The Mariners marketing department is really something. I don't mean this in the pejorative--a lot of teams have really heinous promotional nights, from the sexist and demeaning Houston Astros Ladies Night to the innocuous yet incredibly annoying Oakland Athletics little league day whistle bracelets that turned O.co into a vuvuzela-ed World Cup stadium this past April.
No, instead, the wonderful people in Seattle turn accidents like John Jaso beard night without John Jaso into hits, and each throwback night is treated like the wonderful distraction that they have always been designed to be. I still have my commemorative replica Seattle Turks hat from last year's throwback night, albeit quite unworn as white hats are pretty much impossible to match with anything, and still look forward to each year's throwback theme. This time, it was 1979, and the Mariners had the whole evening in full regalia and spirit--disco walkup music, afros and aviators, the works. It was an incredible marketing success, and I must tip my hat to Kevin Martinez and everyone at work on that team. They do incredible work, and today was no exception.
Wait, you may be saying. Dammit, Matt! You're doing another one of your rambling garbage tangents! No, I realize I'm supposed to talk about today's baseball game. So let's go. No procrastinating, despite the crazy late posting time of this recap (It's saturday, give me a break). May 24th, 2014. 1979 throwback night. Mariners v Astros. Here we go:
May 24th, 2014: Houston Astros vs Seattle Mariners, Safeco Field. 9-4 Astros. Mariners record 24-24.
May 24th, 1979: Kansas City Royals vs Seattle Mariners, Royals Stadium. 5-4 Royals. Mariners record 15-29.
Ahhhh yes this whole fun game. We could take this a bunch of different ways--contextualizing the Mariners' now latest appearance at .500 within history as a success, wowing ourselves at the M's ability to survive despite injuries to what should be the best starting rotation in the American League, Robinson Cano's two home runs, blah blah blah. Instead, I just want to talk about today for once. The Mariners played like it was 1979. It was bad.
Brandon Maurer was his usual predictably unpredictable self today. He started the game by giving up a five-pitch walk to Jose Altuve, then letting Houston golden boy George Springer deposit a 93mph fastball over the outfield fence to give the Astros a 2-0 lead. Then, three quick outs.
The Mariners responded in full force in the bottom of the first, as Stefen Romero was quickly sent to second on a Robinson Cano single following his walk a moment later. Justin Smoak singled to load the bases, and Kyle Seager was up to bat, swimming in his oversized replica 70's throwback jersey that was designed to be worn snugly to showcase thighs that now sat like an inflated pillowcase on the bodies of 21st century athletes. Seager bopped a dribbler between first and second, and Astros' first baseman Marc Krauss suddenly remembered the all important legacy of Damn It, Astros, ripping the put-out throw to second into centerfield to let Romero and Cano score in the interim. The Bee Gees played. Star Wars was new, Terrence Malick was still some unknown auteur filmmaker, and cocaine was a fun and exciting thing not known for rotting teeth and turning people into zombies. Ah, the seventies.
With the game tied, both Astros' starter Brett Oberholtzer and M's...um...interim guy Brandon Maurer settled into opposing grooves quickly. Maurer was particularly impressive, handling 96 MPH heat to get a whole bunch of swinging strikes and taking the game into the fifth still tied. But remember--Brandon Maurer is one of the bad guys from the 1978 Superman movie imprisoned in that bizarre space glass jail thing, ready to punish us for ever believing in hope and progress in the first place. He has been programmed by the Kryptonian super council to shut down either by pitch 67 or the beginning of the fifth inning. Every time. It's science, so don't even try and argue.
Today, it was the fifth inning one. Here's the series of events, and this time I'm not going to do my usual early strike zone screengrab where he's hitting his spots juxtaposed with his post-meltdown strike zone with four balls nine feet out of the strike zone, because I want James Paxton back.
1. Double to Chris Carter (after getting into an 0-2 count).
2. Single to Alex Presley.
3. RBI forceout from Villar, reaching first and nabbing Presley at second.
4. Altuve RBI single on the first pitch.
5. George Springer's second dinger of the game.
The Astros continued the melee in the sixth inning, as Tom Wilhelmsen gave upa wild pitch to score Alex Presley (after a walk) and another RBI from George Springer, who is slowly showing what everyone was hoping he was going to be in the minors. Ugh.
The Mariners got back on the board in the sixth following a bit of slow run production after Cano, Seager, and Buck all singled their way on base. Saunders grounded out to score one, but Dustin Ackley grounded out to end the threat and the inning. The eighth saw the last legitimate threat--and it was only legitimate because the M's were playing the Astros--after Kyle Seager tripled and scored on a John Buck groundout. and then the game was pretty much over.
The incredibly struggling Brett Oberholzer last faced the Mariners in September of 2013 and pitched a complete game shutout. He has had a terrible 2014 since. Today, he found his old stuff and lasted six innings with eight strikeouts, and while you can't take that statistic away from him, you kind of have to. You have to take it from him and give it to the Mariners like it's a piece of moldy salmon from their favorite restaurant and be like you fucking idiots stop this why would you do this nobody wants to buy this it tastes AWFUL. Robinson Cano would be sitting in the corner shaking his head the whole time, but you know, whatever. I'd do silly things for $240 million dollars too.
Look, on May 24th, 1979, the Mariners lost to the Royals and were an incredibly awful baseball team. They have come a long way since then, seeing a number of no hitters, one perfect game, a few short playoff appearances, and three no-doubter All-Stars start the better part of their careers wearing M's blue. Four if you count ending careers. But to be honest, the biggest change has been that they blew up the old stadium with dynamite, and then they kept losing. There is a lot of baseball left to be played, so I don't want to be crazy pessimistic here or anything.
And I also get the idea that the Mariners don't have the history of some of the other teams when it comes to throwback night. You really have to give it to the people working their tails off to compete with Negro League throwback days and 100-year anniversaries of Fenways for a team that is younger than the guy that DH'ed for them last year. But it sure would be nice to start writing some history soon that throwback uniforms could honor when we are all older and wiser.
So the M's fall back to .500, and that in and of itself is still an accomplishment. They've got a ways to go, though, and hopefully the rest of the series looks nothing like the 67-95 record that finished that 1979 season. Also, it would be hard to wear 1995 throwback uniforms since they look pretty much the same. I guess they just have to do it themselves, or something.