After today's game ended, ROOT Sports switched over to the regularly scheduled program that would have started on time had Jeremy Bonderman not made the 3rd and 4th innings last an hour. As Angie Mentink's forced smile cross-dissolved into a table of old men talking about Moneyball, I dove out of my chair to grab my remote, which was who knows where to be found because I just rearranged my apartment last night. When I finally tracked it down, I turned to the Orioles/Yankees game for some reason--because I'm a masochist or just an idiot, I'm honestly not sure which (or both). Since it was on ESPN, the intro of course had to be packaged around a pre-formed narrative, which in this case consisted of Chris Davis this and Chris Davis that and oh hey, have you heard of this Chris Davis guy? And boy, what does CHRIS DAVIS have in store for the faltering Yankees?
Today the Mariners played the Cubs and lost, partly because Jeremy Bonderman thought he was playing in a beer league game but also because they just happened to fall short after taking advantage of a miserable Cubs' bullpen following an unexpected comeback. It was one of fifteen Major-League games that happened today and while the Buster Olneys are in Baltimore watching meaningful baseball be played by All-Stars, the Mariners still have to play baseball, and hey! The Padres played the Marlins today, so, it could have been much, much worse. But the Mariners don't have a Chris Davis--at least not yet--so once again, baseball was played in Seattle and everyone outside of Seattle was like wait what? and the Mariners just kept playing anyway.
In movies, the good guys usually mount some sort of big comeback after the bad buy thinks he's finally won. At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Han is frozen in carbonite and Luke has no hand and nobody thinks they are going to do anything, and then BLAM. At the end of the Godfather, Michael Corleone is all standing in at his godson's baptism and saying all this stuff about abstaining from sin and evil and then BLAM! His guys are out lobbing heads off. Right now the Mariners are seen as a silly joke. When it was 7-1 in the 4th, you could have checked the score on your phone and thought "Oh, well, Mariners." But then Nick Franklin singled in Brad Miller after his first hit, and Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and Kyle Seager hit home runs and suddenly it was a one run game. It wouldn't be enough to win the game, but still: tell me you weren't surprised. Maybe it was a bullpen meltdown, but maybe it was also something else coming out from within the Mariners' dugout to inspire the guys, even though they all know they aren't on ESPN, and they don't have a Chris Davis waiting to send a media flurry into SoDo to talk about how hot these Mariners are.
And to be honest, this is a great place for the team to be right now, if any of what I just said is true. Yeah, we all have a plethora of complaints about the roster construction, but that's absolutely out of the hands of anyone on the field, and they've done a pretty damn good job making do with what they have. Raul Ibanez has had to start in LF way more than anyone ever imagined, or wanted, and now he has 19 dingers and is on pace to beat a record set by Ted Freaking Williams. In December of last year, Jason Bay was signed to a 1-year $500K contract to see if he would even make the roster, and now has 10 home runs and has gladly sat on the bench to only really get playing time when injuries roll in. Henry Blanco is, well, he looks like a nice guy, and to add all that up with Franklin and Miller and games like today, at least to me, seems like a great step in the right direction. If this was a Noesi start last season, I might have turned it off. But it wasn't.
We all know the Mariners are in the middle of their (second?) rebuilding process, but as I'm listening to this Orioles/Yankees game, I feel excited that things are happening for the M's the way they are right now. I want an underdog story, I want anonymity and personable heroes and I don't want to hear what Curt Schilling has to say about our bullpen. Remember when the Red Sox fell apart last year? Remember the Yankees a couple of weeks ago? When we are miserable, everyone kind of shakes their heads as if to say, well, heh..yeah. But when those teams get miserable, everyone shits their pants and wonders what happened, and then they blow the teams up and spend a ton of money to get better in a pinch. And when they get there it just seems stupid, because they didn't even really earn a win, what with three mediocre months. The Mariners are earning future winning right now, and I'll take 80 more games like this if it means we get more Brad Miller doubles and late game rallies. But enough of that. I think I honestly just had to write this to make myself feel better.
- Jeremy Bonderman was pulled in the 4th after throwing 62 pitches and giving up 6 hits, displaying an big turd of an xFIP at 7.10 after giving up somewhere around nine hundred fly balls. But his ERA on the season is still at 4.05, so I highly doubt he is going to be pulled before the All-Star break. Jack Z himself said that Erasmo is coming soon, so I'm gonna just keep reading that last sentence to myself.
- Brad Miller finally got his first career hit in the top of the 5th off an Edwin Jackson fastball out of the zone. He knocked a grounder that bounced across the left-field foul line and he immediately booked it all the way to second. It reminded me of Ichiro a little bit, and when he slid into second base, Darwin Barney gave him a little tap on the helmet to congratulate him. The first date is over, and now we get to see what Brad Miller is going to do. I have to admit that I'm going to miss the hell out of Brendan Ryan, but this guy has been fun to root for.
- Tom Wilhelmsen came out and pitched a hitless 9th inning, looking much more like his usual self. It took him nine pitches to get Starlin Castro to pop out to Jason Bay, but he was actually locating the zone and was in control for the entire inning. It was great to see, not just for the Mariners' hope in the ninth, but for the guy's confidence.
- Kyle Seager had a couple of defensive bobbles in the game, first missing a jump on a line drive he is usually capable of grabbing, and then pulling the Bill Buckner through-the-legs move a few batters later. Some people in the game thread started to worry this is indicative of something else wrong with the M's third baseman, who has looked a little lost at the plate as of late. I'm by no means qualified to diagnose slumps or anything, but I think Seager, and for that matter most of the team, has just been playing baseball every single day since March and could use a week off. Thankfully, that week is coming soon, and I know the Mariners, and a lot of us, could use it.
Tomorrow is a day off before the M's head out on a week-long road trip that will stop in Arlington and Cincinnati before the Red Sox and Angels come to town. Then: All-Star Break. Here's to hoping the ship doesn't completely catch fire next week.