Mariners waste outstanding first start by McGee in 1-0 loss to Jays

Easton McGee flirts with a no-hitter in his first Major League start, but it is all for nothing as the Mariners struggle on offense.

The Mariners can’t continue like this. What the offense is doing right now is, quite simply, unacceptable.

The main focus of Saturday’s game should be Easton McGee, and we will get to him in due course. First things first though, the offense is becoming an increasing cause for concern.

Seattle has had some frustratingly inept offensive performances this season and Saturday’s effort is right at the top of this list. Even when you take into account Kevin Gausman’s sublime outing for the Blue Jays.

Gausman lights it up

Gausman produced a phenomenal 28 swings and misses on 108 pitches, on his way to a career-high 13 strikeouts. The Mariners struck out 19 times in total, which is the second-most in team history.

There is no denying Gausman is one of the league’s top pitchers and he showed it for seven innings. However, the Mariners made him look like a five-time Cy Young winner on Saturday afternoon.

Seattle did manage six hits versus the 2021 All-Star, but only reached scoring position on four occasions. He also allowed just the one walk.

It turned out the Mariners’ best chance to score against Gausman — and Toronto’s pitching in general — came in the opening inning. They had runners on first and third base with just one out, but couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.

Even after Gausman left, matters didn’t improve for Seattle. In fact, the situation actually got worse.

The Blue Jays’ bullpen combined to allow no hits, just one (intentional) walk and six strikeouts in three innings. And in a touch of irony, former Mariner Erik Swanson picked up his first win of the year after coming in to pitch the 10th inning.

Swanson got the win when Toronto finally scored the only run of the game in the bottom half of the 10th. After loading the bases, Dautlon Varsho hit a single to bring home Bo Bichette and end the game.

Mariners manager Scott Servais quite rightly gave Gausman a lot of credit, while also lamenting his team’s ineffective bats in the 1-0 loss. He said:

“Guys that are that good and that built out, you’ve got to get on them early. You know we had some chances there in the first and second inning and we weren’t able to cash in.”

Mariners offense headed in the wrong direction

While the Mariners’ offense has been inconsistent for a while, they’ve been particularly inept these past three games with just a couple of runs and two shutouts. Heading into Sunday’s action, they are ranked 22nd in the Majors in scoring.

Seattle is also tied for last in hits, has the third-most strikeouts and second-worst batting average. It’s not a pretty picture at all and you have to wonder what it will take to improve the offense.

There is no denying the talent is there, but this doesn’t mean a thing if they cannot produce more effectively. Let’s be honest, even an average offense at this point would do the job, given how strong the pitching has been overall.

To make matters worse, Julio Rodriguez left the game in the sixth inning with back tightness after sliding into second base for a steal. He is one of the team’s better offensive threats, although even he has struggled at times this season.

The early prognosis on Rodriguez’s injury is positive, although you never like to take anything for granted. Servais said:

“I think it’s going to be fine. That’s my feeling on it. We’ll see how he is. It’s a quick turnaround with a day game (on Sunday). We have an off-day the next day, so we’ll see if he can go tomorrow. If not, you’re hoping that a couple of days down, he’ll be okay when we go over to Oakland.”

A sensational first start by McGee

Turning to McGee, as with George Kirby a couple of days earlier, he deserved so much better on Saturday. His first ever Major League start was (mostly) the stuff dreams are made of.

The 25-year-old came flying out of the gates as he retired the first 12 batters he faced, before allowing a walk in the bottom of the fifth. After six innings, he was on course for a no-hitter.

McGee finally came back down to earth, when he allowed his first — and only — hit with two outs in the seventh. At this point, Servais decided to take him out of the game.

When it was all said and done it only took the righty 64 pitches to get through his 6.2 innings, with 45 called strikes. He also struck out two batters.

That McGee achieved this against a potent Blue Jays lineup, made it even more remarkable. While there are no guarantees, he has more than earned the right to remain in the rotation for now.

Taking to the media after the game, McGee couldn’t have sounded more humble. He said:

“I couldn’t be happier. I mean it was an unbelievable experience. I’m just thankful for the opportunity and I’m glad that I could come up here and do my job, and give the team a chance to win. It didn’t work out in the end, but we can get them tomorrow and I’m just extremely thankful.”

The 2016 fourth round draft pick provided some insight into his mindset during the game. He said:

“I just tried to go out there and throw strikes and locate the ball. I’m not a big strikeout pitcher, so I just tried to stay within myself and do what I’ve been doing, and trust in my ability to locate the baseball.”

Servais was blown away by how good McGee was on the day. He said:

“What an outing from Easton McGee. To come up for his first start in the big leagues ever and to do that against that kind of club, is fantastic. A really good sinker, (he) mixed in enough breaking balls to keep them off-balance. … To get six and two-thirds innings of no-hit ball out of him is way more than what we thought we were going to get today.”

An unwanted streak

With the defeat, the Mariners match their season-high of four consecutive losses and drop to 11-16. It should be noted they were 12-15 at the same point last year.

Regardless, it’s hard not to be at least somewhat concerned. Seattle is now just 3-9 in one-run games and 0-5 in extra innings contests, areas where they excelled last year.

This is too good of a ball club to be in this position, but it won’t matter if the offense doesn’t get it together soon. Next up, they will try to salvage something from the Toronto series, with Marco Gonzales taking the ball on Sunday for the finale.

How concerned are you about the offense? As for McGee, do you see him as a short-term solution, or a long-term answer for the rotation? Let us know in the comments section below.

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