When a team is forced into making a “bullpen start,” the suboptimal situation rarely yields ideal results even with a bullpen that has been outstanding leading up to the game.
Well, in a bullpen start, you are asking a collection of relievers, usually four to five, to all pitch well in the same game. The gods of baseball regression just don’t seem to let that happen regardless of recent outings.
But the Mariners’ bullpen, which has unexpectedly produced the lowest earned run average in Major League Baseball – 2.30 coming into the game Monday, seemed like it might produce a gem while filling in for injured ace Marco Gonzales.
For seven innings, Seattle paraded out reliever after reliever, each holding the Baltimore Orioles scoreless.
But that streak ended when one of the team’s best relievers this season was finally scored upon. Left-hander Anthony Misiewicz, who hadn’t allowed an earned run in 12 appearances and 9 2/3 innings, couldn’t protect a one-run lead.
Misiewicz gave up three runs in what ended up being a decisive five-run eighth inning and an eventual 5-3 victory for the Orioles.
Seattle manager Scott Servais used five relievers to hold the Orioles scoreless over the first seven innings.
- Erik Swanson: two innings, three strikeouts
- Domingo Tapia: one inning, two hits, a walk and a strikeout
- Will Vest: 1 2/3 innings, two hits allowed
- Drew Steckenrider: 1 1/3 innings, two strikeouts
- Keynan Middleton: one inning, one strikeout
When he went to Misiewicz, one of his best set-up relievers, he expected much of the same.
“You never know what’s going to happen in a bullpen game,” Servais said. “Certainly tonight, we used like seven different pitchers and like I’ve often said when you use that many, it’s hard for them all to be perfect when you go out there.”
Tom Murphy, who was tasked with catching all those different pitchers with various velocities, styles and pitch movements, gave the Mariners their first and only lead in what was a scoreless game for the first 4½ innings.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Murphy worked a 3-2 count and then stayed on a 93-mph fastball away from Orioles’ starter Dean Kremer. One of the strongest players on the team, or any team, Murphy muscled the ball over the wall in right center for his third homer of the season.
The solo shot gave Seattle a 1-0 lead.
Misiewicz entered in an optimal situation where he would face No. 9 hitter Pat Valaika, who was hitting .125 and then have a lefty vs. lefty matchup against Baltimore’s best hitter – Cedric Mullins.
But Misiewicz didn’t quite have his typical command. He walked Valaika to start the inning.
“When you get that leadoff walk, there’s a good stat out there that about 76% of the time it comes down to score,” Misiewicz said. “Being able to dominate that leadoff guy and really start with one out, it’s huge. It kind of started snowballing fast and I wasn’t able to stop it tonight.”
Misiewicz then left a 1-2 cutter to Mullins up in the strike zone and out over the plate — perhaps more than he wanted.
“It was a good pitch, but a bad outcome,” he said. “I really didn’t want to put it in that spot. I wanted to put it more off the plate. If I could have one pitch back, I guess that would definitely be the pitch throughout this whole month.”
Mullins hit a deep fly ball that right fielder Mitch Haniger was tracking off the bat. Sensing the wall was near, Haniger leapt high for the ball, extending his glove and crashing into the wall. As he landed on his back on the warning track, it seemed for a moment as if Haniger might pull the ball from his glove to signal an amazing catch.
But he didn’t have it.
Replays showed the ball hitting right off the top of his glove and going over the wall. He missed a spectacular, perhaps game-saving catch, by about an inch or two.
Mullins’ 38th hit of the season, the most in MLB, gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead and they weren’t finished.
Austin Hays followed with a double and advanced to third on Trey Mancini’s deep fly ball to right field. That was the only out Misiewicz would get in the inning. He was replaced by rookie Wyatt Mills, who made his MLB debut Friday.
“Miz hasn’t been scored upon all year, but he was not quite as sharp as he normally is,” Servais said. “We’ve been using him a lot lately. When you go into a game like this, you try to map it out and we were in a pretty good spot.”
Miseiwicz wouldn’t allow his usage or workload to serve as an excuse.
“I don’t think that was it at all,” he said. ” I know I’m out there a lot, but it’s my job. When my number gets called, I’ve got to be able to perform to the best of my ability and tonight I had an off day. Unfortunately, it was one off day too many.”
With the Mariners’ infield playing on the grass, Maikel Franco hit a ground ball that shortstop J.P. Crawford gloved but couldn’t get a decent throw to home, instead settling for an out at first.
Mills couldn’t keep the deficit to two runs. He walked a batter and then gave up a two-run homer to Freddy Galvis that made it 5-1.
That homer loomed large when Haniger sent a ball into the visitors’ bullpen for a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth. Haniger’s eighth homer of the season made it 5-3.
The Mariners had only three hits on the night, and they were flirting with being shut out for the fifth time this season.
“It’s consistency up and down that lineup that really allows you to start putting nice streaks together,” Servais said. “And we haven’t got that here on this homestand.”