“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke’s oft-quoted Third Law shows in part how what we observe is often more explainable than it seems, more measurable. As baseball has evolved, there is more effort than ever to gauge the reasons behind what feels random. Yet there are still aspects that seem nebulous, this measure of escape. There are still those moments of chaos in the Seattle Mariners 2022, but while their 4-2 victory today over the Texas Rangers may have seemed like magic, it was far from an illusion.
Even the measured can seem magical, or at least look like some kind of trick whose real logic we are unable to decipher. Enter Marco Gonzales. Going into tonight’s game, Marco was sporting some truly stunning season numbers that were anything but confidence-inspiring. His ERA of 3.74 sat against an xERA of 4.82 and a FIP and xFIP of 5.27 and 5.01, respectively; his K-BB% sat at an absolutely dismal 4.4%, by far the worst of his career with the Mariners.
Marco’s location today was also less than ideal. That didn’t stop him from going seven innings, striking out five, walking one inning and allowing just two earned runs on four hits. Fifty-six of his eighty-eight pitches were thrown for strikes, as he relied heavily on his change throwing it 40% of the time. Yeah, there was a little help from the home plate umpire, but nothing outright, and the Mariners stellar defense certainly played a part, but today Marco was a pitcher again. work that posted a quality start, then much better than the pitcher it looks to be on paper. His location may have been less than ideal overall, but his five strikeouts came from pitches perfectly dotting the edges of the zone.
As good as Marco was today, Rangers had an easy answer with their starter Jon Gray. He used his slider more than any other pitch, and for the most part he felt untouchable, generating puffs (10) on 63% of swings. His fastball was hitting 99 mph, an upward trend in speed that has lasted all season. Still, the three-pitch climb he was working on wasn’t enough to stop the Mariners from getting on the board first and early.
Late in the second, JP Crawford managed to drop a hanger into shallow center field for a single, setting up Adam Frazier, who landed as perfect a bunt as possible.
Next to beat? Sam Haggerty. The same Haggerty who has been a threat on the base paths, coming in with clutch jerks and absolutely rebuffing any talk about being fired at AAA. LE Sam Haggerty who stayed ahead in the count and fought off a 98 MPH fastball on the inside edge of the zone for a double RBI on the left field line to give the Mariners an early lead.
The bunt single was Frazier’s only hit for the night, but Crawford and Haggerty both had good matches, each playing 2-on-3 and Crawford working a walk as well. Haggerty’s two hits were doubles, and his batting average for the season now sits at a cool .303 with a .843 OPS.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, that was all the damage they would do this inning, and Gray set up well for the next innings. By the time Gray entered the seventh, he had seven strikeouts to his name and hadn’t allowed any more hits since the three he had allowed in the second. He had also walked three walks in the game so far, and it was another to start the seventh that would start to be his undoing in this game.
After Torrens retired both of his batters at bat, he was hit by Cal Raleigh. Beloved Cal Raleigh, who stayed patient and drew the walk. A perfect setup for what else, but another brace from Sam Haggerty, this time down the right field line.
Julio Rodríguez was next, and even though he’s having an elite rookie season, it’s easy to forget that he really is a rookie. Coming into the inning, he was hitless and had a nasty strikeout chasing a slider into the dirt. It’s easy to forget, because Julio keeps doing things like this:
A 108.5mph three-hit bomb that gave the Mariners a 4-2 lead, and on a Jon Gray slider no less. It was all the Mariners would have, and all they would need, to sail from there to victory.
Marco’s quality start got them past seven runs, Swanson and Muñoz combined for a scoreless eighth, and Matt Festa came in and closed the door after struggling with a hit and a walk. The pitching set up the trick, and Haggerty and Julio provided The Prestige.
The magic of this year’s team, its inexplicable beauty, goes far beyond the story the metrics will tell you. For example, this gem of a story from Servais about the change Julio made for the home run.
omg Julio took a different bat to the plate when he hit the home run because his usual “sleep it’s a day game” pic.twitter.com/ATT66iEWVn
—Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 27, 2022
The magic of this team is not in what it is on paper, although it is significantly better that way than in recent years, but rather in the spirit that embodies the players who make it up. I’m sure there’s advanced enough science to explain exactly why this team keeps finding so many unlikely heroes, or why Julio is so naturally good at baseball. We don’t need to see the reasons to recognize the obvious. This team has discovered a mojo that Seattle hasn’t seen in decades, and it’s truly magical to watch them sweep perfectly capable opponents in the Texas Rangers like they did today.