An idea, which is often misattributed to Leo Tolstoy or John Garnder, holds that there are only two plots: a man goes on a journey and a stranger comes to town. This afternoon’s Mariners game had both.
Robbie Ray’s starts are always a journey, and the terrain today was the Guardians lineup. The world-building for this story can come from two background facts: The average starter’s four-seam fastball has a whiff rate of 9.9% and the Cleveland Guardians lineup has a league-leading whiff rate of just 9.0%.
So it was really quite something that Robbie Ray was able to collect nine whiffs on the 30 times that Guardians swung at his four-seamer today. Ray had all his pitches working today, but the cheese stood alone. He was overpowering, expelling energy up and down the strike zone. Even though he averaged just 93 mph today, when he got it up in the zone, the Guardians kept swinging underneath it.
Ray’s journey through the first five frames was a leisurely stroll, the only baserunner erased when Cal Raleigh threw Oscar González out trying to steal second.
As dominant as he was early, though, it wouldn’t be a Robbie Ray journey without the check engine light flashing at least once. In this game, that came in the top of the sixth. Ray started by getting Andrés Giménez in an 0-2 count. But then, in a span of less than sixty seconds, the Guardians had runners on the corners with nobody out after a ground-rule double and bloop single.
So when Miles Straw hit a fly ball into right field, it sure seemed like a run was going to score. After all, how hard could it be for Giménez to tag up at third? He’s faster than 93% of MLB players and Straw’s fly ball was caught 276 feet away. I mean, look at this situation:
But it wasn’t just anybody who caught that ball–it was our champion, Mitch Haniger. In an incredible show of RE17PECT, Cleveland’s third base coach held Giménez. Someday, someone will score on Mitch Haniger. Like the fabled fourth wave of ska, surely it’ll happen eventually. Just not today. After that close call, Ray buckled down and got Steven Kwan to pop up harmlessly and once again got Amed Rosario to whiff on a dominating fastball.
Ray had successfully navigated the danger, and then added a clean seventh inning to get a final line of 7 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 7 K, 0 BB. That last number stands out. For Robbie Bae completed a journey without walking.
Dylan Moore might not be a stranger to you, but he was a stranger to today’s lineup card. JP Crawford was scheduled to start at shortstop, but ended up getting scratched with a pec strain. So DMo had to fill in on short notice, giving Cleveland starter Aaron Civale less time to prepare a game plan against him.
At its essence, the stranger-comes-to-town plot is about a disruption to the status quo. Dylan Moore isn’t supposed to make gutsy takes. Every year of his career, he’s tallied negative run value in the shadow zone. And he’s really not supposed to do it against curveballs. He’s similarly added negative value on Uncle Charlie every year of his career. So with two strikes, this was not what we should have expected.
The next pitch disrupted things further, with a routine foul pop-up that was caught, then wasn’t, then was. But if this umpiring crew was last night’s enemyRamon De Jesus got one important thing very right today, emphatically pointing out that the net had aided Josh Naylor, and Dylan Moore was given another chance.
The Guardians weren’t happy about it, but it sure looks right to me.
That’s when the stranger to today’s lineup, the one Aaron Civale wasn’t ready for, disrupted the game.
That’d be all the Mariners needed, but in the epilogue of today’s plots, Ty France was awarded the Sun Hat for notable individual achievement after celebrating breaking his 0-for-21 with a heartwarming embrace Kristopher Negrón and following it up with a seventh -inning homer for an insurance run that got a wide-eyed reaction from his ward.