For a team that hopes to get into the playoffs for the second consecutive season, the Seattle Mariners sure played a playoff type game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night. There was a playoff-esque atmosphere from the first pitch and there were dueling chants for the Mariners and Dodgers all night long. There was great pitching throughout and it was a tough night for the offenses for nine innings. Ultimately though the Dodgers were able to take advantage of some timely base hits late in extra innings to seal the victory.
The game started with a briefly scary moment after Mariners starting pitcher Bryce Miller had his bare right hand struck by a bouncing ball up the middle. It was not a hard hit ball, only 55 miles per hour off the bat of Freddie Freeman. Miller would get through three innings without allowing a runner to get past second base and then in the fourth was aided by a sliding catch by Julio Rodriguez in center field to end the inning and strand a runner at third base.
Then Miller would walk Freddie Freeman to lead off the sixth inning and then got just one more out before handing the ball to lefty Taylor Saucedo to face the lefty power hitter Max Muncy who grounded into a double pitch on just one pitch. The bullpen would then not give up a run until extra innings.
The Mariners offense got off to a promising start with a leadoff walk from JP Crawford and a walk from Teoscar Hernandez to extend his on base streak to 30 games. Ultimately though the M's would not score early on. Even though they were able to work starter Clayton Kershaw's pitch count early the Dodgers pulled the lefty after four innings and 56 pitches in a planned shortened start. The Dodgers would not miss a beat by putting in rookie righty Emmet Sheehan who would go three innings and only allow one hit and strike out five.
The Mariners challenged in the eighth with back-to-back singles from Josh Rojas and Sam Haggerty but the threat ended after Crawford, Rodriguez, and Hernandez all struck out. The Mariners would go quietly in the bottom of the ninth inning, ending with a fly out from Ty France to the warning track in center field, sending the game to extra innings scoreless.
In the top of the tenth inning Manager Scott Servais would send Justin Topa to the mound. After barely hitting James Outman on the elbow with a pitch the bases would be loaded for former Mariner Kolten Wong to come to the plate. He was released earlier this summer after having a disappointing season with Seattle. However he would get revenge on the Mariners with a sacrifice fly to give the Dodgers the lead.
Going to the bottom of the ninth the Mariners send Jose Caballero to pinch run at second base. He would advance to third base on a groundout first base from Jarred Kelenic. Then Josh Rojas would hit a ground ball to third base and Caballero would get caught in a run down between third and home after going on contact. Thankfully first base coach Kristopher Negron was making sure that Rojas was running to second base since Rojas did not see the run down.
With Rojas on at second base and two outs, Mike Ford pinch hit for Haggerty and he hit a ground ball just past a diving Mookie Betts to score tie the game at one. Then Crawford would double to right field and move Ford to third. After an intentional walk to Rodriguez, Hernandez would ground into a force out at second base to end the tenth inning.
In the 11th inning Gabe Speier would give up the lead on a softly hit line drive to left field off the bat of Max Muncy on a pitch that was down and outside of the strike zone. After Isaiah loaded the bases another former Mariner would get revenge on Seattle in the form of a Chris Taylor single to score two runs. After the bases were loaded again Jason Heyward would collect his fourth hit of the night to score another two runs to put the Dodgers ahead 6-1.
The Mariners would only be able to score one run on a strikeout and a wild pitch in the bottom of the 11th. The ball kicked off of the catcher's leg guard and it would send the ball all the way to the Dodgers dugout and Hernandez was able to score easily. The Mariners would fall to the Dodgers 6-2 in 11 innings to fall to a record of 81-67 and stay 1.5 games behind the Astros for the American League West Division lead and fall to a half game back of the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Wild Card standings.
In his postgame press conference, Scott Servais said he "couldn't be any prouder of our group" despite the loss because of the way his team has been playing lately. He also said, "Key is right now you let that one go get back here tomorrow get a game and go out on the road." The Mariners skipper appears focused on not letting the results dictate how they feel about themselves or how they feel about tommorrow's game.
It was very apparent today that Servais is very calm and is a stoic leader for this team. It would be easy to ride the high that the team experienced in August or to crater after a rough road trip in September, but Servais will not let either define his team as they head down the stretch. He is aware of the significance of getting wins in September in this playoff chase but he has the Mariners focused on what they can control and that is how they go out and play each night.
The confidence is there from their manager. Servais said, "There's something about our team. We're very resilient we bounce back and we will find a way. I feel very strongly and I'm very confident we will be playing October baseball." With this kind of attitude the Mariners should be able to stay calm and if they play well over the final 14 games of the season then the Mariners will find themselves playing October baseball yet again.