Mariners Read Rules, Discover Runs Allowed In Safeco

you allowed runs, in Safeco!

What this was was a Monday night game at Safeco Field between the Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles. The Baltimore Orioles are kind of like the new Baltimore Orioles, the relevant and at-least-for-now-competitive Baltimore Orioles, but they still feel like the Baltimore Orioles as an opponent, and the Seattle Mariners certainly feel like the Seattle Mariners. The Seattle Mariners have felt more like themselves lately than they had in a while before. It was like the Mariners didn't like themselves, so they went for a total makeover, and then they didn't like that so they decided to go back to themselves and this time do it to the extreme. The Mariners were going to be the Mariners and make no apologies for it. If you liked it, great, and if you didn't, fuck you, they're not changing who they are.

Basically, this was all set up to be another forgettable, low-scoring game in front of a library audience. The Mariners would probably scratch and claw for a run, the Orioles would score a few runs, and while the Orioles would never quite pull away, their lead wouldn't feel uncomfortable or tenuous, on account of the Mariners. That was the game I was expecting, and in the bottom of the third, Brendan Ryan singled home Chone Figgins, and in the top of the fourth, Chris Davis homered home Jim Thome, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis. Davis' bomb put Baltimore in front 3-1, and that, I figured, would be it.

Oh, somebody would come close to scoring again. Maybe somebody would score again. Maybe the Mariners would threaten in the sixth or seventh, and then the Orioles would add insurance in the seventh or eighth. But when Davis swung - and it was clear what had happened the instant he made contact - that was the game. The Mariners weren't going to come back, not without Michael Saunders, not without Franklin Gutierrez, not without Edgar Martinez, not in Safeco Field, not as the Mariners. Chris Davis hit a three-run home run in the top of the fourth inning that might as well have been a walk-off dinger.

That's not how it went, obviously. That was it for the Orioles, but that wasn't it for the Mariners. It almost was, and easily could've been. In the bottom of the seventh, Dustin Ackley broke for second as Chone Figgins struck out, and the throw down to second was in time, but mishandled by Robert Andino. That gave the Mariners new life, but it's not like they've been great about cashing in those opportunities. In the inning previous, Steve Pearce dropped a John Jaso fly ball with one out and a runner on, and the Mariners didn't score. Other teams can't just help the Mariners score. Other teams basically have to score for the Mariners, to do the homework and then write the Mariners' name on it. The Mariners have needed to be handed a fish because they have been incapable of learning and executing on their own.

That seventh-inning rally looked doomed. Even with the break, and even with Munenori Kawasaki's subsequent single, Brendan Ryan batted with men on the corners and one out and popped up in foul territory. He got ahead 3-and-1, the count went full, then he put a bad swing on a high and tight slider. Matt Wieters made a great catch near the dugout and Dave Sims said Ryan "couldn't believe" he'd popped out, as if Ryan weren't among the league leaders in pop-up rate, which he is. That was a critical out, and where the Mariners have made one critical out lately, they've followed with more.

And that's where the inning and the rest of the game turned. Ichiro walked. Jason Hammel wasn't getting that part of the zone outside off the plate that isn't actually part of the zone, and Ichiro walked to load the bases. Casper Wells came up as the first extra-base-hit threat in five plate appearances and got an 0-and-1 slider. It was a terrific 0-and-1 slider, more or less exactly where Hammel wanted it, with more or less exactly the movement Hammel wanted on it. Maybe Jason Hammel doesn't know that Casper Wells is a low-ball hitter, or maybe he does. Jason Hammel probably didn't expect Wells to hit that particular slider for a bases-clearing double to the right-center gap, but that's exactly what Wells did, and the Mariners pulled in front.

Realistically that hit probably would've been enough. The Mariners probably still would've won, and we all would've still gone to bed happy about it. But in the bottom of the eighth, Miguel Olivo yanked an 0-and-2 slider for a solo home run. Before the broadcast could stop talking about it, Dustin Ackley yanked a first-pitch fastball for a solo home run. A 4-3 lead was suddenly a 6-3 lead, and a team that couldn't drive in runs with extra-base hits at home had suddenly driven in five runs with extra-base hits at home in two innings. It felt like something had been lifted. The Mariners won, as they handed a lead over to Tom Wilhelmsen, and Tom Wilhelmsen takes care of those.

My immediate response was borderline glee. I was ecstatic to see some timely power when I didn't expect it, and I was cheering more than I probably should've been cheering for a 34-47 baseball team. God knows the Mariners haven't earned this loyalty. It just felt so good to see them score six legitimate runs at home. My secondary response was colored by embarrassment. After I thought about it, I realized how happy I was to see the Mariners score six runs in a home baseball game. The Rangers and Red Sox are averaging nearly six runs per home baseball game. Obviously we're talking about different environments but I figured six runs should not be the cause for celebration I was making it out to be.

But then I thought more, by which I mean I looked at the Mariners' game log. Here is the Mariners' recent run output at home, from newest to oldest:

1
3
0
1
1
3
0
2
7
2
2
0
4
2
3
1
2
3
4
0
5
1

That goes all the way back to May 22. Over that stretch, the Mariners scored six or more runs at home once, when they scored seven against the Giants on June 16. It's hard to score seven runs, in Safeco, against the Giants, and the Mariners did hit a pair of first-inning solo homers in that one, but I remember the rest of the runs as being pretty weak. The Mariners scored seven runs in Safeco, but they easily could've scored a lot less than that. Tonight they scored six, and they earned them, provided you overlook Andino's unfortunate or very fortunate bobble.

This is a game that just eases the mind. Rationally, nobody needed to prove it was possible for the Mariners to score runs at home, because of course everyone knew that. They've done it before, and this place has been open a long, long time. They all get their good hits in batting practice. But this does still kind of feel like a satisfying proof of concept. Even if the Mariners knew, deep down, that they could score in Safeco, that they could hit the ball hard and be rewarded in Safeco, now it's actually happened, very recently. Even if we knew, deep down, that the Mariners could score in Safeco, that they could hit the ball hard and be rewarded in Safeco, now it's actually happened, very recently. This is just one game, but a game that makes the situation feel less impossible, even if it was never truly impossible. On a certain level it only matters what is, but on a certain other level, it only matters what the mind thinks is. Minds need and crave reassurance.

If there's a downside to this win, it's that it came at the expense of the team in the AL we're probably all rooting for to make shit chaotic. The Orioles are currently holding on to a wild card slot, having come completely out of nowhere, and who among us is rooting against them? Who among us has decided on another AL bandwagon instead? The Orioles are in a position where they could be the team that keeps the Red Sox from making the playoffs, and that's just in the best interests of the world. That the Mariners just defeated the Orioles is bad news for the Orioles, and so, in a way, bad news for us.

But the team we care the most about is the Mariners, and the Mariners damn sure can't make everyone happy. I think every last one of us needed a win we could feel completely good about. The Mariners just split with the Red Sox, but in their wins, they hardly scored. They scored three when they beat Oakland before that. It'd been a while since the pitching, the defense, and the hitting were all good. Since we could feel like the Mariners are actually headed some place, even if deducing that from any single game is absolute foolishness.

This was going to be the typical Mariners home game until it suddenly changed course before it was too late. I'm thankful it did, and now I can't help but notice how slim the difference is between the typical Mariners home game and what we want the typical Mariners home game to be. One hit at the right time, basically. Without that hit, everything feels so hopeless. With that hit, you realize it's not that much to hope for.

Hisashi Iwakuma was okay and by no means bad. Steve Delabar, Shawn Kelley, and Tom Wilhelmsen struck out six of 13 guys without allowing a hit. One of those pitchers earned a win tonight instead of a loss because Casper Wells swung at a pitcher's pitch in a pitcher's count and killed it to the gap. Tomorrow Felix Hernandez pitches in front of a giant King's Court. Two good days of home baseball in a row? It's there, within reach. The Mariners' hitters could be made to look like crap tomorrow night, but thanks to this game I won't just assume it.

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