Orioles 2, Mariners 0: The One in Which Mariners Fans Loudly Announce They’re Over It

With the Mariners having been bad for so much of their history, fans don’t have much experience with things going the right way early in the season. Mariners fans are most well-versed in season-long misery; recent years have taught them how to suffer through early-season misery only to see the team come alive down the back stretch, just to miss the playoffs by a few agonizing games (and, in one brief moment of beauty, make the playoffs). This is an altogether new kind of misery: watching the team sprint out to an early lead, and then watching them slowly, agonizingly, fritter it away. Tonight a bigger-than-average Tuesday night crowd of 36,173—although that number was certainly goosed by multiple orange-clad attendees in the park tonight—let the Mariners know exactly how much they are Over This.

There have been changing targets of ire as the offense has scuffled along; for a while there was a vocal contingent of fans very angry with Mitch Garver, until he seemingly got things turned around. Tonight the anger was directed squarely at Jorge Polanco, who grounded into an inning-ending double play on the first pitch he saw in the fourth inning, when the Mariners had finally gotten a little traffic against Orioles starter Grayson Rodriguez in the form of a pair of walks. The boos followed Polanco as he struck out again in the seventh, his second strikeout of the day, and were also heard when he failed to make plays at second base—no matter how far out of his reach.

It was Polanco’s unfortunate turn to be the lightning rod for fans’ anger with the offensive ineptitude of this team, a problem that has been dragging along all season but has come to a head in recent weeks over a stretch of poor play that’s seen the Mariners drop four consecutive series and now in a hole in trying to break that string. To be fair, Polanco alone isn’t the problem: the Mariners had two hits all game, and they both came from Josh Rojas, who was pinch-hit for in the eighth, if that tells you anything.

That lack of offensive production spoiled another fine night from George Kirby, a tough-luck loser who somehow pitched better than his final line of two earned runs: the second run came on a series of unfortunate events where the Orioles grounded his curveball exactly to where infielders weren’t (despite the crowd’s loud booing of Polanco as he watched balls with high-80s exit velocities roll past him seven feet out reach). Overall, though, Kirby has to be happy with how he pitched tonight; the Orioles had the same plan of attack against him, to swing early and often, but Kirby’s location was so impeccable that those swings resulted in a lot of weakly-hit grounders and easy flyouts, quieting the loud bats of the Orioles.

“Just looking at my last start against them, they hit the ball incredibly hard, so my job today was to get inside of them and throw that off-speed,” said Kirby postgame, saying both his execution and location had improved from his last, forgettable outing against the Orioles. “Just keep them off balance. I thought I did a good job of that today.”

The bullpen is also faultless in their performance: groundball king Collin Snider worked around a bad-luck leadoff double to post a scoreless inning in the eighth, and former Oriole Mike Baumann worked a scoreless ninth (with some help from Cal Raleigh, who caught Colton Cowser, who had walked. trying to steal a base he’d already tried to steal three times during the at-bat only to return to first on fly balls). Austin Voth had maybe the toughest assignment of the night, coming on in relief of Kirby in the seventh with runners at the corners and just one out. Voth walked the first batter he saw, nine-hole hitter Jorge Mateo, leaving him to deal with the top of the lineup with bases loaded and just one out. Going to full counts on both Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman, Voth wiggled his way out of the snare, striking out Henderson on a nasty back door slider and getting Rutschman to fly out harmlessly on the same pitch.

But no matter how sterling the pitching, the offense gave them absolutely nothing to work with. Yennier Cano provided no relief from Rodriguez after Canzone had walked with one out in the seventh; Julio grounded into a fielder’s choice and Mitch Haniger struck out swinging (despite abysmal numbers this season, Haniger’s status as a long-beloved Mariner protects him from some of the most intense booing but not always, as was seen tonight, as a trail of boos followed him back to the dugout). After the Mariners went down 1-2-3 again in the eighth against Cionel Perez, the boos were more pronounced and fans streamed towards the exits. In a 2-0 game. For a first-place team. That’s a pretty damning indictment of how fans feel about this team’s offense right now.

The Mariners had one more chance to make it fun in the ninth. Luke Raley, who causes chaos wherever he goes, led off by getting hit by a pitch, bringing up Cal Raleigh, who almost had another magic moment…but pulled it just to the right of the foul pole before striking out. That close to a tied game, and maybe a different story.

“Maybe tomorrow that ball stays fair, and we’re in a great spot. But it’s what happens over the course of a long season. We’re in a little bit of a spin right now because we’re not getting that break, but it’ll turn,” said Servais. “It always does.”

For a moment, it seemed like the game might turn there in the ninth. Kimbrel then hit Polanco with a pitch before the crowd could even wind up into a good boo, putting two runners on for Canzone with just the one out. Let’s take a little peek at Canzone’s numbers in different leverage situations:

That number was not to improve tonight, as Canzone went after the second pitch of the at-bat, a curveball well below the zone, and was saved a game-ending double play by the speed of Ryan Bliss. That only set up Julio, however, to become the 11th Mariners strikeout tonight, chasing a fastball high out of the zone and triggering a round of boos from the remaining Mariners fans that was just drowned out by the cheers of the Orioles faithful, enjoying their trip to Seattle and our fine, non-humid weather.

“They’re pressing a little bit right now,” Servais said of his offense. “They all want to be that guy, to get the big knock, get the thing rolling when you look up there and you can put a big crooked number up there.”

“Eventually we’ll get the big hit. We’ll break through, and we’ll get it going again,” he added, acknowledging that once again the Mariners failed to capitalize on the (few) opportunities they had tonight while praising the team for putting pressure on the pitcher. It’s a compelling idea, and not something that should be too far away if this team simply plays like they have much of the season to put themselves into this position. But at the same time, tonight’s game felt like something: a blinking light pointing to “E” on the patience of the fanbase, a flash point of frustration with this offense. Whether this touchpoint is rock bottom, leading to a rebound, or the edge of the cliff the team pitches over as the Astros threaten to overtake them in the standings, is yet to be seen.

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