PHOENIX – The bullpen start was scheduled for Game 2 of Monday’s make-up doubleheader in Seattle against the Oakland A’s.
At least that was plan put in place by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais going into Sunday’s series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
But an abbreviated 66-pitch outing from starter Justin Dunn forced the Mariners into an unscheduled bullpen game a day early in a 7-3 victory over the Diamondbacks.
The Mariners took two of three from a bad Arizona team, improving to 21-25.
“Whew, lot of pitches in that one,” Servais said in a postgame video call. “Really a gritty performance by our whole team. It’s the end of the trip, and we’re trying to end it on a positive note by winning the series. We did a lot of really good things offensively and certainly our bullpen really picked us up today.”
In terms of aesthetic beauty or pitch execution, this 3-hour, 32-minute ordeal was severely lacking in both. Seattle used six pitchers, who allowed just a total of five hits, but issued eight walks while Arizona needed five pitchers, who also allowed nine hits and doled out six walks.
A total of 344 pitches were thrown in the game – 172 by each team.
With Dunn only able to give them two innings, the Mariners used six relievers to cover the remaining seven innings, which is suboptimal with two 7-inning games Monday and a two-game series against the San Francisco Giants following on Tuesday and Wednesday.
But with their playoff hopes still viable, you do what it takes to win the game that day, which was Servais’ decision process.
“We were trying to give our team every opportunity to win that ballgame,” Servais said. “Certainly the day heading into a doubleheader, we would like to get a little bit more length out of our starter, but it didn’t happen. We’ve got to adjust on the fly. And that’s what we’ll do.”
The only certainty to Monday’s doubleheader is that Marco Gonzales starts Game 1 against the American League West-leading A’s. The hope is that the ultra-consistent veteran lefty will give them a complete game or something close.
And Game 2?
“After that, we’ll have to piece it together,” Servais said. “It’ll depend on the first game. We’ll see how the first game goes and take it from there.”
Seattle likely won’t have relievers Casey Sadler (two innings, 30 pitches), Anthony Misiewicz (21 pitches) and Kendall Graveman (back-to-back outings) for Monday. Yoshihisa Hirano has also worked back-to-back games.
The Mariners will get a 29th player to add to their roster who is available for both games. The initial plan was to bring in a right-handed hitter with Oakland starting two lefties, but that could change now. Seattle does also have two pitchers – Erik Swanson and Brandon Brennan – ready to return from the injured list.
There is the enticing idea – mostly in the minds of fans – of calling up top pitching prospect Logan Gilbert, the most stretched-out pitcher at the alternate training site, to make his MLB debut. Gilbert was scheduled to start in Friday’s intrasquad game that was postponed due to unhealthy air conditions. Gilbert did toss a few simulated innings. The Mariners have been steadfast in their belief of not rushing prospects due to the lack of a minor-league season. There are service time ramifications if Gilbert were to be called up, but they aren’t as big of a concern as with 21-year-old outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic.
Realistically, the Mariners could use Brady Lail and Jimmy Yacabonis to cover two innings each in that second game and find others to fill the remaining three innings.
The Mariners’ offense got some late help Sunday from the bottom of the lineup, highlighted by Donovan Walton’s two-run double in the sixth inning and Phillip Ervin’s RBI double in the two-run eighth.
Walton was playing in just his third MLB game in 2020, filling in for J.P. Crawford, who is on the bereavement list. With Seattle leading 2-1, he smoked a two-out, two-run double off the wall in dead center, providing key insurance runs.
“I was just trying to just keep it short,” Walton said in a postgame video call. “Going into these last two games, I haven’t had a lot of at-bats, so I just tried to keep it simple, just get a pitch to drive for the most part, and stay short to the ball.”
With the life on his fastball looking pulseless and the command of the pitch flatlining, Dunn needed 27 pitches to get through a first inning that saw him walk the first batter he faced, give up a RBI double to Josh VanMeter, and issue one more walk before somehow ending with just one run allowed.
The one run allowed erased a one-run lead provided by Jose Marmolejos’ RBI double in the top of the inning.
The second inning was even more of an ordeal, despite the Mariners giving Dunn another lead with the first of Walton’s three RBIs.
After striking out the first batter of the second, Dunn walked the next three hitters, loading the bases. But relying heavily on his curveball, Dunn struck out the next two batters, ending the inning. It took a total of 39 pitches to make it through the second. With Dunn fortunate to have thrown only 66 pitches in the first two innings and no sign of a change, Servais went to his bullpen early.
“Just one of those days,” Dunn said in a postgame video call. “I definitely think there was some mechanical stuff in there, but the closest way to put it, was that’s what I felt like on my debut. I just wasn’t able to slow it down again and get things under control.
“I was able to do it a couple of times this year when things kind of sped up, but for some reason tonight I was able to step off and take a deep breath. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to make a couple pitches there in the second to get us out of that or else it could have gotten ugly.”
Sadler, recently claimed off waivers from the Cubs, gave Seattle two key shutout innings, stabilizing the situation.
Joey Gerber followed with a shutout fifth inning. Left-hander Misiewicz pitched a scoreless sixth, but loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh. Right-hander Graveman got the three outs to end the inning, allowing two runs charged to Misiewicz to score, trimming Seattle’s lead to 4-3.
Yohan Ramirez and Hirano each worked scoreless innings to close it out.
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