This was one of those baseball games where I don't even know where to begin, and one of those baseball games where I don't even want to begin because it was four hours long. This baseball game had an official duration of three hours and 59 minutes, making it the' third-longest game of the season, and the other two long games started much much earlier. This one ended entirely too close to 11, and even though it did end well, four hours is too long for baseball games between teams who aren't going to the playoffs. A game like this is draining, and so for lack of anything better I've opened with a Mitch Hedberg reference. Either you got the reference or we would probably make shitty friends.
How to go about this. See, this was just one baseball game. An ultimately meaningless baseball game, one petal on a rose bush. This is a package of 160 grape Jolly Ranchers for sale, and if you ordered the package, you probably wouldn't notice if there were actually 159 grape Jolly Ranchers inside. A game is a game and we'll move on tomorrow for another game. How long were people even still dwelling on the combined no-hitter? But then, this was a hell of a game, if something of a drawn-out game, and games are the whole core of the season. This was a game to be celebrated, because if you can't celebrate wins, even wins for a pedestrian team, why bother?
The Mariners beat the12-9, and it took them ten innings to do it. Yes, all right, let's see where this takes us. For the Mariners in the standings, this win doesn't mean very much, because the Mariners have gotten to the point where I kind of forget that there are standings. For the Diamondbacks in the standings, this was a missed opportunity to gain ground on the and the . And the and the , too. So this was meaningful for them, because the Diamondbacks made the playoffs last season and they'd probably like to do that again this season. If only it weren't for those cursed Mariners. Also for the Mariners, this win might've meant something in something other than the standings, like in their heads, and now we're teetering on the edge of talking about confidence and momentum and developing a winning culture. I'll back away cautiously.
Ichiro came into this game with 2,499 career hits in the Major Leagues, and slump or no slump, odds were good he was going to reach 2,500 tonight. I expected that that would be the game's highlight. Ichiro would hit a single to turn a large number into a large rounder number, the assembled Diamondbacks crowd would give him a polite round of applause, and the broadcast would remind us that even though Ichiro's up there in years, he still got to 2,500 faster than almost anyone else. We'd savor the hit, maybe talk about how Ichiro looked like vintage Ichiro while delivering the hit, we'd reflect briefly on an outstanding career, and then we'd settle back in for the remainder of a forgettable game against the Diamondbacks.
Ichiro singled on the third pitch of the game. He got jammed and dropped a blooper behind second base. Gameday referred to it as a "soft fly ball", and that conveys the right idea. It wasn't vintage Ichiro at all, unless by vintage Ichiro you mean he hit the ball to where there weren't any defenders. Ichiro got his polite round of applause, we were reminded of how quickly Ichiro got to the mark, and then the rest of the baseball game happened, and so much happened in the rest of the baseball game that it was easy to forget about Ichiro's 2,500th hit. In no small part because he also delivered his 2,501st, 2,502nd, and 2,503rd hits.
Between the third and sixth innings, the Mariners allowed nine runs, and the Mariners still won this game, which isn't something anyone would've thought possible over the last week and a half. The lineup got back to hitting the longball, and even though I'm not sure Brendan Ryan's homer leaves Safeco, and even though I'm not sure Justin Smoak's homer leaves Safeco, Safeco doesn't make the rules on the road, and the Mariners' fly balls are entitled to a vacation. Additionally, Kyle Seager's homer sure as shit leaves Safeco, as long as we're worried about legitimacy. The Mariners hit three home runs that counted, and those home runs drove a combined seven people home.
The Mariners were up 8-5, and then they weren't, because Hisashi Iwakuma did what the whole coaching staff was afraid he would do back in March. The Mariners fell behind 9-8, because Lucas Luetge allowed his first earned run in 26 appearances, which sounds better than saying his first earned run in about 17 innings. The Mariners tied it, thanks in huge part to John Jaso, and then the Mariners went ahead in the tenth, thanks in huge part to Charlie Furbush and Casper Wells. This game was by no means fantastic for the Mariners all the way through, but it was sufficiently different from the norm to feel somewhat refreshing, and it ended so well that the earlier blemishes were forgiven and forgotten.
I don't know if it could've ended much better, in terms of execution. Between the eight and the ninth, Furbush faced and retired six guys, four by strikeout. There are so many moving parts in his delivery that at some point you expect him to wing the ball at Justin Smoak's face by accident, but tonight he was just toying with the hitters he saw. Tonight Furbush looked every part the dominant multi-inning reliever. Then in the tenth, Smoak worked a walk off a good pitcher, Munenori Kawasaki seemed to distract the good pitcher from first, Dustin Ackley singled off the good pitcher, and Brendan Ryan dropped down an absolutely perfect sac bunt against a side-arming righty. That set up Casper Wells against the same side-arming righty, and Wells clubbed the second pitch back up the middle. The Mariners didn't even need Ichiro to double Wells home, but he did anyway, and then minutes later Tom Wilhelmsen struck out the side while throwing 98.
Furbush was perfect. Wilhelmsen was perfect. The top of the tenth was perfect. They say it's not how you start, but how you finish, and the Mariners finished with flawless baseball. That helps to cover up the flawed baseball.
I am typing this right now through actively descending eyelids and I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to make it. As such, I'm going to write quickly about a few notes without bothering with the bullet-hole format because I have to think about the bullet-hole format and right now that would be wasted thinking. If my brain were a laptop it'd be begging me to plug it into the wall. I'm not going to do that, brain, because you don't belong in a wall. I need to use wisely what thought I have left.
Erasmo Ramirez started, which might've slipped your mind, and he lasted just four innings. The encouraging part was that he generated five strikeouts without an unintentional walk. Of 39 Diamondbacks swings, nine of them missed. The discouraging part was the rest. Ramirez allowed seven hits, five runs, and two homers, and though he hit for himself in the top of the fifth, he didn't take the mound in the bottom.
As has been the case for much of the time that we've seen him, Ramirez showed control without tremendous command. The homer he allowed to Gerardo Parra to lead off the fourth came on a 1-and-2 fastball that missed high in the zone. Parra turned on it with lightning-quick reflexes, which you don't expect many batters to be able to do, but Parra made no mistake and hit the ball out by some distance. The homer Ramirez allowed to Aaron Hill later in the fourth came on a 2-and-0 fastball that missed high, on the border of the zone. Hill didn't hit it out by much, but Ramirez didn't throw the pitch where he was trying to, and Chase Field is not a ballpark where it's recommended to miss up.
Erasmo has started two times in the Majors now, and he's racked up eight strikeouts and one unintentional walk. Textbook Erasmo. He's also allowed 11 runs in nine innings, against a pair of NL West opponents. Textbook, I don't know, late-career Aaron Sele. It's still very early in Erasmo's career, and working in his favor is that he's hardly the only member of the rotation having a rough go of it. Danny Hultzen can replace one of Erasmo Ramirez and Hector Noesi, but he can't replace them both!
The fifth inning alone, top and bottom, lasted about 50 minutes. Say that aloud to somebody and they'll probably reply "15 minutes? Is that long for an inning?" And then you say "no, not 15," and you pay careful attention to their face as you repeat what you said. At the very beginning of the top of the fifth, I wanted to go for a jog, but I didn't, because I didn't want to miss so much of the remainder of the game. My heart was in the right place.
The top of the fifth featured a pair of three-run homers, the first from Seager. He hit it beyond the pool to the right side of center field, and the ROOT Sports replay gave me maybe my favorite screenshot of the season:
Hitter starting out of the box, watching a ball in flight. Pitcher with head down, shoulders slumped. Location chart showing the pitch literally in the very center of the strike zone, such that it couldn't possibly be any more centered. I wouldn't change a thing.
The second three-run homer came from Ryan, and he pretty much sprinted the entire way around the bases. At first, it was unclear if the ball would keep carrying, so it made sense to sprint, but then the ball did carry enough and he kept on running still. It was as if Brendan Ryan wanted to get off the basepaths as quickly as he could so Craig Breslow wouldn't have to dwell on having given up a home run to Brendan Ryan. What's the opposite of showboating? Is it possible to do the opposite of showboating to such a degree that you're showboating?
Shawn Kelley pitched to one batter in this game, and he threw just six of the game's countless pitches, but that one batter was Justin Upton with two outs and the bases loaded in a tie game in the bottom of the fifth. Kelley got ahead of Upton with a good slider, survived a mistake on another slider, and then threw three consecutive balls. In a full count, in that situation, Upton would've been expecting a pitch in the strike zone. Kelley and Jesus Montero played on that, and Kelley threw a low slider just below the bottom edge. Upton whiffed, probably thinking it was a low fastball, and Kelley recorded an enormous out. I don't know if he actually intended to throw that slider as low as he did, but it looked genius.
That's all I can do. I don't really like any of this writing, but it gets the ideas across, and I'm not about to revise it. Jason Vargas and Trevor Cahill go at it tomorrow in a 12:40pm matinee. I think Chase Field should turn off the air conditioning and leave the roof open, just to see. I mean it's not like there aren't available paramedics. Where's your sense of adventure?