April 23rd: With the bases loaded, one out, and a 4-4 score in the bottom of the fifth, Brandon Morrow blows right through Ian Kinsler.
This early in the season, we still weren't quite sure what we had in Brandon Morrow. I mean, yeah, he could obviously throw hard, but with only four appearances and five innings of mop-up work under his belt as a Major Leaguer, he remained a bit of a mystery.
What we did know was that, at 5-9, the Mariners had to be feeling a little pressure. Fresh off consecutive sweeps by Minnesota and LAnaheim, the M's were in the midst of a six-game losing streak, and the whole thing felt all too familiar. No pitching. Last place. We'd already seen this movie before, and it was worse than Soul Plane. If they were going to make any hay of the summer in front of them, they had to change things around in a hurry, before the tide of public opinion turned against the team altogether.
Shouldering the burdensome task of saving the season on this particular night was Felix fill-in Cha Baek. He did all right for a little while, and the M's built up a 4-0 lead, but back came the Rangers with two apiece in the fourth and the fifth. A game-tying RBI single by Sammy Sosa with one out drove Baek to the showers and forced Mike Hargrove to make an early call to his bullpen. This was a critical situation. Who was going to handle the load?
Hargrove chose Morrow. And Morrow promptly chose to uncork a wild pitch, advancing the runners to second and third. This was going to get bad in a hurry. To set up the force, Morrow proceeded to intentionally walk Hank Blalock, bringing Ian Kinsler to the plate with the bases loaded. Ian Kinsler, he of the 1.163 OPS through the first three weeks of the year. Of course this was happening. Of course. Hello, 60-win season.
In the blink of an eye, Brandon Morrow was confronted with probably the most stressful baseball moment of his life. The leverage scores of his first four Major League appearances: 0.80, 0.01, 0.20, and 0.02 (1.00 is average). He'd been given a soft landing. This, though, this was anything but soft. The leverage score of this at bat? 3.00. Tie game, bases loaded, one out, going up against the hottest hitter on the planet. Had Morrow simply taken his glove off and retired on the spot, I would've understood.
But he decided to stick around.
Pure gas. No prayer. Major League Baseball, meet Brandon Morrow. (Morrow then struck out Nelson Cruz to end the inning, and the M's went on to win 5-4.)
From here on out, Morrow could go in any direction. He could be an ace, he could be a #4, he could be a setup guy, he could be a closer, he could get hurt, he could suck for two seasons and go away - his doors are all still wide open. But no matter what he ends up doing, ten years from now, if you find yourself talking to someone who watched this game, he'll be able to tell you exactly where Brandon Morrow's career got started.