My dad was never one of those parents who let me win at games. Victories had to be earned, fairly, no handicap, no special set of rules. Also, training wheels on bikes were for weenies, but I and my eternally skinned knees digress. Anyway, the most agonizing feel of my childhood was when I thought I was about to take my dad down at a game of skill—not something like Clue, where you’re racing to cross things off process-of-elimination style, or Monopoly, where a few bad rolls can derail your whole game, but something that involved strategy or knowledge or skill. I set my sights on things like Boggle, Scattergories; word-based things that would be in my wheelhouse. But my dad, too, loves words and collecting them, and he had a thirty-year head start.
What I’m trying to say, Rangers, is I feel your pain in flailing against a seemingly unassailable enemy.
Justus Sheffield loves pitching in T-Mobile park, as witnessed by his home ERA (2.70) vs. his road ERA (7.24). Tonight he was every bit Home Sheff, going a career-high seven innings with six strikeouts and two earned runs, one on a solo home run.
The Rangers’ gameplan was to jump on Sheffield’s fastball before letting him get to his Death Star slider, and Sheff adjusted to that by mixing his pitches more, especially mixing in the changeup; he threw his fastball and changeup in almost equal percentage, throwing the slider just a quarter of the time tonight. The result was a ton of weak contact and groundball after groundball. Sheff recorded eight of his outs via the groundball, and it’s just a real joy to watch this infield defense work.
Those groundball outs helped Sheff keep his pitch count low, and he entered the seventh inning—longer than he’d ever made it in a game in his pro career—with just around 70 pitches, en route to 87 on the night. Luis Torrens worked with Sheffield tonight, and continued to demonstrate some solid framing behind the plate.
I can’t speak to what Torrens was doing in San Diego because I haven’t dug deep on him yet, but I know the Mariners coach their catchers to work from the bottom of the zone up to steal strikes without being obvious about it, gently nudging the ball back into the zone. It’s something Nola grew to be very good at and something Torrens is also doing so far:
A nice night for Justus Sheffield, and impressive work from Luis Torrens who framed him up really nicely on a couple key pitches, like this rally-killing K: pic.twitter.com/ZMC2dgmu4U
— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 6, 2020
The Rangers challenged Torrens’ arm, swiping four bags total off him (one in a double steal), so that’s something to keep an eye on. But it’s reassuring to see him work well with Sheffield, who continues to look more and more confident with every outing. Unfortunately, one mistake pitch to Anderson Tejada cost him a shot at a win tonight, because the Mariners couldn’t offer him any more support than just two measly runs.
Offensively, the Mariners did not have their best night at the plate, and probably had they not been playing a team as offensively-challenged as Texas, could have found themselves outgunned. The Mariners were 5-for-12 with RISP tonight and left nine runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded twice. Several times the Rangers presented the opportunity for the Mariners to blow the game open, and each time they politely declined. However, every starter had at least one hit, and Ty France, who I am already becoming very attached to, had two, and worked a walk. Ty France knows that hit tool/OBP-monsters are my love language, and I appreciate him making a concerted bid for my heart early on. That walk France took, by the way, was with the bases loaded, giving the Mariners their second run of the night in the third. Their first came courtesy of Kyle Lewis, who hit this single at 108.6 mph, the hardest-hit ball of the night:
Lewis’s skillset might not be as flashy as fellow AL ROY contender Luis Robert, but I really appreciate his ability to get the barrel to the ball and make good things happen, even if the ball doesn’t always leave the yard.
Despite messing with Texas here and there, the Mariners wouldn’t get on the board again until the eighth, when they beat up on Jonathan Hernandez—the gentleman with the thousand-yard stare from the top of the recap—for another three runs. Hernandez hit Seager with a pitch, a little like when I used to deliberately angle the Boggle board so it would be harder for my dad to see, and then my new best friend Ty France singled. Marmolejos drove in Seager with a single, giving us an excellent example of Seager Running Face, and then Evan White ripped an RBI single of his own, clocking in at 106 mph EV for the third-hardest-hit ball of the game. Phillip “don’t call me Phil” Ervin followed with a double down the left-field line, also known as the Mitch Haniger Memorial Alley, for his first hit as a Mariner and a 5-2 lead for the Mariners.
That means it’s Yohan Ramirez save time, baby. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Ramírez, who gave up a solo shot to Shin-Soo Choo (who single-handedly attempted to lift the Rangers to victory tonight, with four hits including the home run), but bounced back to close things out and earn his second save—and a win for Joey Gerber, who had pitched a scoreless eighth. Gerb Nation rejoices.
Maybe I feel bad about gloating over the Mariners’ dominance over the Rangers. After all, so often has it been the Mariners who are watching the sand on the timer run out, knowing what they have will not be enough. So often has it seemed like teams like the Yankees and Astros and Red Sox and A’s—better, smarter, savvier, luckier, older—would always be the victors, and us always the losers. But also, take the wins where life offers them to you, and in the meantime, keep working. No one beats me at Boggle these days.