Beating the American League East-leading Red Sox two out of three was almost as noteworthy a feat as beating the AL-best Astros two out of three in Houston. And if it were possible to eliminate the loss of three of four at home to the Yankees, a rational observer would be inclined to say the Mariners were hot.
But baseball schedules are as immutable as the risk with kid pitchers in high summer. There is no forgiveness.
Since the league’s best pitcher, Chris Sale, pitched for Boston Wednesday afternoon, a Seattle loss was almost ordained. Particularly after the Mariners were up after midnight squeezing out a 13-inning win the game before.
But after a routine 4-0 victory (box) salvaged a little Beantown dignity, it was the losing pitcher, rookie Andrew Moore, who brought a tough question before the house of 39,797 — is this any way to go into a playoff race?
Moore is a bright, poised kid out of Eugene and Oregon State who sometimes has a hard time time keeping the ball down in a major-league strike zone. After giving up two homers and all four runs Wednesday, he’s allowed 14 runs over his past 15.2 innings, and 10 homers in his six starts over 36.2 innings this season.
The Mariners have four vets in the rotation — Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo. Paxton is on a roll, but the other three have been up and down, in and out — explaining much of why the Mariners are 51-52 despite an above-average MLB lineup.
Moore, one of 13 to have started for the Mariners in 2017, also has been up and down. And he may go down again, because club management seems disinclined to give to Moore what he needs — time.
“With a young pitcher you have to have patience,” manager Scott Servais said after the game. “I do like the way he’s able to make adjustments. He stretches out an outing because he doesn’t fold. He understands how important it is to get deep in the game. He gave us a chance today.”
Yet in his previous outing Saturday, he also gave rookie Aaron Judge a belt-high curve ball that the Yankees slugger used to attempt to knock down the north grandstand wall of Safeco Field. The megatons of that home run already are being calculated ty the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Wednesday, Moore followed with a similar error to another rookie, Rafael Devers, Boston’s prized third baseman who, at 20, is the youngest player in MLB. He went deep too — in the second game of his career.
Moore has two pitches he trusts, a fastball and change-up. He also throws the curve, reluctantly.
“The home run ball continues to get him,” Servais said. “But he settled in to get the last 10 guys out. He’s learning. He just didn’t have that pitch to finish today.
“A third pitch to get through a lineup a third time is really important. He’ll make mistakes. He’s competitive, a smart kid. He’ll get better.”
But when? The Mariners are on the back half of the season and facing an August calendar of 21 road games in 28 dates.
Urgency by management has already been detected.
GM Jerry Dipoto made two deals to acquire veteran pitching prior to the Monday trade deadline, adding reliever David Phelps from the Marlins and starter Marco Gonzales from the Cardinals, who is parked temporarily in AAA Tacoma.
The Mariners are rumored to be among seven teams bidding for Oakland A’s ace Sonny Gray. But since the Mariners likely have the fewest premium prospects, they are seen as longer shots. They could cannibalize their increasingly impressive all-rookie outfield of Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia and Ben Gamel, but all appear to be part of a long-term answer and already are MLB’s best defensive outfield, in terms of runs saved.
Nothing’s been publicly discussed about a demotion in favor of newcomer Gonzales. But over the past three games, it seems baseball scouts have learned more about his pitching than Moore has learned about opposing hitters. Moore understands.
“It’s an awareness of how we can beat ourselves by trying to create extra movement on a pitch, or something more on fastball,” he said. “You have to take a step back and regroup. A couple of pitches kind of got away from me.
“Getting through the order three or four times, you kind have to have an extra breaking pitch. You’ve got to give them a different look besides fastball/change-up.”
And the pitch has to be presented in a place other than the dead-red center of a hitter’s universe. Moore could use some time in Tacoma, not Seattle, to work on that third pitch. He doesn’t want his role in the Judge home run to be the one and only place his MLB career is recalled.