No one knew what the heck was happening at first.
Was there a power outage? Did someone pull a fire alarm? Should everyone evacuate the building?
“I was in the dugout, and the lights start flickering. I’m like, ‘What’s going on? Is there a fire drill right now?” Mariners starter Robbie Ray said. “Then, sure enough, there comes a fireman right there.”
Standing out in the right field, Mitch Haniger wasn’t sure what to do either.
“I was definitely caught off guard,” he said.
The new theatrics at T-Mobile Park debuted Tuesday night during the Mariners’ first call to the bullpen. A siren sounded, music blared and the stadium lights turned off to greet Andrés Muñoz’s jog to the mound.
The new entrance came a few hours after the Mariners unveiled a nickname for their lights-out bullpen: Los Bomberos.
“The Firemen” came to the rescue once again in the 4-2 victory over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. With the tying run on base with two outs in the sixth inning, Muñoz struck out the only batter he faced to end the threat.
Just before his first pitch, though, Muñoz had to step off the rubber because the lights unexpectedly turned off again.
“That was a little scary,” Muñoz said Wednesday.
The new nickname was Muñoz’s idea. He presented it to his teammates in the bullpen, and the relievers all voted to adopt “Los Bomberos.”
They’ve earned it.
Erik Swanson and Paul Sewald closed out the win over the final two innings Tuesday as the Mariners continue to lean on a bullpen that’s ranked as the best in the majors over the past two months.
Since June 21, the M’s bullpen leads MLB in earned-run average (2.37), opponent batting average (.185), inherited runners scored (18.6%) and FanGraphs wins above replacement (3.3).
Muñoz made his 50th appearance out of the bullpen for the Mariners on Tuesday, and his 41% strikeout rate is the best in franchise history through 50 appearances, surpassing Sewald (40.6%) and Edwin Diaz (40%).
“Our bullpen, I can’t say enough about what they’ve done this year and how they’ve locked down games,” Ray said. “They’ve been amazing.”
The Mariners plan to continue using the new Los Bomberos entrance during home games for all their relievers, though when they use it will depend on the situation in the game.
“I thought it added a nice little twist,” Servais said. “I’m sure it will get refined as we go along, but it’s all good. It adds to the fan experience and that’s a good thing.”
A lineup shift
For the first time this season, Ty France, the M’s All-Star first baseman, was bumped out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup before Wednesday’s afternoon game vs. the Nationals.
France batted fifth. Jesse Winker was moved up to the No. 2 spot.
France entered Wednesday hitting just .136 with a .374 OPS in 71 plate appearances in August.
“Ty needs to stay aggressive,” Servais said. “Ty is a very aggressive hitter — he’s aggressive by nature. We’ve seen him hit pitches and do things that normal guys can’t do. But I think when you’re trying to (think) like, ‘OK, does this feel right? Is this in the right spot?’ You get a little bit ‘mechanical’ driven. You lose your aggressiveness some. You can’t be looking for the perfect pitch all the time.
“Ty’s always been the guy to just trust his eyes … and being in that aggressive mindset is really important for all the guys, and especially him.”
Another afternoon game
The Mariners will play a second straight afternoon game Thursday, with a 1:10 p.m. start scheduled to accommodate “The Weeknd” concert Thursday night at Lumen Field.
The M’s open an important four-game series Thursday against Cleveland, the AL Central leaders. The game will air on YouTube (not on ROOT Sports).
New twist to 2023 MLB schedule
In a new “Interleague Balanced Schedule” format announced Wednesday, every MLB team will play all 29 other teams in 2023.
That means, yes, the Mariners will play at least one series against every National League team next season.
The Mariners will host the Colorado Rockies (April 14-16), Milwaukee Brewers (April 17-19), St. Louis Cardinals (April 21-23), Pittsburgh Pirates (May 26-28), Miami Marlins (June 12-14), Washington Nationals (June 26-28) and Los Angeles Dodgers (Sept. 15-17) next season.
They will travel to the Chicago Cubs (April 10-12), Philadelphia Phillies (April 25-27), Atlanta Braves (May 19-21), San Francisco Giants (July 3-5), Arizona Diamondbacks (July 28-30), New York Mets (Sept. 1-3) and Cincinnati Reds (Sept. 4-6).
They will also play two short series against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park June 6-7, and host the Padres at T-Mobile Park for a two-game set Sept. 8-9.
The Mariners will open the 2023 season with a seven-game homestand, beginning Thursday, March 30, for four games against the Cleveland Guardians and three against the Los Angeles Angels (April 3-5).
The Mariners will host the 2023 MLB All-Star Game at T-Mobile Park on July 11. They open the second half of the season with a 10-day homestand featuring the Detroit Tigers (July 14-16), Minnesota Twins (July 17-20) and Toronto Blue Jays (July 21-23).