The kings of cutting it close

Same ol' Mariners, finding a way to win those one-run games as Robbie Ray was really good, Logan Gilbert was great and Eugenio Suarez is going to drive me nuts. A wrap up of Weekend No. 1.

The Mariners allowed four more runs than they scored over their first three games of the season. They won two of those three games, however, winning a pair of one-run games before getting beaten 10-4 on Sunday.

Sound familiar?

It’s kind of the formula Seattle used a year ago when the Mariners won 33 one-run games last season, most of any team in the league. This was a credit to the players on the team, especially the bullpen, and it was remarkably fun to watch. It also poses a bit of a challenge when it comes to making predictions for the future because that level of success in close games is really tough to sustain.

Seattle was 33-19 in one-run games last season, a winning percentage of .635 compared to 57-53 in games decided by more than one run, a percentage of .518. I’m fairly certain that those splits won’t be so far apart this year, and my opinion has nothing to do with the Mariners and everything to do with statistics. The technical term is reversion to the mean, but all that means is that the more extraordinary the observed result, the more likely that result is to revert toward the average outcome. In other words, teams that are much better in one-run games than they are in all other games tend to become less successful in one-run games going forward.

Or hell, given what happened in the first three games of the season maybe the Mariners will keep on excelling in white-knuckle situations.

Stick shift

The good: Ty France reached base his first four times at the plate in Friday’s opener, and then went 3-for-5 on Sunday, with a pair of two-out hits that drove in runs. He is 4-for-7 and has already been hit by a pitch. France got hit by 27 pitches last season, tied with Mark Canha for most in baseball.

The bad: New third baseman Eugenio Suarez has an unquestionably endearing personality, and he is my least favorite kind of player to watch hit. He’s one of these all-or-nothing guys who hits enough homers to offset the fact that he strikes out a million times. Chris Davis was the prototype and in today’s game, it’s understood that you can stay in the big leagues even if you’re hitting .190 provided you hit enough taters. Suarez struck out in exactly half of his eight plate appearances so far this season and has yet to log a base hit. 

The ugly: Jarred Kelenic’s first hit of the season was a fiddy-foot single. Seriously. That’s how far it traveled as he skied a pop-up straight to the pitcher’s mound that the pitcher failed to see and neither catcher Gary Sanchez nor first baseman Miguel Sano were able to get to. Kelenic is 1-for-11 after three games.

Pitchcraft

Good: Robbie Ray. He grunted his way through seven glorious innings and allowed only one run despite wearing uniform pants so tight I worried about his circulation. Maybe he’s fighting off deep-vein thrombosis. He struck out five, and most importantly, on two occasions when the first batters reached based, showed an ability to bear down and get out of trouble.

Great: Logan Gilbert. The single most encouraging thing from this weekend was the way Gilbert looked retiring 10 consecutive hitters to close out start on Saturday. He showed the kind of swing-and-miss stuff that aces in this league have. It also showed his ability to course correct after a second inning in which he scuffled around, giving up a solo home run to Luis Arraez and then loading the bases. In the first 10 hitters he faced, Gilbert leaned heavily on his fastball, which is understandable. It was sitting in the mid to upper-90s. He threw 35 fastballs to those first 10 hitters, five of whom reached base. He threw only 17 fastballs to the next 10 men he faced, though, leaning into his slider, curveball and even his changeup. That last one, the changeup? It might wind up being an absolutely devastating out pitch. Gilbert finished the game with seven strikeouts and induced 14 swings that didn’t not make contact.

Not good: Marco Gonzalez. We got the Marco we saw the first half of 2021, not the Marco who went 9-1 after last year’s All-Star Game. Gonzalez lasted just two innings as he gave up three home runs, two of them to the Twins leadoff hitter Byron Buxton. The biggest issue: getting behind. Gonzalez threw a first-pitch strike to only five of the 15 hitters he faced.

Easy cheese?

The funniest thing I read this weekend was the first sentence to this New York Times story on a noteworthy heist that occurred in the Netherlands last month: “Thieves have long found cheese as lucrative as many people find it delicious.” What a beautifully constructed, but utterly odd sentence.

Can you imagine a bunch of crooks sitting around and discussing potential targets:

— Hey, Mo’! What do you think about jacking the armored car for some T-bills.

I dunno, Ralph. Some people find T-bills a little too complicated. I was thinking something more stable. Like cheese. Easier to fence and there’s always a demand.

I shouldn’t make too much fun, though. The thieves made off with 161 wheels of cheese. Given that a wheel weighs 22 pounds (10 kilos for the Euros out there) that’s almost two tons of cheese!

I’m also not so sure how “sophisticated” the heist was. The farmer whose cheese got pilfered said the thieves must have been monitoring the farm because they chose the night when the gate was left unlocked to allow for an overnight milk delivery. So note exactly Ocean’s 14 here.

He who shall not be named

Remember that one NFL reporter I’m not going to talk about any more? Well, lots of people were talking about him after his report of Dwayne Haskins began with the caveat about him “struggling to catch on with Washington and Pittsburgh.” Take it from me, you do NOT have to follow that dude. I heard the unfortunate news about Haskins and I didn’t have to see Schefter’s framing.

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