Heading into a 3-game series this weekend against the A.L.-worst Texas Rangers, the Seattle Mariners had high aspirations to overcome their 2.5 game deficit in the A.L. Wild Card standings. After a solid 9-5 win in the first game of the series on Friday night, the team proceeded to heavily underperform the rest of the series, losing each of the next two games in the final inning.
Losing in the 9th inning can often be attributed to collapses by the bullpen, and this weekend was no exception. Newly acquired closer Diego Castillo was given the reins with a 4-3 lead in the 10th inning in Game 2, and promptly gave up a massive 2-run home run to Jonah Heim; Mariners fans then experienced some seriously eerie deja vu in Game 3, when Heim nailed another walk-off homer, this time off of reliever Erik Swanson.
While the Mariners’ bullpen didn’t perform as well as we’ve come to expect, the offense also fell short.
We all know that when teams opt for a “bullpen day” (meaning they will use an assortment of pitchers to each pitch 1-2 innings, just to get through the game), the odds are in the opposing team’s favor. In Game 2, despite Texas utilizing a bullpen day, Seattle wasn’t able to put up an earned run until the 9th inning. That is absolutely inexcusable.
Then in Game 3, facing Mike Foltynewicz (and I’m not normally one to criticize the ability of professional athletes, but come on, the guy was 2-10 with a 6+ ERA), the Mariners were only able to squeeze in two runs off of him. To their credit, the M’s were making hard contact all game, but leaving 10 runners on base is, also, inexcusable.
With a 2-1 lead to start the 4th inning in Game 3, Abraham Toro smoked a line drive into deep right-center for a double but was easily hosed at third base. In the 6th, with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out, Jarred Kelenic swung at a first-pitch curveball off the plate that he bounced softly back to the pitcher. And finally, with the bases loaded, one out, and a 3-1 lead in the 8th inning, both Dylan Moore and J.P. Crawford struck out while chasing pitches well out of the strike zone.
Baseball is a fickle game, but if you don’t take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, the game becomes almost impossible. This weekend, it appeared the Mariners got far too comfortable when they took slim leads against a team with a bad record, even going so far as not sending in their electric new closer to seal Game 3, despite Castillo only pitching to one batter the night before.
The blame for this weekend’s underwhelming performance should be owned by multiple parties in the Mariners clubhouse, certainly not just the bullpen. We’ll see if the squad can swallow this defeat, learn from it, and arrive in Tampa Bay tomorrow ready to change their narrative.