has worked for him in the past, but under new circumstances. Much like when you loved drawing as a kid, drop the hobby and pick it up as an adult with a whole new set of skills just being an adult.

After seeing Ray’s success after reintroducing the pitch midway through this season, Kirby showed why the Mariners are so fond of the Elon alum. He approached Ray to learn the terrain, wanting to add it to his tool belt, and in doing so showed his desire to learn and grow as a player. So he practiced and soon he was ready to show off his new skills (mom look, look! look what I can do!) in a game.

Here’s Kirby’s first two-seam usage game on July 26 against Texas:

Young George did what we (who are we?) in the biz call a “soft launch” and launched the new pitch a total of seven (7) times. These pitches resulted in three (3) called strikes, two (2) inbounds outs, one (1) foul ball and one (1) ball. So he soaked his feet to get a little wet and that only resulted in some productive throws. Glory.

Here is his second game with the field, today against the Astros:

As you can see George used his All-Star Break to feel more comfortable with the field and it shows. Going from 14% utilization to 31%, second only to his four-seam fastball at 32%. Today he had a bit more of a mixed bag with the results, but that comes with the territory of using the pitch a bit more. Check out the results of her bi-couture today:

Like I said, more of a mixed bag. But what is encouraging to see is that more 13 of the time her two-seam resulted in a called strike. Yeaaaaaaah goiiiiiiiii.

Therefore the good here is Kirby making his first start against one of the best teams in the league and not being afraid to pitch a pitch he only recently implemented. Why is this important?

It’s important because it shows a desire to improve day by day. It shows he’s not afraid to be a little uncomfortable if it means it will help himself and his team. It shows he intends to be a competitor, not just a player.

I will take it any day of the week.

MLB: Seattle Mariners vs. Houston Astros

Jul 31, 2022; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez (44) hits wide 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. ‘Cause I have more to say and I’m still running on my Adderall kick and if you also partake in ~medicine~ musical styles to do your job you know it’s a freight train you can’t not stop. For example, I just wrote three lines on my Adderall kick.

Alright, Bad.

We have lost. But like I said up top, it didn’t really feel like a waste all along. However, there were key moments that left me, a fan, shaking my fucking head. Even the cat I was covering the match with was not happy. Okay, she’s never happy.

I know I highlighted it in the previous Good™ section, but George Kirby also deserves a dishonorable mention for starting this part as well.

Seattle Mariners vs. Houston Astros

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JULY 31: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros is hit by a pitch during 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 for being an HBP on one of their star players? Not a great look. It could have slipped, or it could have been the unwritten rules. Neither are good. Altuve’s smirk isn’t good either as he lies in the dirt at the plate. Either he thinks he’s getting into the Mariners’ heads or he likes the pain. One I agree with because we’re not ashamed of those parts here.

But the circumstance is not good. While I understand the need to defend yourself and not get stepped on sometimes, this moment was more in the “when they go low, we go high” camp. The Astros klassy-with-ak broadcast then took it upon themselves to portray the Mariners as having a retaliatory “history” and “reputation”. Mmh.

This is the same team that, as stated in the tweet, had a player and his manager suspended for fighting back. Oh, and also the team that set the record for hitting the Mariners with more pitches in a season than any other opponent in Seattle history.

But let me be clear, the worst part of it all is just the bad vibes it gives off. I don’t think Scott or Kirby would waste their time starting a fire with no wood or kindling and only newspaper.

MLB: Seattle Mariners vs. Houston Astros

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

Fun little fact: Our beloved Seattle Mariners rank No. 1 everything baseball not to fuck up i mean they have the fewest errors among the rest of the league at 34 the closest being the Cardinals of St. Louis with 41. Suffice it to say, mistakes aren’t often made by Ms. But, because life is sometimes silly, the team made a mistake today after some less than stellar moments that led Altuve to steal the house (with Abraham Toro nearly diving Kirby’s head with the pitch to the plate) and Kyle Tucker hitting him past Eugenio at 3rd.

Fortunately, the team calmed down a bit and escaped with only a two-point deficit.

Seattle Mariners vs. Washington Nationals - Game 2

Let’s imagine that 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 more time to get going. After Kirby’s few innings today, the bullpen (minus Bernardino) went five (5) scoreless innings, allowing only two (2) hits and one (1) walk while still removing four.

Of course new guy Brennan Bernardino did giving up the winning shot, so the pen wasn’t flawless, but the combo of Murfee, Brash, Sewald and Swanson continued to show courage. Coming out of a loss and saying “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.” Without Munoz and a bit of Brash, the bullpen is mostly made up of guys that Little League coaches dream about: they’re fundamental guys. They don’t need to impress the crowd, they don’t need to end up on a Top Play list at the end of the week. They are tenacious. They are focused. And they are there to do their job.

Seattle Mariners vs. Houston Astros

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JULY 31: Jesse Winker #27 of the Seattle Mariners shakes hands with Adam Frazier #26 after hitting a two-run homer 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

*raises finger* and one more thing.

Chaos ball.

To believe.

It’s okay, get better.

Fun differential.

As mentioned above, the Mariners are not a normal team, they are a cool team (which increases our blood pressure). What’s amazing about this year’s team, in particular, is the palpable competitive drive of our main roster. It’s the “can’t give up” attitude. These are the vibes that players like Jesse Winker, Carlos Santana and Julio Rodríguez give off saying “I got you, I got you.”

Winker’s 2-run 8th-inning home run today exemplified the “can’t give up” attitude. I say ‘I can’t give up’ rather than ‘I won’t give up’ because if there’s one thing that’s true about this team, it’s that they’re incapable of not doing their best.

It’s easy to make fun of this team and point out every flaw. It’s easy to see losses as BAD and the reason for anger. The team, like all of us, is human. And they are strong-willed, fiercely competitive humans.

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