From start to finish, literally down to the last pitch, this game was within the Guardians’ reach. Unfortunately, finishing 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranding a dozen runners is now how you typically win baseball games. In this particular case, it resulted in a 3-2 loss at home.
Cal Quantrill came out of the gate on fire, but not in the sense that he was having a great game on the mound. More like he was literally on fire and should have stopped, dropped, and rolled a few times to prevent further injury. What I’m trying to say is he looked really, really bad in the first inning.
Even with Quantrill's bad start, he at least managed to get things under wraps before they got out of control. The Mariners scored a pair of runs in the first thanks to far too many sinkers finding their way into the heart of the zone, but he got out of a bases-loaded situation when Tom Murphy popped up a cutter.
This may have just been a case of Quantrill missing his release point a bit on his sinker, which led to so many mislocated pitches in the first. Progressing through his five innings of work, he slowly starts finding his spots with it better, though it’s hardly perfect at any point. By the fifth inning, when he’s facing the Mariners lineup for the third time, he switches primarily to cutters and curveballs.
I’ve written before about how Quantrill uses his glove to obfuscate the view of the batter as they try to track the pitch out of his hand. If he’s not lining up, that’s another small thing not working in his favor. Tonight those small things just piled up. His velocity was also down early in the game but went up as it went on, another suggestion that he just didn’t come out of the gate feeling right. This just seems like a case of a guy coming out and not having command of his stuff, then needing his offense to give him a boost once he got back into a groove. Maybe the sight of a shirtless Bert Kreischer throwing out the first pitch made him rethink his career choice for an inning.
Quantrill finished a very serviceable line in the end: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 K. More than enough to set up an offense to win.
As for that offensive cavalry, it never came. The Guardians racked up nine hits by the end of the game, but only two runs crossed the plate. One was a Myles Straw double in the fifth inning that plated Andrés Giménez from second, and another was José Ramírez in the seventh blooping a ball that popped in and out of Kolten Wong’s glove as he attempted an awkward catch. If Amed Rosario hadn’t been (rightfully) cautious to make sure the ball was caught before taking off on the play, he probably could have scored and they might still be playing baseball in extras right now.
The Josh Naylor, Lefty Hitter experiment came to a head later in that same inning. Ramírez’s blooper set up a situation in which first base was empty and there were runners on second and third with one out. After the left-handed Gabe Speier threw a single ball to Josh Bell, Mariners manager Scott Servais opted to walk Bell intentionally to set up Naylor against a left-handed pitcher.
I get that Bell has the potential to be a great hitter, but the man has been ice-cold to start the season. The absolute chestnuts on a manager to bypass Bell and intentionally load the bases and gamble that the guy managing the other team will leave a left-handed batter with a very well-known weakness against left-handed pitchers and not go to his bench was impressive. Servais’s gamble paid off because Naylor flew out after three pitches. Oscar Gonzalez didn’t fair much better in his next at-bat, and the inning was over. One of many missed opportunities for the Guardians' offense tonight.
It’s easy to blame the decision for the reason the Guardians didn’t win the game, but Arias was eventually subbed in for Meibrys Veloria an inning later and struck out. Not to mention that Gonzalez facing a lefty is the entire reason he’s half of a platoon with Will Brennan to begin with. He should have been the one to make Servais pay for intentionally loading the bases.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think Arias should have pinch-hit for Naylor there — butterfly effect and all that, process over results — but again, there are many reasons the Guardians lost this game. Not just that one. Some of them were incorrect decisions, others were just dumb luck.
The Guardians will get one more chance to beat this Mariners team tomorrow afternoon or face a sweep in their first home series of the year.