We all knew the operations here. A four-game set against a direct wild card opponent? The Guardians and White Sox – two other direct competitors – in free fall? The chance to overtake the Angels even further? I don’t need to be told twice that this is the biggest series of the year.
And yet the general mood before the game was one of trepidation because there was no worse word. With the series from hell the five-game set against Anaheim being pretty fresh in our crib, many had their guard. I can’t blame them either. Remember, this wasn’t an old series. That was… the Blue Jays series. / scare chord
It’s a tale as old as time itself at this point – all of western Canada comes down on the corner of Edgar and Dave, craps and shrieks all game long. I groaned at the first “LET’S GO BLUE JAYS” chant as Marco Gonzales fired his first shot of the night against Santiago Espinal, and winced when Santiago Espinal hit a base hit from the plate after a 2-1 substitution from the plate center grip. Bo Bichette followed foul after foul in another 1-2 count and for a brief moment my own fears crept back about tonight. Marco’s margin for error is razor thin right off the bat, let alone against a team that hits the ball as hard as the Jays. On Marco’s eighth pitch in the at-bat, Bichette sent a flyball into midfield, the away fans went wild and…
I’ll just come out and say it, that was the first of several laughs for me tonight. Marco used a tough comeback from Vlad Jr. to get a double play going and almost everything went to Mariners from there. Julio led with a walk from the end of first place, and Ty France did what Ty France was born to do by turning the first pitch he’d seen since he was injured to right field for a base hit. JP made a fielder choice to wipe out France, but Carlos Santana came through to drive in his first run as a mariner, knocking out opener Anthony Banda after just a third of an inning.
Though Eugenio Suárez bumped into another fielder’s choice after ex-Mariner Casey Lawrence’s substitution in the second out, Cal Raleigh hit the displacement on a ground ball with eyes that snuck flat right under Espinal’s glove to make it 2-0. Yes, Suárez slipped third in the last inning, but you know what? it was ok Any early lead is welcome against these guys.
You remember how I said that earlier most of time came Mariners? Yes, the top of the second was the exception. Alejandro Kirk followed Bichette’s example and was a real thorn in his side as he fought ten pitches with Marco before flying left. Teoscar Hernández went down with a right flyout four pitches later, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. used some BABIP magic by swinging a bunt down the third baseline. Old Oakland for Matt Chapman was hit by a 1-0 cutter that broke just a little too much and for the first time in the entire game the Mariners’ infield defense faltered.
Marco grounded Bradley Zimmer – notably the only southpaw in Toronto’s lineup – in first place to avert any threat of further runs, but the tension began to rear its ugly head. The Jays had only swung and missed once before, it seemed like the lucky dragons were on their side, and despite Lawrence’s tepid track record, he has a reputation as a pitch tunneling expert. A few more runs were needed quickly, and boy did the Mariners get that back in a hilarious way.
We’ve all seen the famous blooper of a ball bouncing off José Canseco’s head over the fence for a homer. You’ll also likely recall Kyle Seager hitting three home runs in Detroit in 2019, with the third having a little extra help. Hell, it happened to Mallex Smith in San Diego that same year (I don’t link that). Keep all of that in mind when I tell you that this is one of the funniest plays I’ve ever seen.
You could watch this five times and see something new each time. Toronto’s bullpen faces drop a thousand miles; Gurriel’s fully relatable grimace and gaze from a thousand yards while throwing down his gauntlet; the fact that the ball was so clearly in the glove for about a full second… take your pick. With this game the chaos was back, babes, and the M’s hit the cruise control. Marco got through the third, a two out single from Vlad the one blemish, with little trouble and the bats came alive again. JP poked left with a one-out single, Santana got his first extra base hit with Seattle via a double to the wall in right, and Ayyyyugenio redeemed himself by doubling the lead.
And you thought Cal was done after doing a run and climbing back to the Mendoza line? You hadn’t seen anything yet. After missing with a switch up, Lawrence wrapped a flat slider mid-mid absolutely as a gift, and our Beef Boy happily pounced, deflecting it out of the park in maybe three picoseconds.
Cal Raleigh: He’s good! We were also treated to my new favorite dugout celebration: the “Cal” in Calboy.
The fourth inning featured no runs for either team, but it did feature two spectacular plays in the Mariners’ infield. Abraham Toro knocked down a nasty one-hopper for the second out…
…and JP followed with a spectacular diving play and a throw for first to rob Chapman of a base hit. I couldn’t really see Perry Hill, but I’m sure he was beaming.
It was not the one-sided, though: The Blue Jays would legitimately get something for Marco in the fifth. Espinal doubled after two quick outs, Bichette drove him in and finished second on the home throw. Vlad Jr. also scored to make it 7-3, until he just… stopped between first and second? In his defense, Adam Frazier and Eugenio combined a brilliant cutoff throw and he was dead, but again! Something funny happened! Suárez also completed his one-game redemption arc by firing a two-out solo shot for his first homer since the back-to-back Oakland extravagance and laying out a jump catch for the second out to top the sixth. The good vibes flowed endlessly.
Gonzales worked his way into the seventh, and for a hot second it looked like he might get through the frame unscathed after pulling back Chapman and Gabriel Moreno for a total of five pitches, but another hit-by-pitch for Zimmer and Espinal, who scored his third of the night, ended the night. His line was nothing short of amazing: 6.2 innings, no walks, no strikeouts, and only two swings-and-misses nearly five full innings apart. However, Marco was unimpressed. Simply put, some guys just have that dog in them.
Marco Gonzales produced just two puffs tonight:
“It’s pretty boring. That’s me. … I’ve been doing it my whole life. And I’m still here. I’m still doing it. I can’t complain. It’s a great job. I me will continue to do so, so if you’re upset about this, I’m sorry.
— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) July 8, 2022
Penn Murfee was called out to get out of the small jam and easily pulled Bichette back on the flyout. He survived the round of 16 and scored Seattle’s only strikeout against Hernández before Diego Castillo came on to end the game. Faint, futile chants of “Let’s go blue jays” could be heard, but they fell silent, although Toronto put up a little resistance. A final chuckle came thanks to a two-out base hit that ricocheted off Castillo’s prey – showing him completely unimpressed – and a flyout to the left sealed the win. As massive as those next three games are, this triumphant rebound to .500 feels like the most significant moment of the year. The M’s have been bruised, scratched and exposed for what feels like the whole season. It was easy to call her dead in the water after Lollablueza 2.0 (3.0?). But since that low? They won 12-3, shot up the wild card leaderboard and are right in the middle of the action. And as an added bonus…
Watch this room folks. I think we’re going to see something really cool.