Today wasn't the first time this has happened. No, sir. The Mariners did not just make history by becoming the first team ever in the Major Leagues to lose on a walk-off strikeout. The people over at The Immaculate Inning put together a little list a couple years ago, and they scared up five other victims. Five other teams who have lost in much the same way.
Still, an event mustn't be unprecedented to be rare, and anybody who was watching or otherwise following along in the ninth inning was immediately struck by how extraordinary the circumstances really were. The Mariners and Rangers were tied. The Rangers had two outs, with Nelson Cruz at the plate. Nelson Cruz whiffed for the third out. But the ball rolled away, temporarily re-setting the out count to two. And then Guillermo Quiroz threw wide of first, bringing in the winning run.
Two outs, tie
Three outs, tie
Two outs, loss
The walk-off strikeout and throwing error combination is not unheard of or impossible. It is a sequence that's assuredly played out dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of times at lower levels. It does not exist in the public conscience, however, as a real means of losing. It exists in the public conscience as an imagined means of losing. An imagined, embarrassing, deliberately far-fetched means of losing.
Man 1: I swear this team has lost in every way possible.
Man 2: They haven't lost on a walk-off strikeout and throwing error!
It isn't something that's actually supposed to happen. It's something that's forever supposed to remain unaccomplished, something to serve as a reminder that, no matter how bad things can get, they can always get worse.
And the Mariners just broke through that barrier.
They're not the first team to do it, and they won't be the last team to do it. It'll happen again, but the response will be similarly exasperated, as sufficient time will have passed since today that the novelty of it all will be restored. This is one of those things that'll always feel magic. There's no ruining this. There's no getting used to this. It is exactly what it is, and nothing more, and nothing less.
The Seattle Mariners are 61-97. They've lost a lot. They haven't lost in every way possible. Rather, one of our principal complaints is that they seem to lose the same game almost every single day. Today, though, they got something new and checked off one of the biggies. You don't need to cross off every square to be the grand champion of Loser Bingo.
- Though the throwing error went to Quiroz, rendering the decisive run unearned, the loss went to Dan Cortes, and it's hard to say he didn't deserve it. Cortes inherited a three-run lead in the eighth and promptly threw nine consecutive balls, walking two, allowing a single, and giving the lead away before escaping the inning. He then returned for the ninth and, while he got the first two guys out, he walked Mitch Moreland and struck out Cruz on a pitch that was essentially uncatchable. The curve dropped at least a good foot in front of home plate before bouncing off, away from everybody. Cortes' final line reads 42 pitches - 18 strikes - 24 balls - and he was exactly as wild as that seems, if not moreso.
I'll say that, as wild as Cortes was in the eighth, I liked the call to bring him back out for the next inning. When a young player struggles in the bigs, you don't yank him immediately and ask him to think about what he did. You give him an opportunity to adjust and get past it. By having Cortes return for another frame, Daren Brown gave him a chance to end on a high note.
Unfortunately, he ended on a note about as low as low gets. They say the thing about Dan Cortes is that he'll have his really good games, and he'll have his todays. Inconsistency is just part of the package, at least for now. As is the case with any inexperienced young talent, the development process isn't about showing ability. It's about showing ability more and more often. With luck, it's all up from here.
- During the bottom of the eighth, we witnessed a mound visit between reliever Dan Cortes, starting catcher Guillermo Quiroz, and pitching coach Carl Willis. I'm not much for burning people, but anyone who correctly predicted we'd see that happen back in February probably ought to die on a stake.
- Jamey Wright's wild pitch was his third as a Mariner, and the 71st of his career. That moves him from a tie for 249th all-time up to a tie for 242nd all-time. Goodbye, Pat Rapp. Hello, Daniel Cabrera. The top 100 looms just 30 terrible pitches away.
- With two down in the bottom of the sixth, Bengie Molina occupied first base when Matt Treanor hit a routine grounder to second. As Chone Figgins scooped it up and ran to the bag for the third out, Molina stopped about halfway up the line, turned, and walked to the dugout.
Chone Figgins laughed. The announcers laughed and made remarks about how Molina "isn't a burner". It's true - Molina is widely regarded as perhaps the slowest runner in baseball. And as perhaps the slowest runner in baseball, it seems he's been given carte blanche to run or not run as he pleases.
Imagine if that were a decent runner, though. Better, imagine if that were Alex Rodriguez. Under no circumstances would any baserunner have had a shot of making it to second, but imagine if Alex Rodriguez stopped and gave up before Figgins touched the bag. That wouldn't have been so funny. That would've been unprofessional. That would've been lazy.
Bengie Molina is so slow - so famously slow - that he can do something lazy, and no one will care. More than that. They'll laugh. They'll think it's funny. Oh, Bengie's just so damn slow! they'll say, with smiles on their faces. He's so slow it wasn't even worth trying!
The laziest players in baseball are the big fat guys, and nobody minds. That's quite the racket they're running.
Mark Lowe returns from the 60-day DL to make his first-ever appearance against his former team
Lowe: All right, let's do this. Let's see it you guys
Woodward: :steps in:
Woodward: :takes practice swing:
Lowe: :throws pitches:
Woodward: :strikes out:
Ichiro: :steps in:
Lowe: All right, let's do this. Let's see it you guys
Greg Halman got his first-ever big league hit the other day, and while there was some celebration, there wasn't a whole lot. A big part of that is that his first-ever big league hit was an inevitability. We knew it would come at some point. It was just a matter of when.
Today, Greg Halman drew his first-ever big league walk. This one, I feel, should be met with greater celebration, because his first-ever big league walk was not an inevitability. We did not know it would come at some point. It was always a matter of if.
Note that Halman's first career unintentional walk came in his 16th plate appearance. Wily Mo Pena's came in his 49th. Raul Ibanez's came in his 67th. Jeff Francoeur's came in his 139th.