Mariners Conclude Unremarkable Series With Unremarkable Win

I guess I just don't see what the big deal is. Two baseball teams played three games in a baseball stadium. One of them hit first, and one of them hit second. They followed the appropriate rules. Tonight, they went to extra innings, and a run scored when a runner on third came home on a wild pitch. Happens all the time. Nothing especially more remarkable than a 5-1 win over the Royals, or a 9-2 loss to the Blue Jays. Just a regular baseball game, near the end of the third month of six months of baseball games.

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That's the first paragraph. I wrote it very quickly. Then I encountered the problem of trying to come up with a second paragraph that would follow along. Nothing. I entertained various possibilities and typed and deleted for about half an hour before settling on this instead: there's just no denying how weird that all was.

I know I'm not the only one to think this, but I don't know if you could've dreamed up a more fitting way for this series to end. This series, that had the Mariners sleep in their own beds, and dress in their own clubhouse, and play in their own stadium in front of their own fans, and yet play as the visitor under NL rules because a Major League Baseball franchise ran into a scheduling conflict with a rock band. This isn't the first time a series has been relocated, but it is the first time a series has been relocated because U2 needed to build the biggest and most complicated stage set of all time.

That's a weird situation, and a weird situation deserves a weird conclusion. So what did we get? We got Dustin Ackley doubling against one of the toughest lefty-on-lefty relievers in the league. We got Ackley advancing to third on a pretty shallow fly out to left-center by Miguel Olivo. We got the Marlins electing to intentionally walk Carlos Peguero for the second time in the game to face Franklin Gutierrez. And we got Steve Cishek throwing away the third of four intended balls, with Ackley sprinting and sliding home for the lead. Brandon League then got to protect that lead, at home, on the road, in the bottom of the tenth.

Bizarre. Not unprecedentedly bizarre, but sufficiently bizarre that this win will stand out from most of the others when the season wraps up. I wasn't particularly thrilled when the latest Sunday night game in Mariners history advanced to extra innings, but boy am I ever happy with the way things turned out. That's a game gained in the division, as the Mariners just refuse to not be in the race.

The latest Sunday bullet holes I'll hopefully ever have to post:

  • Back in high school, when we'd run through batting practice, sometimes we'd have a pitching machine on the mound, and sometimes we'd have live pitchers. When we had live pitchers, we'd cycle through most of the staff, and I used to dread my turn, because I always sucked at throwing strikes. It wasn't like pitching during a game. I wasn't supposed to get the batter out. I was supposed to throw approximately down the middle at 75% effort. And even though I was never the most accurate pitcher in the world, something about reducing the intensity and the leverage brought out my inner Kyle Drabek. I'm not sure who hated my turns throwing batting practice more - me, or everybody else.

    So I can kind of understand what happened to Steve Cishek. Not to compare myself to a pitcher on a Major League baseball team, but intentional walks aren't always automatic. Whenever a pitcher fields a ball in play and throws the ball away to first, people say "how could you do that, you're a pitcher!" But it's a different situation, and not all throwing is alike. Pitchers aren't used to throwing to first, and pitchers aren't used to throwing with reduced speed to a catcher standing next to the plate. It can be kind of uncomfortable. Funny things can happen when a pitcher's uncomfortable.

    Of course, Cishek still screwed up. It was his mistake, and his mistake only. Just because wild pitches during intentional walks happen doesn't mean they're no big thing. I just sympathize is all. Us pitchers have to stick together.

  • The Marlins elected to intentionally walk Peguero in the tenth with one out and a runner on third. When the third pitch sailed away and Ackley scored, Cishek attacked Peguero from a 3-0 count. Three pitches later, Peguero struck out. It was all too perfect.

  • Peguero came up to bat in the top of the fourth. When he took a ball on 1-2, a fan in the background shouted "whoa, nice!" When he took a ball on 2-2, the same fan shouted "good!" I think it's safe to say that anyone who's been paying attention has a pretty good idea of what Carlos Peguero is.

  • For the second start in a row, Doug Fister reverted back to his old self, and for the second start in a row, Doug Fister allowed a run in eight innings. Tonight, he threw 110 pitches, of which 83 (75%!) were strikes. He barely missed any bats and so he allowed a lot of contact, but you know the story by now. Weak contact. No free passes, outside of a hit batter. His ERA's all the way down to 3.18, which would seem more impressive if he hadn't posted a low-2's ERA for a couple months just last season. Boy was that weird in retrospect.

    Also for the second start in a row, Doug Fister turned in a base hit. This one was a line drive double to the gap on an 0-2 fastball in the fifth. It seems like every time I check a Marlins box score, Anibal Sanchez is working on a no-hitter. Tonight, Doug Fister knocked him for extra bases. Doug Fister is so hard up for run support that he's learned how to make his own.

  • Aside from Fister and Cishek, tonight's other hero was Dustin Ackley. He lined out in the second. He tripled over Dewayne Wise's head in the fourth. He singled down the line in the eighth, and would've had a double had the umpire not gotten in the way. Then in the tenth, he took Randy Choate the other way and dropped a leadoff double just inside the line. As if that weren't enough, he sprinted to third after tagging up on a moderate fly from Olivo, and scored on Cishek's wild pitch even though it would've been understandable had he hesitated or even zoned out. Throw in a handful of nifty plays in the field and, tonight, Ackley showed it all. He showed discipline, he showed power, he showed the ability to hit to all fields, he showed defense, he showed speed, and he showed awareness.

    As of this writing, Dustin Ackley has the highest OPS on the team. I know there was some concern over how he'd adjust to the Majors after he took some time to adjust to new levels in the minors, but God damn he looks good. And he also looks good, if you get what I mean.

  • In the bottom of the fourth, Mike Stanton hit a grounder right back up the middle. Brendan Ryan ranged way to his left, scooped the ball, spun around, and made an accurate throw to first as hard as he could that Stanton just barely beat out. It was a brilliant play, result be damned, and as the camera cut to Ryan afterwards, he was mad at himself.

  • Leading off the top of the fifth, Franklin Gutierrez hit a line shot over Dewayne Wise's head in center that Wise managed to flag down in a full sprint. There are two possible ways for Guti to react to this:

    Gutierrez: /hit
    Wise: /awesome running catch
    Gutierrez: That is a wonderful play, I tip my cap.

    Gutierrez: /hit
    Wise: /awesome running catch
    Gutierrez: Oh wow that really is annoying

  • In the top of the sixth inning, Miguel Olivo worked the count full against Sanchez, then took a slider that missed outside. Olivo stepped out of the box, then back in, then paused, then looked back at the umpire, then smiled and made his way to first, having been told that he walked. I could write an entire admittedly esoteric hour-long comedy special based on those ten seconds.

  • Jack McKeon is nicknamed "Trader Jack" after his willingness to make moves as GM of the Padres between 1981-1990. For one thing, McKeon was already 50 years old when he took that position. For another, can you imagine being followed around by a nickname you earned for your behavior three decades ago? Do not answer if you are not at least three decades old.

Brandon Beachy and the Braves come to town Monday night. Thank God the Mariners get the DH back. Those NL games were just crippling the offense.

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