T-MOBILE PARK – Between the Mariners clubhouse and the dugout, on the ceiling on your way through the tunnel, there’s a slogan written in huge letters: ‘It doesn’t matter, get better .”
Now you’ve heard all the catchphrases before. “Sea Us Rise”, “Two Outs So What”, or even the remarkably lazy “Good”. (My love for Ted Lasso keeps me from including “Believe” in this group, though, well, it’s in the less inspired category.) The M’s also have other catchphrases near the clubhouse, but this is the one player sees as he walks into the field.
In a season full of valleys, tonight’s game felt like a pinnacle, a moment when the team came together. It’s okay, get better.
The Mariners of a month ago — let’s be honest, the Mariners of much of the franchise’s 46-season history — likely would have been rolling, unable to improve and unable to stay focused. It’s okay, get better.
It would have been easy to blame the 32,398 supporters, many of whom came across the border and noisily let their Canadian patriotism shine through like an obstacle. Not this team, however. Not this time. It’s okay, get better.
And in the end, while it was the young players who dominated much of the game’s airwaves, it was one of the clubhouse veterans – the inimitable Eugenio Suárez – who recorded his own breakthrough, hitting a commanding blast down the left field line for his first career home run, giving the Mariners a 5-2 win and sending the team to their sixth straight win.
Playing against the Blue Jays roster is a daunting task for any pitcher, let alone a rookie making the 12th start of his career. George Kirby – the aforementioned rookie – didn’t necessarily have his best today (vertical break and rotation rate was down a tick from his season averages over most of his throws), so his lesson for the day was on how to be successful even in the middle
In 4.1 innings, Kirby scattered 10 hits and walked one, striking out four and allowing two runs. Like I said: not pretty! But the New York native got the strikeouts when he needed them, including three different strikeouts (pictured below) with runners in scoring position:
Kirby also continued a trend of increased curveball usage that has persisted through his last five starts. In his first seven starts, Kirby used the curve only sparingly (9.2%); recently, however, it hit 20.7% curve usage. It remains to be seen whether this increased use is intentional or even positive – Kirby hasn’t collected any swing-and-misses on the curve tonight – but regardless, the fact that he is making adjustments and working on through the jams is a promising sign.
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need to remember how fantastic Austin Nola’s trade was for the Mariners. Part of that deal, Ty France, is currently (most likely) on its way to the All-Star Game. Another, Taylor Trammell, combines an infectious smile with a 126 wRC+ this year, albeit in a small sample of 94 PA.
But the latest example – and the second-youngest player on the team’s roster – continued to show today, demonstrating why he just keeps getting better week by week.
Andrés Muñoz, literally born in 1999, had a difficult start to the season. Between opening day and June 10 (an admittedly arbitrary end date chosen just for my case), Muñoz was almost relentless with a dollop of bad luck:
Andres Muñoz until June 10
Since then he has been close to the UNhittable:
Andres Muñoz, from June 11 to today
He added to those numbers tonight: four batters faced, three strikeouts, zero runs. It was a virtuoso performance from the Mexican native, and he clearly took the ‘it doesn’t matter, it’s better’ mantra to heart.
Julio needs no introduction. He may be the youngest player on the list, but his energy, enthusiasm and ridiculously high level of play make him stand out no matter what.
The man of the hour, Eugenio Suárez, on Julio Rodríguez:
“Everything he does is special.”
—Grant Bronsdon (@gbronsdon) July 9, 2022
It is perhaps this exact precocity that triggers the surprise when Julio is simply wrong.
But Julio is indomitable. He scored in the second inning of the Mariners game, heading home from the first after a brace from JP Crawford down the right, but his real highlight came on the field. With two and no one out, Santiago Espinal hit a frozen rope into center field. Julio pretended as if he was going to catch it all the way, played the ball while hopping and threw a 99.6 mph laser on the third to catch Lourdes Gurriel Jr. When I tell you it was something from Star Wars…
Julio Rodríguez’s 99.6 mph throw is the fastest Mariners throw on an OF assist tracked by Statcast (since 2015) https://t.co/J3AHt51pH2
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) July 9, 2022
Of course, the youngster isn’t perfect: with a Zombie Runner in second in the 10th and a chance to leave him, Rodríguez retired, and while JP Crawford chose after an intentional walk from Ty France, the throw from Gurriel nailed Abraham Toro by 20 feet, sending the play to the 11th. (When asked after the game about the decision to hit Sam Haggerty in 9th with the notably slower Toro, Servais simply replied, “I’m trying to win the game in nine.”)
Talk about something that has improved. Despite some significant early season challenges, the bullpen was out tonight. Time and time again, it was a different character – Murfee, Muñoz, Castillo, Sewald and Borucki – who came into action, whether with vital strikeouts or excellent situational pitching.
In 6.1 innings, the bullpen allowed no runs, two hits and had eight strikeouts. Even though the offense failed to advance Ross Stripling or the Blue Jays bullpen, the Mariners relievers kept them and set the stage for…
Genon, as Everybody seems to be calling the 30-year-old slugger, took a nasty slide straight into his leg on Julio’s return to the 4th. He could have exited the game at that point or indicated that this injury explained the resulting difficulties.
It’s okay, get better.
Instead, Geno focused on the things he could control. In his words, “I know Romo.” And tonight, in Geno’s eighth MLB season, with two men, 207 homers under his belt, and looking for something in the middle, he delivered his first career home run and put the finishing touches on a 5-2 doubling. Ruckus.
Tomorrow, of course, is another day, full of distractions and loud music, just like the clubhouse was after dinner. Another chance for something to stand in the way of the Mariners.
It’s okay, get better.
#mind #Marines #beat #Blue #Jays #innings