It seems like just yesterday the Mariners were at .500. It actually was, though. Now that all-too familiar dance begins, where the Mariners seem to move around a game out of an arbitrary goal, back and forth, and back and forth, until the season crumbles into dust in September and the next set of kids are pulled up to hopefully minimize the damage for the following season. I distinctly remember a point last year when the Mariners spent what seemed like an entire month around ten games under .500. Win--ten games back. Lose--eleven games back. Win--ten games back. It didn't matter, though, that ten games back from half and half was a pretty miserable place to be in. It just felt nice that there was some abstract goal in mind. So now, as the Mariners seem to be starting up that dizzy dance of over and under, it's sure nice that they are doing it around .500 this time.
So yeah, the Mariners lost today. It wasn't a trainwreck, but it's another 'L' in the losing column, and that's ultimately all that matters. The game actually didn't even really get away from them until the eighth, when Tom Wilhelmsen gave up an easy home run to C.J. Cron to open the inning--which is saying something.
The first inning passed with nothing doing, as both Roenis Elias and Jered Weaver were perfect until the second. But as the second inning started, Elias decided he was going to leave everything hanging in the zone, and gave up all the doubles. All of them. Seriously, it was kind of impressive, despite being the thing that ended up killing the game for the M's, digging a hole too deep to dig themselves out of.
It was three doubles in a row--David Freese, C.J. Cron, and Erick Aybar. Then, after a Grant Green lineout (that could have been a double), it was a double from Chris Iannetta. The Angels left the inning with three runs on the board, and it would be the difference maker for the entire night.
In the bottom of the second, though, the Mariners decided to get one of their own behind an 0-11 streak breaker from Nick Franklin, plating Dustin Ackley, who doubled in the previous at bat. Mike Zunino popped out to end the inning, and the M's headed to the third, where Nick Franklin made a really great diving stop to get the force out at second, escaping the third. Look, here's where the ball was hit:
And where he dove to grab it:
Now that I'm looking at this, it doesn't seem nearly as impressive as it does in the video. The ball wasn't moving all that fast, but we've always been told to just stomach Nick Franklin's defense in place of his bat, so seeing him pull off something at least a little impressive is kind of nice. And lost in all this is that Nick Franklin had a pretty damn good day, going 2-4 with a few great defensive plays. He's certainly playing with the drive like he's fighting for a roster spot, whether he is or not.
The Angels got another one across the plate in the fourth, after Elias loaded the bases following a single to Grant Green, hit Chris Iannetta by a pitch, and then sent Collin Cowgill to first with a bunt. Howie Kendrick grounded into a double play, and Mike Trout flew out to end the inning, and then Justin Smoak was up.
Smoak rocketed a line drive into centerfield to lead off the Mariners' half of the fourth, and it wasn't a massive hit or anything, but it sure felt nice because yikes Justin Smoak. If the Mariners were going to strike against Weaver, it was in this inning, following Smoak's homer. And they certainly tried--Kyle Seager singled but was thrown out on an Ackley grounder, and Nick Franklin promptly hit his second of the day a moment later. Mike Zunino popped up the first pitch he saw for the second out of the inning, but then Weaver seemed out of gas--check out this at-bat to Brad Miller a moment later:
For a moment, it looked like Weaver was out of gas. And then mere seconds later, he threw a wild pitch, sending in Dustin Ackley from third for the M's second run of the inning. But Jones popped up to end the inning, and the threat died just like that.
Elias was pulled in the seventh after giving up another double to Collin Cowgill and escaping Howie Kendrick, and Lloyd went to Dominic Leone to get out of the seventh. Mike Trout promptly scored Cowgill from third, but the Mariners were out of the inning with only a two-run deficit. The game was still winnable. Then...bad Tom.
Tom Wilhelmsen came in during the eighth and promptly gave up a home run to C.J. Cron, and it was now 6-3 Angels. In this one hit, the Mariners dropped from a 20% win expectancy all the way down to 6.3%. The Mariners made it to the ninth without another run, and that's when they decided to make things interesting.
Ernesto Frieri came into the game to close it out for the Angels, and despite getting two quick outs from Brad Miller and James Jones, the Mariners started a rally thanks to a keen eye from Michael Saunders, who walked despite falling behind 1-2. Robinson Cano singled in Saunders from first a minute later, and up walked Justin Smoak--assuredly feeling the confidence from his earlier home run. It was bizarro Mariners world for a minute, and Robinson Cano quietly shuffled his way to third on defensive indifference (I will seriously never understand this) and Justin Smoak was on base with a four-pitch walk. Then, Kyle Seager. 2012's mr. two-out RBI man himself. All 13,000 fans were on their feet, roaring for an M's comeback to materialize in front of their eyes and send the team back over .500 with a walk-off win. Seager stepped up to the plate, tapped his bat against his feet, wiggled his knees a few times and then made eye contact with Frieri, ready to battle. And then it started.
1. Fouled off 95MPH fastball.
2. Fouled off 95MPH fastball.
3. Fly-out on a 95MPH fastball.
I can't believe Frieri escaped with this zone, but he did. That first pitch was the one, too--and once Seager mistimed it, it was over. The M's fell back one game under .500, and while it is certainly annoying, it's not terrible. Here's the thing: The Mariners are one game under .500 and it's almost June. They did all this with an abysmal offense, still needing another right-handed bat, and missing a few good pitchers (not to mention one they are going to have to go even longer without). I don't know how they did it, but they did it. Now we get to see this all tested against the Tigers and a few pedestrian pitchers this weekend. If they can escape this alive, it will be a good couple of weeks. If not? Well, I'm excited to sell my extra Robinson Cano bobblehead on eBay later this summer, and that's what I'll be looking forward to.