Orioles 2, Mariners 0: The game where Mariners fans loudly announce that they don’t want any more

Since the Mariners have been underachievers for much of their history, fans don’t have much experience with things going their way early in the season. Mariners fans know best what it’s like to suffer through an entire season; the past few years have taught them to suffer through early-season misery only to see the team come alive down the stretch, only to miss the playoffs by a few agonizing games (and, in one brief moment of beauty, make the playoffs at all). This is a whole new kind of misery: watching the team race out to an early lead and then watching them slowly, agonizingly squander it away. Tonight, a larger-than-average Tuesday night crowd of 36,173 (though that figure was certainly boosted by several orange-clad attendees at the park tonight), let the Mariners know exactly how sick they are of this.

The targets of the ire have been changing as the offense has struggled; for a while there was a vocal contingent of fans very angry at Mitch Garver, until he seemingly managed to turn things around. Tonight, the ire was aimed squarely at Jorge Polanco, who grounded into an inning-ending double play on the first pitch he saw in the fourth inning, when the Mariners had finally gotten some traffic against Orioles starter Grayson Rodriguez in the form of a pair of walks. The boos followed Polanco when he struck out again in the seventh, his second strikeout of the day, and they were also heard when he failed to make plays at second base, no matter how far out of reach it was.

Unfortunately, Polanco became the target of fans’ ire for this team’s offensive ineptitude, a problem that has dragged on all season but has come to a head in recent weeks during a stretch of poor play that has seen the Mariners lose four straight series and are now in a bind to try and snap that streak. To be fair, Polanco alone isn’t the problem — the Mariners had two hits all game, and both came from Josh Rojas, who was replaced as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, if that tells you anything.

That lack of offensive production ruined another great night for George Kirby, a hard-luck loser who somehow pitched better than his final two-earned-run line — the second run came in a series of unfortunate events where the Orioles hit his curveball exactly where the infielders weren’t (despite loud boos from the crowd for Polanco as he watched balls with exit velocities of 80-plus miles per hour zip past him seven feet out of reach). Overall, though, Kirby has to be happy with the way he pitched tonight — the Orioles had the same game plan against him — hit early and often — but Kirby’s placement was so impeccable that those swings resulted in a lot of weak ground balls and easy fly balls, silencing the Orioles’ loud bats.

“Just looking at my last outing against them, they hit the ball incredibly hard, so my job today was to get to them and throw that off-speed ball,” Kirby said after the game, adding that both his execution and location had improved since his last forgettable outing against the Orioles. “Just keep them off balance. I thought I did a good job of that today.”

The bullpen is also impeccable in its performance: Groundball king Collin Snider managed to avoid an unlucky leadoff double and eked out a scoreless eighth, and former Oriole Mike Baumann worked a scoreless ninth (with some help from Cal Raleigh, who caught Colton Cowser, who had walked trying to steal a base he’d already tried to steal three times during the at-bat, only to fly out again). Austin Voth had perhaps the toughest assignment of the night, coming on in relief of Kirby in the seventh with runners on the corners and just one out. Voth walked the first batter he saw, ninth-place hitter Jorge Mateo, leaving him to deal with the top of the lineup with the bases loaded and just one out. Reaching full counts on both Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman, Voth slipped out of the trap, struck out Henderson on a nasty backdoor slider and got Rutschman to pop out harmlessly on the same pitch.

But, no matter how brilliant the pitching was, the offense gave them absolutely nothing to work with. Yennier Cano gave Rodriguez no relief after Canzone walked with one out in the seventh inning; Julio grounded into a fielder’s choice and Mitch Haniger struck out swinging. (Despite his dismal numbers this season, Haniger’s status as a beloved Mariner shields him from some of the more intense booing — but not always, as seen tonight, when a trail of boos followed him into the dugout.) After the Mariners fell 1-2-3 again in the eighth inning against Cionel Perez, the booing was more pronounced and fans headed for the exits. In a 2-0 game. For a first-place team. That’s a pretty telling indictment of how fans feel about this team’s offense right now.

The Mariners had one more chance to have some fun in the ninth. Luke Raley, who causes chaos wherever he goes, opened the scoring by getting hit by a pitch, which brought out Cal Raleigh, who nearly had another moment of magic — but he threw it just to the right of the foul pole before striking out. That’s how close it was to tying the game, and maybe it’s a different story.

“Maybe tomorrow the ball will still be in good shape and we’ll be in a great position. But that’s what happens over the course of a long season. We’re a little bit confused right now because we’re not getting that opportunity, but everything will change,” Servais said. “It always happens.”

For a moment, it looked like the game might turn in that direction in the ninth. Kimbrel then hit Polanco with a pitch before the crowd could start booing, putting two runners on base for Canzone with just one out. Let’s take a look at Canzone’s numbers in different leverage situations:

That number didn’t improve tonight, as Canzone went after the second pitch of the at-bat, a curveball well below the zone, and Ryan Bliss’ speed saved him from a game-ending double play. However, that only set up Julio to become the Mariners’ 11th strikeout tonight, chasing a fastball out of the zone and eliciting a round of boos from the remaining Mariners fans that was drowned out by cheers from the Orioles faithful, who were enjoying their trip to Seattle and our pleasant, humidity-free weather.

“They’re pushing it a little bit right now,” Servais said of his offense. “Everyone wants to be that guy, get the big hit, make things work when you look up and you can put a big crooked number up there.”

“We’ll get the big hit eventually. We’ll open the way and make it work again,” he added, acknowledging that the Mariners once again failed to capitalize on the (few) opportunities they had tonight while praising the team for putting pressure on the pitcher. It’s a compelling idea, and not something that should be too far off if this team simply plays like it has much of the season to put itself in this position. But at the same time, tonight’s game felt like something like that: a flashing light pointing to the “E” in the fan’s patience, a flashpoint of frustration with this offense. Whether this touchpoint is bottoming out, leading to a rebound, or the edge of the cliff the team is headed toward as the Astros threaten to overtake them in the standings remains to be seen.

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