Even if I hadn’t been born to be ten pounds of awkward trussed up in a seven-pound bag, my mom would have imparted the lesson of humility to me early with one of her favorite sayings: “There but for the grace of God go I.” Wanting to point out a stranger with a wedgie at the supermarket? A firm eyebrow, and “there but for the grace of God.” Someone eats pavement trying to show off on their BMX bike? A bandaid whipped out from the depths of her inimitable handbag, and a stern reminder: there but for the grace. My mom has taught me a lot about humility, and even more about the importance of gratitude—related, as it is, to the word grace, being graceful and grateful.
It’s hard not to have some sympathy for the Tigers, especially when you think about how the Mariners rebuilt along very similar lines: pitching-heavy, with some proven college bats anchoring the lineup. Except, the Mariners’ proven college hitters didn’t really pan out, with Evan White and Kyle Lewis both suffering injuries that have limited their effect, and while it’s early, Spencer Torkelson, the can’t-miss college bat, has so far …missed, both figuratively and literally. However, the strong core of pitching the Tigers were attempting to assemble—Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Spencer Turnbull—has so far not had the same impact as Seattle’s squadron of rookie pitchers—Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, Matt Brash, with more coming . There but for the grace.
Tonight, one of the Mariners’ success stories in George Kirby showed the Tigers why exactly a significant investment in scouting and development is important, as Kirby kept the Tigers’ lineup quiet over five innings, only allowing two hits and one walk while striking out five . It was an early hook for Kirby tonight, to save his arm, but Kirby allowed just two hits with no runs and cruised through the largely-toothless Tigers lineup, striking out five over five innings. The Literal Tigers, yes, but it just looked so easy for Our Boy George tonight, who garnered plenty of national accolades:
And maybe some from your humble recapper:
Meanwhile, the Mariners offense jumped all over Detroit starter Matt Manning, perhaps in revenge of their young starters, Kirby and Logan Gilbert, who never earned higher placement than Manning on Top-100 lists. After going down like sleepy kittens in the first, the Mariners roared to life in the second, as Ty France continued to embody the “I lived, bitch” meme with this 438 foot blast:
France had four balls in play tonight: one, that went for a single, that registered just a 78 MPH exit velocity as he stroked it right back up the middle, but all other balls off his bat tonight were hit at 103 MPH or harder, putting rest to that wrist injury narrative for good. That homer went at 107 MPH with a 25 degree launch angle, which is absolutely what you want to see from France, especially in the chill tomb that is Comerica Park. Welcome back, Ty. Boy, we have missed you.
They say hitting is contagious, and, well, the Mariners’ third inning didn’t disprove that. Cal Raleigh started off the inning with a big solo shot of his own:
That set off a chain reaction, as the Mariners would crush hit after hit after hit in that inning to build a 7-0 lead, bouncing Matt Manning in the process as they electric-slided around the bases like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Boogie woogie woogie.
Seattle added another two runs in the fifth, after Ty France singled (again, in the strongest possible terms, welcome back) and Carlos Santana hit the Mariners’ third home run of the day to stretch the lead to 9-0.
That’s right, the Mariners scored in this game via both home runs and good old-fashioned station-to-station hitting. The old saying is that you’re not supposed to want to have your cake and eat it too, but what honestly is the point in that? Shouldn’t one both have cake and eat it? Otherwise, what are you doing other than going hungry and creating a haven for ants? Or snapping your jaws at empty air? It doesn’t make sense, any of it.
Another thing that doesn’t make sense: instead of just letting Daniel Norris or someone wear this game after Manning was lifted, AJ Hinch chose to machine through first poor former Mariner Will Vest, then another pitcher, then Daniel Norris for three innings (it was he who allowed the homer to Santana) before eventually calling in a position player—Kody Clemens, the son of Roger, nonetheless—to finish things out. A rough start to a series for the Tigers bullpen, to be sure. (Kody is lucky he doesn’t play in the AL West, or he would certainly befall the Ckhole Kchalhoun treatment.)
Meanwhile, the Mariners bullpen would consist of one pitcher: Chris Flexen, making his much-anticipated “piggyback start” behind a barely-taxed Kirby. It was an important outing for Flex, who officially triggered an $8M dollar vesting option for next year instead of a $4M team option. Neither of these are amounts of money to sneeze at, but for Flexen—a fringier pitcher who went to pitch in the KBO, rebuilt his body, overhauled his pitch repertoire, and has generally done whatever the Mariners have asked/needed him to do— it’s a huge and well-deserved payday. And to see his teammates all lining up to congratulate him in the bullpen only added to how special the moment was. Reader, I cried.
High-fives all around for Chris Flexen, who just triggered an $8 million vesting option for 2023 by completing 300 innings from ’21-22. pic.twitter.com/5rAGWV17l0
— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) August 31, 2022
The Tigers would scrape up another three runs doing—oh, who cares, they are not the story tonight. Ty France is the story, George Kirby is the story, Chris Flexen is the story. The Mariners are the story. And with apologies to the Tigers—and to uber-talented prospect Riley Greene, who struck out badly a couple of times earlier in the game before showing the superstar he is with a triple, and reason for hope in the Motor City—it’s about time for the Mariners to be the story. It’s about time for them to have their greatness, and their grace.