Mariners in 2021 have been surprising for a couple of reasons. The first, and most obvious, has been their success in the position. Running differential is imperfect, and the value has been talked to death, but the team’s differential of -60 is a little more representative of the Mariners team most of us estimate to go into this season than their record of 81-69.
Even more surprising, I would argue, has been the extent to which Mariners from 2021 have been equal. The personalities have been funny, the top of the order has anchored a (usually) competent line-up, and the rotation has been surprisingly steadfast. Each of these things was shown tonight when the Mariners took the A’s in a game they absolutely had to win to maintain a touch of hope after the 2021 season.
Tyler Anderson’s starter has become a must-see attraction, for his taste in uniforms as much as his pitching performance. Mariners have not often shaken blue-green (read: Northwest Green) uniforms while away, but Anderson has made it a habit to wear them.
The Mariners wear a different than usual road uniform – green-blue-green jerseys and navy hats with the blue-green bill here in Texas.
Usually the starting pitcher chooses uniforms. Maybe Tyler Anderson thought the teal was near the Oregon Ducks green
– Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) August 18, 2021
Of course, it helps that Anderson has supported his choice of uniforms with a shockingly good performance so far for the Mariners. Against an Oakland A lineup that has floundered over the past month, he continued that series with good starts tonight. As has been the case all year, Anderson did not blow the A’s. Rather, he kept A off balance with a mix of precise command and pitch selection, which resulted in unfortunate turns like this.
Mark Canha’s turn and longing here triggered an audible curse after he found himself unable to make contact with a trajectory he felt he should have had.
Of course, Anderson’s excellent performances would have been in vain if the Mariners had not managed to create offense against As’ starter Sean Manaea, with whom they have historically had problems. Manaea had a relatively easy time crossing through the Mariners lineup for the first time, with just one Mitch Haniger double catching left field chalk as his only flaw through two innings.
The third half, however, saw the Mariners find out Manaea’s schtick. Dylan Moore jumped on a sinker and lined it up in the middle for a single, and then JP Crawford tore exactly the same pitch in the middle for his own.
Ty France, who has quite clearly played hurt since he was crushed in the elbow with a 98 km / h fast ball a few weeks ago, managed to lean back on Manaea’s basket ball and sneak a ground ball into the left field to score Moore. A Mitch Haniger tour loaded the bases and set the stage for Kyle Seager.
Seager, who had impotently rolled over on a court for a first inning groundout, fouled off a couple of sinkers before leaving a curveball deep into the left center. At first it did not look like such a massive double: I said “ok, sure”, and thought the ball would be good enough for a sacrificial plane to score Crawford. Instead, the ball continued to carry and carry before finally jumping off the warning lane for a two-round double.
Haniger seemed to be fooling around on the pitch as he kept the ball in the net. Luis Torrens and Abraham Toro were each retired to finish inning and beach two, prompting Mariners fans to grimace and hope the stranded base runners would not return to haunt them.
Two rounds later, both Seager and Haniger joined forces to give the sailors an extra pillow. A Haniger double set the stage for a Seager line drive single. Unfortunately, Seager misread the hit and tried to stretch the hit to a double, and was easily caught on second base.
The game continued in a mostly quiet way after that, with Anderson dealing with empty frames with A’s bullpen. It threatened to fall apart in the eighth round, when Diego Castillo relieved Anderson. Castillo, who has had a (perhaps unfairly) difficult run with the Mariners so far, gave up three lucky singles in a row. A ground ball from Elvis Andrus found its way between Toro and France for a single, and then Josh Harrison’s bat exploded when he made contact with a track that ended up falling into the right field for a new single. Starling Marte tore a third single to score Andrus, which was enough for Scott Servais to give Castillo the hook.
He was replaced by Paul Sewald, who just continued his superb 2021. Sewald almost effortlessly beat both Athletics’ Milquetoast Matts (Olson and Chapman), requiring just eight lanes to do so while not even throwing a ball. Sewald remained in the ninth inning, continuing his dominance: Tony Kemp and Mark Canha both made weak contact and ran out, while Seth Brown saw a perfectly placed slider catch the corner for an end to the match, triggering one of Sewald’s emotional screams which has become a mainstay in late play.
In total, Sewald threw a total of 17 lanes, of which 16 were strikes. Although the baseball community has viewed relievers as volatile goods, Sewald’s dominance this season has been so thorough that the Mariners must equal his chances of at least putting up a very good number next season.
The Mariners are still not very likely to make it to the playoffs. After coming in tonight with a 1% chance per fifth way, they now find themselves with a 3% chance. However, 3% is not 0%, and it is certainly enough to make everyone believe that they have a shot, for better or worse.