Mariners meet Tanaka, crawl back into bed

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees beat the Mariners on Wednesday, 4-2.

The worst thing that happened today was this:

Come to think of it, I'm 100% sure there were a whole bunch of things much worse than this that happened across the world today, so a more accurate statement would be that this is the worst thing that happened to the Mariners today.

I say this knowing full well that they just lost a baseball game to the New York Yankees of all teams, in a stadium filled with people cheering Derek Jeter while watching a starting pitcher many thought the Mariners could sign last winter throw a complete game against them, one in which said team got a total of six hits and struck out 11 times and had to go to the bullpen by the sixth inning, further compounding the problems surrounding a dicey starting rotation that could begin to fester with okay I'm going to finally end this sentence because you get my point.

The point is that Tanaka is really good, and while many in the media tried to warn fans that the 25-year old Japanese rookie wasn't the sure ace that Darvish was, they were wrong in that holy shit, Masahiro Tanaka is an ace. Today, Tanaka notched his 100th career MLB strikeout. He has played in thirteen games. Five people have done that since 1900. Holy shit, Masahiro Tanaka.

Now, sure. You could make the argument that hitters have yet to really adjust to Tanaka, and that this, compounded with spending his true "rookie years" over in Japan without MLB hitters being able to build a profile of him, helps him out. Well even if that's true, it's still fucking really hard to throw the one pitch that everyone knows you have at major league hitters and get them to swing and miss it almost 40% of the time. I'm talking about his splitter, but you know that, and so do the Mariners. Or at least they know that now that the game is over, but I'm not sure that's going to matter for the next time they face him anyway.

Tanaka didn't allow his first baserunner until the fourth inning, when he gave up a sharp dropping single to James Jones. He almost had Jones too, as he resorted to bunting on the first pitch in quiet desperation, almost running into the ball as he made his way down to first. Had Jones bumped the ball, it would have given the Mariners two outs in the fourth inning against Tanaka on only thirty pitches. Chris Young had 31 pitches in the first inning alone. I just...what?

Ah yes, Chris Young. Today wasn't the arrival of feared BABIP meltdown we all are waiting for, but it wasn't exactly pretty either. He needed a lot of pitches to get early outs, like usual, and I seem to recall him having trouble locating but classic gameday isn't loading and the new one apparently doesn't let you re-load PITCHf/x visualizations so, thanks a lot for that. But let's be honest, it's Chris Young and you know what it looks like. Still, despite early trouble Young did his best to minimize damage and strand runners when all seemed lost. The Yankees got their first run on the board in the third, and despite leaving men on third and first, Young escaped with his hat still on his head. Then, the fifth.

Young put Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury on base with singles sandwiching a Derek Jeter lineout (embrace the schadenfreude), and they were then plated with a dinger by Mark Teixeira. It was kind of exactly what you expected to happen with every fly out and warning track magnet thrown by Young all year, except it metastasized this time and put three runs on the board. Tom Wilhelmsen came in for the sixth and looked surprisingly fine, and the Mariners continued to spiral downward to the ninth.

The Mariners had their only real chance to jump on Tanaka in the fourth, during the aforementioned James Jones bunt fiasco. After Jones reached, he was thrown out at second on a Robinson Cano force, and then Cano was sent to second on a Kyle Seager single. Then...a strikeout to end the inning and threat from resident Not-Justin-Smoaker Logan Morrison. Despite a walk to Kyle Seager in the seventh and a double by Mike Zunino in the eighth, Tanaka made it through the rest of the game clean. Well, almost.

James Jones singled again in the bottom of the ninth, and up walked Robinson Cano. You know, two-homer, quarter-of-a-billion-dollar .093 ISO-haver Robinson Cano. The game was seemingly out of reach, and this man was standing at the plate wearing a Seattle Mariners uniform and staring into the eyes of New York's newest shining beacon of hope. Right then and there he probably thought about his old limo driver's name, and that kind of roasted asparagus he could get at Eleven Madison Park where Joey always remembered to bring him an extra glass for his wine. Maybe he thought about the particular smell of Yankee Stadium's laundry room or the color of the blue paint that lined the wall in the corridor between Joe Girardi's office and the weight room.

To be honest, I have no idea what Cano thought in this moment. I'm making all this shit up as I go along. But you know what? Whatever he did at that moment worked, because RobbIE Cano came back for a day and he deposited the first pitch he saw past the right field wall. Just like the old days, except these are not the old days and the Mariners are still three games above .500 and Robinson Cano is on their team and the Yankees cannot say either of those things. They are two games above, though, and today didn't help but oh shut up, Matt, and just show the video:

One mistake to one of the best hitters in baseball can't overshadow Tanaka's night. While the Mariners continue to have nights like this against seemingly everybody in baseball all the time, you can't really blame them for it tonight. We could talk about strategy, and whether being aggressive early helped or hindered their cause. But sometimes you just have to face someone who will be better than you despite everything you can possibly muster up against him, and there isn't really anything more you can say about it. So yes, in a way, the worst thing that happened today was getting news that Saunders is going to the DL. Losing a game against this pitcher isn't as much of a bad thing as it is just a thing, a thing that happens to somebody every five days or so.

Sometimes I peruse the blogs of other teams during Felix games. They usually consist of strange-looking comment sections without subject lines and the random bad egg, but for the most part it's a bunch of fans watching an incredible pitcher destroy their team, grudgingly accepting it. Today, I feel like I understand what that feels like a little better. Not completely, though, because Felix is still the best and he's ours and you can't have him.

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