We break down what was a competitive but ultimately winning road trip for the Mariners in Baltimore, against the Orioles.
The four-game set between the Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles was the very essence of a tight series. Three of the games were decided by a single run, while the other contest finished 4-2.
How much playing two double-headers in three days factored into this is anyone’s guess. Regardless, all that mattered to the Mariners was they won three of the four games, to finish their first road trip of the 2021 season with an impressive 5-2 record.
Next up, Seattle returns to the Pacific Northwest for what is expected to be a tough homestand against the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. First things first though, here are four takeaways from the series in Baltimore, along with some other noteworthy highlights:
4) Sheffield responds in fine fashion
When Justus Sheffield arrived from the New York Yankees via a trade in Nov. 2018, there were significant expectations. At the time he was considered the Yankees’ top prospect and he promptly took up the same designation with the Mariners.
Sheffield’s progress with the organization has been steady and last year saw him take positive steps. He was particularly impressive during his final four appearances of the season, allowing two runs or fewer each time, leading to a 2.16 ERA and 2-0 record.
As a result, there was a lot of disappointment following the 24-year-old’s first start of the 2021 campaign, versus the Chicago White Sox. He gave up eight hits, six runs (including four earned) and two walks in five innings, as he struggled greatly with his command.
This showing led to a lot of intrigue and some trepidation heading into his second start of the season on Tuesday, in the first game of the double-header in Baltimore. Fortunately for everyone concerned, Sheffield refused to have another subpar performance.
The Tullahoma, Tennessee native was fantastic early on, facing the minimum in the first three innings and not allowing the Orioles any runs through four. Ultimately he allowed just two walks, three hits and a couple of runs in six innings of action. (He also had five strikeouts, just as he did in his first start of the season.)
One of the keys to Sheffield’s outing was an improvement in his changeup, which had let him down against the White Sox. When combined with his slider, it provides real issues for opposing hitters.
Such was the form of the southpaw, you could make an argument he should have been given the opportunity to return in the seventh. In addition, he was only at 77 pitches when he was replaced on the mound.
However, the decision had already been made to take Sheffield out of the game, not that it was an issue. Speaking to the media afterwards, he said:
“Waking up this morning, I knew we had a double-header and I told myself I wanted to go [the complete game]. I’ve only done it one time I think in my career and never at the big league level, but that was definitely a goal coming into this game.
“[However], I saw we had [Rafael] Montero warming up and [the skipper] came up to me and told me he was going to take the ball so … no controversy at all with that. I was happy with where I was.”
The irony was that Montero cost Sheffield the win, after blowing his third save of this young season. We will never know if the 2014 first round draft pick would have closed the deal, not that it mattered in the grand scheme of things as the Mariners ultimately won the game.
Regardless, such is the potential of Sheffield, you know he still has a lot of room to be even better. In this respect, his next start against the Astros should be a good barometer of his progress.
NEXT: A TRIO YOU CAN COUNT ON