I have to be honest. I’m pretty glad I didn’t get to watch this one. The Mariners pretty much dominated all day and led 6-2 going to the ninth, only for the Braves to come off the deck with five runs in the inning to take a 7-6 lead. And then Kenley Jansen gave up two homers in the bottom half of the frame to cancel out probably the best comeback of the year and give the Mariners an 8-7 win.
It looked for much of the game like this was going to be a standard-issue loss. Seattle scored a run in the first and three in the fourth off of Jake Odorizzi (continuing to play his way off the playoff roster, it seems) and then scored a run each off of Collin McHugh and Tyler Matzek in the fifth and sixth, respectively. That gave them a 6-1 lead after an Austin Riley solo homer in the fourth. Michael Harris followed with a solo homer of his own in the eighth to make it 6-2 going to the ninth.
So in the ninth, Seattle’s Diego Castillo came in to try to notch the Atlanta Save against Atlanta. He walked Riley and Matt Olson back-to-back to lead off the inning, but got William Contreras to ground out and Vaughn Grissom to strike out to seemingly turn onto Easy Street. Well, about that…Harris followed with his second straight home run to score three and suddenly make it a one-run game, 6-5.
The Mariners switched to right-hander Paul Sewald and the Braves switched to left-hander Eddie Rosario off the bench. Sewald put Eddie down 1-2, but Rosario lined a single to right to keep the Braves alive. And then Robbie Grossman stepped to the plate from the left side, which we were led to believe he was totally helpless from when we traded for him at the end of July. He hasn’t looked helpless left-handed to me, though, and he crushed an 0-1 pitch into the right-field stands to, amazingly, give Atlanta a 7-6 lead. Ronald Acuna was hit by a pitch and stole second base after that, but he was left there. That turned out to be a pretty big deal, unfortunately.
The Braves turned to Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the ninth. I thought he’d looked good in his last two outings in Seattle on Friday and in Oakland earlier last week. Well, so much for that. With one out, he allowed a game-tying homer to Julio Rodriguez. With two outs, he allowed a game-winning bomb to Eugenio Suarez. Just like that, one of the best wins of the year turns into one of the worst losses. I remember Mac saying that losses where you comeback to tie or take the lead only to see your bullpen blow the game anyway just seem worse, and I doubt anybody would disagree tonight.
So the Braves are now down a game-and-a-half in the standings headed back down to San Francisco early this week. More importantly, the question of what to do with Jansen starts to seem a little more pressing. Personally, I would give the closer job to Raisel Iglesias at this point at least on a trial basis, but keep in mind that Jansen isn’t just going away. He’s going to pitch and he’s going to pitch high-leverage innings. I remember thinking about Will Smith last year at about this time that maybe he was actually where he needed to be to do the least damage. He wasn’t getting demoted to low-leverage, and maybe knowing he was the ninth-inning guy and would nearly always start with a clean slate was better than throwing him into the mix as a late-inning matchup guy. (And nothing that happened with him this year as more of a matchup guy dissuaded me from that thought, by the way.) I think it may very well be the same with Jansen…that if he’s gonna be used in high-leverage (and he is), just keep him as the guy who gets a clean slate to start the ninth. However, I think it’s probably worth it to switch it up and find out while we have a few weeks to play with here.