Mariners’ vaunted bullpen, and psyche, broken by Astros in Game 1 ALDS comeback
HOUSTON — Baseball is a sport designed to interrupt your coronary heart, as the previous commissioner and scholar Bart Giamatti as soon as so poignantly wrote.
Just three days earlier, in one other sequence, one other nation, and what now appears one other lifetime, the Mariners had been on the specified aspect of the delirious pleasure that comes with pulling a preposterous win out of the ashes.
But on Tuesday, in a sport that was theirs for the taking, a would-be and should-be win over the Astros that will have set them up fantastically for the remainder of the American League Division Series, they absorbed the most important intestine punch in franchise historical past.
And within the course of, they now have roiling questions in regards to the one space of the workforce that they believed they may depend on most confidently: the bullpen.
Oh, there can be second-guessing from right here to eternity on Scott Servais’ choice to herald Robbie Ray, who had struggled in his begin Saturday in Toronto and been battered repeatedly this season by Houston batters. Called upon by Servais to get the 27th and closing out to protect a two-run Seattle lead — his first reduction look for the reason that 2020 playoffs and simply the seventh of his nine-year MLB profession, none in a save state of affairs — Ray as an alternative gave up a stunning, demoralizing and soul-crushing three-run homer to Yordan Alvarez for an 8-7 defeat.
Reliever Paul Sewald, whom Ray changed, mentioned, “I felt very confident Robbie was going to get him out, and I’m just as shocked as anybody that he didn’t. But it shouldn’t have gotten to Robbie. That’s how I feel. That’s the frustrating part.”
There had been a mess of irritating components for Seattle, however the bullpen’s incapability to place away the Astros after constructing a 7-3 lead via seven innings will hang-out them. As a lot as all of the gamers talked afterward of “flushing the game” and transferring on, the drawn faces and shocked seems within the clubhouse afterward gave a extra correct indication of how onerous that can be.
Servais spoke afterward of being pleased with how a lot they did proper on this sport. Indeed, they’d a relentless offensive assault from the outset in opposition to Justin Verlander, the presumptive Cy Young Award winner, knocking him out after 4 innings. And they bought a gutty beginning effort from Logan Gilbert, who gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings. They had been on the verge of stealing a significant opening win within the best-of-five sequence, a matchup that had vastly favored Houston with Verlander on the mound
When Matt Brash labored out a jam within the sixth and Diego Castillo bought via the seventh unscathed, the Mariners had been arrange simply the way in which they needed, with Andres Munoz, as overpowering as any pitcher in baseball for weeks, to work the eighth, and Paul Sewald, the Mariners’ different most vaunted high-leverage reduction arm, for the ninth.
That was the blueprint; in actuality, that system has gone bitter at simply the improper time. Munoz, whose slider has develop into a virtually unhittable weapon, gave up a two-run homer to Alex Bregman within the eighth to chop the Mariners’ result in two. And Sewald, who had a number of uncharacteristically rocky outings in September, after which was lit up for 4 runs in two-thirds of an inning by the Blue Jays on Saturday, couldn’t get the ultimate three outs.
Sewald got here excruciatingly shut, getting to 2 strikes on rookie Jeremy Pena with two outs, however Pena drilled a single. Earlier, Sewald had gone 3-2 on one other rookie, David Hensley, solely to hit him with a pitch. Losing these two batters was a big a part of Sewald’s lament, particularly after he struck out the damaging Jose Altuve for the second out.
“It’s frustrating,’’ said Sewald, who was clearly shaken and speaking softly in the silent clubhouse. “We did such a great job to get a lead, and our bullpen has been so good all year. For us not to finish is really frustrating. Yeah, it’s frustrating. We had the lead and coughed it up.”
Servais had quite a few choices after Pena’s hit. He might have left in Sewald to attempt to get out the left-handed hitting Alvarez, one of the fearsome energy bats within the league (37 homers, .613 slugging proportion). He might have known as for an additional lefty arm with extra reduction expertise than Ray, Matt Boyd. He might have introduced in Erik Swanson, a dependable arm many of the season till struggling down the stretch. He might have walked Alvarez and as an alternative attacked Bregman, although that will have put the tying run in scoring place. He might have introduced in George Kirby, who closed out Sunday’s win however is probably going slated to start out Saturday in Seattle.
Instead, he went with Ray, which Servais mentioned had been the plan he started formulating in in regards to the seventh.
“That was something going into the series — where we were at, looking at our rotation, where we were going to head, and talking with Robbie about using him out of the bullpen as a bullet, so to speak, for that type of scenario,” Servais mentioned. “Bringing in a lefty against Alvarez, although Alvarez is one of the better hitters in the league.
“But we talked about it coming into the series. We talked about it pregame today. I looked at it in the seventh inning and said, ‘Hey, this could happen.’ So that was the plan going in. End of the day, you have a plan, we still got to execute it.”
It was a call that can be scrutinized and second-guessed to a level not seen in Seattle since Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s name for a 1-yard-line go within the Super Bowl. The stakes weren’t fairly as excessive, however to the Mariners they had been huge. If they’d received the opener, beating Verlander with their ace, Luis Castillo, up subsequent Thursday, it could have simply added to their burgeoning confidence and put various seeds of doubt into Houston.
Instead, the Astros now have little cause to imagine that their long-standing dominance over the Mariners has waned. And the Mariners are left reeling, questioning what it would take to get previous the Astros. They had been arrange precisely the way in which they needed and nonetheless couldn’t get it carried out.
Astros supervisor Dusty Baker known as it one of the thrilling, exhilarating and satisfying victories of his lengthy profession. The Mariners, then again, can be left pondering what might have been whereas the second-guessers have a area day.
Yes, hearts had been damaged Tuesday on a day they may have soared in Seattle. And now the Mariners can have restore their bullpen, repair their psyche and hope the following swing of emotion goes their manner. Alvarez may need blasted these hopes into oblivion.
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