At some point later in the game, I happened across the following tweet from Joe Posnanski:
You get the feeling the Mariners will remember Loss No. 17 as the "time we got that hit off C.C. Sabathia."
I can't speak for the Mariners themselves. I suspect - I'm not certain, but I suspect - that they'll remember loss #17 as a tough loss like so many of the others, where they ran into a good pitcher, and where they couldn't come up with the big hit when they had an opportunity.
But me, as a fan? Yeah, I'm definitely remembering loss #17 as the time the Mariners got a hit off CC Sabathia. And while Posnanski's tweet was written as humor, there's a certain truth to it. I'm going to remember this loss for the one hit, because that one hit was cause for such celebration.
I'd already all but conceded this game before it began. Even independent of the 16-game losing streak, this was Doug Fister and the Mariners in the Bronx to face CC Sabathia and the Yankees. No matchup is impossible to win, but some are really close, and this one was really close. After the Mariners lost last night, I looked right ahead to Wednesday, and when the Yankees took the lead tonight, that was all the further convincing I needed. At no point did I think the Mariners would win today; when they fell behind, I was certain they would not.
So for me, the story shifted. For me, the seventeenth loss was already as good as in the books by the fifth inning, at which point Sabathia was working on something special. He struck out one in the first. He struck out two in the second. He struck out one in the third. He struck out the side in the fourth, then he struck out the side in the fifth, and with 15 up and 15 down, everybody was sensing it. People were sensing it much earlier than that, too, but after the fifth, it looked like this was it. It looked like the Mariners were going to suffer the ignominy of getting no-hit or perfect-gamed, like they probably already should've some time this season or last.
The sixth only made it feel that much more inevitable. Sabathia came right back out to whiff Mike Carp on three pitches, and after a half-hour rain delay that I was hoping would last at least twice as long, Sabathia induced a pop-up and a grounder. It was 18, then, with Sabathia's repertoire and pitch count in splendid shape. Nevermind the actual math; at that point, as Sabathia walked off the mound following Chone Figgins' grounder to short, it seemed like his odds of completing the feat were stronger than his odds of missing out.
It was, understandably, the last thing I wanted to watch. Forget about the additional workload I would've faced. I wasn't thinking about the workload. I was thinking about the Mariners, and the Yankees, in Yankee Stadium, in front of all those Yankees fans. A Sabathia no-hitter or perfect game at home would've been such an unforgettable moment, especially given that the fans who remained would've seen it after sitting through a rain delay. And while I'm normally all about baseball fans getting to witness history, I'm not so much supportive of them witnessing history against the Mariners. And definitely not when they're Yankees fans. My opinion of Yankees fans is not an original one or a rational one, but it is what it is, and I did not want those people to see what they wanted to see. I wanted the M's to find some way to make every last one of them disappointed.
Obviously, they couldn't do that by winning. A win wasn't going to happen. But they could do that by getting a hit. By snapping Sabathia's bid. A late hit, just one late hit, and the Yankees fans would go home having had a bittersweet experience. It felt like I was asking for so little, and for so very much.
Ichiro struck out in the seventh, and he looked stupid doing it. That much closer. Then Brendan Ryan. A ball. Then another ball. Then a line drive to left field. The one guy who's lately done everything did everything I wanted him to do, and I celebrated that single like it won me a car.
That single felt like a win. Of course that sounds stupid. Of course that sounds humiliating. But the loss was already all but official, and for me it was the first triumphant moment in weeks. It felt better than Miguel Olivo's game-tying grand slam. The only victory was that the Mariners avoided being no-hit, which generally isn't so much an achievement as an expectation, but it was an achievement tonight. Lately the Mariners haven't achieved a lot of positive things.
I'm a fan of a Major League Baseball team, and I'm sitting here, writing about how awesome it was when my favorite team got a hit that was its only hit. That's nuts. By all rights, that should be made fun of, and I'm sure it will be, by outsiders. But I'm also a fan of a Major League Baseball team that's lost 17 games in a row, and it's amazing what that kind of skid does to your perspective. You watch for anything entertaining, anything you can enjoy, and what I enjoyed tonight was a seventh-inning single by Brendan Ryan. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
This one didn't even hurt. In truth the losses have long since stopped hurting, but between the predictable outcome and the Ryan base hit, for me this was an altogether neutral evening, if not slightly positive. I don't know if that makes me a bad fan, but given that I watched the Mariners lose their 17th consecutive game and came away feeling all right, that makes me feel like an intelligent fan.
Doug Fister was good and built value, getting hurt only by a weak home run and some hits that found holes. And the Mariners actually had some kind of rally going when Sabathia walked the bases loaded in the top of the eighth, but if you thought they'd do anything against David Robertson, you're crazy. For one thing, Mariners, and for another thing, Robertson is awesome. He did show some cracks when he walked Adam Kennedy to force in a run, but Kennedy swung at ball four instead like any good professional would, and then right after that it was up to Chone Figgins and Ichiro. It's a small miracle the M's scored at all, and they wouldn't have done it if it weren't for Eric Chavez flubbing a should-be DP.
Tomorrow morning's the big hope. It's Felix Hernandez against a much worse pitcher. But it's also the Mariners' lineup against the Yankees' lineup, and I can't be the only person who's trying to imagine how Safeco might respond to a team coming home with 18 consecutive losses. I don't want to find out, and I so do.