We share some observations from what proved to be a demanding three-game series for the Mariners against the Chicago White Sox.
There was reason for optimism after the Mariners opened up the season with a series win versus the San Francisco Giants, albeit with a dose of caution. As much as it’s always a positive to win two of your first three games, not much is expected from the Giants this season.
In this respect, the matchup with a talented Chicago White Sox ball club predicted to contend, was touted as a tougher challenge. And so it proved, as the Mariners lost 6-0 and 10-4, before salvaging something with an 8-4 win in the series finale.
There was plenty to talk about after the three-game set at T-Mobile Park. Here are three observations, together with some other notes:
3) Justus Sheffield fails to impress
Last year saw Justus Sheffield take positive steps, with his best play yet at the Major League level. He had been particularly impressive in his last four appearances of the season, allowing two or fewer runs each time, resulting in a 2.16 ERA and 2-0 record.
As such, Sheffield entered the 2021 campaign with plenty of optimism, and rightly so. Unfortunately for the Mariners, his first start of the season in the series opener against the White Sox proved to be a disappointing one.
The 24-year-old managed to get through the first three innings with the M’s trailing just 1-0, but the signs were there that his grip on the game was tenuous. He particularly had trouble with his changeup but struggled with his command in general, highlighted by just 12 first-pitch strikes against the 26 batters he faced.
(Sheffield would later admit he let his emotions get the better of him, which must have been clear to teammate Tom Muphy. The catcher went out to the mound in the top of the first inning for a chat with his pitcher, to try and help him relax and focus.)
Things started to fall apart for the southpaw in the fourth inning, although he wasn’t helped by Mitch Haniger, who fumbled the ball on what should have been a double play. This helped the White Sox build momentum, leading to a bases loaded situation and subsequently three further runs.
Manager Scott Servais had been hoping for Sheffield to go at least six innings on the night. However, any doubt about this possibility was erased in the fifth.
No matter what the 2014 first round draft pick did, he couldn’t get on track – it was just one of those games. Yasmani Grandal, who had got the scoring started with a solo homer in the second, hit a two RBI single to make it 6-0.
Sheffield was at least able to finish the inning, but his night was over as he picked up the loss. At the end of it all, he had allowed eight hits, six runs – including four earned – and two walks. (He did manage five strikeouts.)
Certainly the Mariners want – and more importantly need – better from the Tullahoma, Tennesse native moving forward. He is an integral part of the rotation.
At least there were no excuses from Sheffield on the night, despite talk of his long layoff prior to the start possibly impacting him. Speaking to the media after the game, he said:
“I’ve got to be ready to go, no matter the circumstances; no matter if I pitched two weeks ago in a game, in a sim game or whatever. It’s go time and I’ve got to be ready to go every six days, so I definitely don’t want to use any excuses of that sort.”
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