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Mariners go on a Friday cruise, beat Red Sox 1-0

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Boston Red Sox v Seattle Mariners
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

the sailing wasn’t always smooth, but it was always fun

It may surprise some readers to know that despite my penchant for naval themed recaps, I actually never learned to sail. Until, that is, this month when I started taking lessons on Lake Union. I’ve learned a lot, both mechanically and philosophically. Sailing, despite modern advancements in hull design and fluid mechanics, is still as much of an art as it is a science. An element that—I’m sure you’ll agree, dear reader—bears some resemblance to baseball.

The first thing I learned was that no matter how detailed or workable your plans are, you have to be able to quickly adjust to the wind and tide. Things will change on you in a heartbeat, and it’s up to you to stay focused and ready to react. This is a lesson that George Kirby knows well.

Despite his reputation, George actually walked the first batter he faced this year, Jarren Duran, in a pretty uncompetitive plate appearance. He got Tyler O’Neil to pop out next, but Duran was a menace on the basepaths, stealing second and then taking third on a wild pitch. Kirby was pretty discombobulated by this, and actually walked a second batter, Masataka Yoshida, to put runners on the corners. All of a sudden, despite the forecasts predicting low winds and clear skies, it started to seem like a gale was picking up.

But Kirby is adaptable, and steered into the sudden gust. A strikeout and flyout later, and he got through the changing weather. Always a deft hand at the tiller, Kirby piloted the good ship Mariner safely through. Under his even-keeled yet forceful direction, the game was totally in control.

Besides those two walks, Kirby also gave up two singles. But both can really be credited to the skills of the Red Sox hitters. Both hits came on slap shots on pitches in the other batter’s box.

 Baseball Savant

After the game, Scott Servais spoke on Kirby, saying “When he gets on a roll, it’s like, you can see it in his face out there: nobody can hit me. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what the name on the back of your jersey is, you can’t hit me. And he takes that—with really good stuff and the ability to execute—and he rides it, and he has nights like tonight, we often see it and it’s fun to watch.”

The second thing I learned is that although sailing is generally a slow paced, relaxing way to spend an afternoon, there are moments where a good skipper needs use speed and power to get where they’re going.

A sailboat cannot sail directly upwind. Instead, it sails off at an angle, and turns again and a again in a zig-zag pattern. This requires the boat to tack—that is, to turn through where the wind is coming from, briefly pointing directly at the wind. This is a tricky maneuver, and a poor captain could end up stuck “in irons,” pointed at the wind with no speed or control of the boat. This is generally considered to be bad.

To avoid this, the captain needs to build up speed and then turn through the wind as hard as they can, using the momentum of the boat to carry them through the wind. And, if you’ve seen the box score, you already know where I’m going with this.

While baseball is often slow paced and relaxing there are, like in sailing, moments that require the judicious application of power. Capt. Crawford provided an example of one tonight. At 105.5 MPH off the bat, that ball landed 381 feet from home plate. A titanic shot in any ballpark. And with that shot the Mariners moved into the lead.

The third thing I learned from sailing is the converse of the second: there are times for patience. Sometimes the wind dies suddenly or starts rapidly shifting back and forth. In those moments, it’s best to just hold steady and wait it out. And once it settles back down you can adjust your course if necessary. The key thing is not to panic and let a sudden gust tip you over.

Patience is something that Mariners hitters have been trying to utilize for the past several years. Often, it hasn’t worked out for them. One Mariner who’s come under some pretty heavy scrutiny over his seeming lack of patience is Julio. Last year he came up in a lot of clutch situations late in games, but overextended himself and wasn’t able to get the result he was looking for. This year, if he wants to break out of what he himself called a slump, he’s going to have to exercise more patience at the dish.

It’s a good sign, then, that when he came up in the eighth with two on and two out, he proved the value of this new approach by working up a full count and then taking ball four on a slider down and away. 2023 Julio probably would have swung at that pitch. 2024 Julio won’t. Jorge Polanco may have lined out (.640 xBA) to end the inning, but it’s about the process. And Servais had good things to say about Julio’s more mature process at the plate tonight, saying “if he continues to do that all year long he’s going to have a special year.” In my opinion, “special year” is underselling it.

The fourth thing I learned about sailing has more to do with racing. Sails, it may not surprise you to learn, are quite large, and can affect the wind around them. Pull up alongside a boat to windward of them and you can steal the wind right out from their sails.

Tonight, it was Andrés Muñoz who was given the role of wind stealer, making his first appearance of 2024. This year, he says that he’s trying to do more to mess up hitter’s timing, playing around with his leg kick and stance in the wind up.

He came in during the top of the 8th inning with 2 out and runners at the corners. He managed to get Trevor Story to roll over a slider. Third baseman Luis Urías fielded it and made a quick throw to first, bouncing it in front of a bag. But Ty made a fantastic scoop to end the inning. After that close call, Andrés decided that Red Sox hitters weren’t going to be allowed to put the ball in play in the 9th. With Muñoz at the helm at the end of the night, it was an easy coast back into dock.

So tonight, with the low score and calm winds, was a perfect example of my fifth and final sailing lesson for you tonight. Go with the flow. Trim your sails cleanly to the wind, sit back, and let the sea take you where both you and it want to go. Do that, and you’ll find no better way to spend an evening.



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