Whenever you have a baseball game that goes through a bunch of wild swings, especially late wild swings, writers complain about how many angles and words they have to throw away as a consequence. They get going with something, and then the game changes, and then everything with which they've gotten going is no longer much of any good. It's occasionally frustrating and occasionally exhilarating and occasionally everything in between. I also had a bunch of different approaches in mind for this baseball game at different points during it, and obviously there's only one big story in the end: the White Sox beat the Mariners 9-8 in dramatic fashion. But where better writers than I would simply abandon the stuff they had in mind earlier, I'm a blogger on a Friday night and I just watched the Mariners lose that game to the White Sox, so before we get to the end of it, we're going to go through all of my potential approaches one by one. Here are the various sorts of recaps you might've read, and in fact are reading now, all at once.
The Mariners arrived in Chicago obviously flying high, having won a zillion games in a row, and on the very first pitch of the game today, Jake Peavy threw Dustin Ackley a high outside fastball and Ackley drilled it for a double. I got the idea in my head that the Mariners could stay above a 50 percent chance of winning from the very first pitch on. All it would require was a little more help, and on the very second pitch of the game, Jake Peavy threw Michael Saunders a low outside fastball and Saunders drilled it for a single to score Ackley. Two pitches, two hitters, and the Mariners were already in front, and I was thinking about the possibility of just holding on from there. Not shutting the White Sox out, because you can't shut the White Sox out in that ballpark, but never relinquishing the lead. Even though it doesn't matter how you win so long as you win, it would be neat if the Mariners got started on a winning effort immediately. My dream had a chance, and then it died. Dreams die. Dreams die all the time. They're like orchids. AIn't nobody ever kept alive an orchid for more than three weeks.
Approach number one was rendered invalid, and rather promptly by Adam Dunn. The next approach would've said something about the ballpark, and about Jason Vargas in the ballpark, and about Trayvon Robinson in the ballpark since he knocked a line-drive home run out to straightaway center. But it was Vargas who was getting knocked around, giving up three homers and nearly giving up more than that. It might be the least shocking thing in the world that Jason Vargas had trouble in a ballpark that small in temperatures that warm, but if nothing else this was a vivid reminder of how good Vargas has it most of the time. I don't understand why any pitcher ever leaves Seattle or San Diego on purpose. People are worried about what Vargas might cost in arbitration this winter. The Mariners might be able to re-sign him for ten dollars if he knows what's best for him.
When the Mariners were behind 4-2, things seemed somewhat manageable, but they seemed less manageable at 6-2 and even less than that at 7-2. The Mariners scored in the first and second innings and then they fell quiet. It was acceptable that they fell quiet against Peavy since Peavy is really good, probably better than you think, but in the middle and late-middle innings this felt like a nothing loss. At least, as consolation, it didn't feel like a devastating loss; to whatever degree that team confidence matters, the Mariners would probably be able to just shake this off as an off-night. They knew they wouldn't win out. We knew they wouldn't win out. A 7-2 loss could serve as a reality check without preventing the team from continuing to rise. Sometimes teams lose ballgames they're never really in. They get back at it the next day.
The Mariners started to rally out of nowhere in the ninth. They entered the ninth behind by five runs, and at this point I was going to write about the psychological lift of making some noise at the end. It wouldn't even matter if the Mariners came all the way back because that wasn't what was important. What was important was that, before the ninth, this felt like an automatic loss, and then the Mariners started to apply a little pressure. It would allow the Mariners to finish on a high note, and it would allow us to finish on a high note, and seldom does one get to finish on a high note in a loss. It still looked like the Mariners were going to lose, but a valiant top of the ninth would keep the confidence elevated.
And then John Jaso happened. At that point, the writing approach was obvious: this is the shit that makes people believe. Of course there's no predictive narrative, of course the Mariners aren't being guided along to a miracle, but this is the shit that makes people believe in teams of destiny. The Mariners were facing a demon team in a demon ballpark and they entered the last inning behind by five. They scored six, the final run scoring thanks to a throwing error from the outfield. The top of the ninth was made up of skill plays and luck plays alike, and that's how teams go on miraculous runs. They play well, and they get lucky. Once again, the Mariners played well and got lucky when it most mattered, and it felt like the sort of improbable win you'd remember for 20 years after the Mariners made a successful charge to the wild card. Turning an unwinnable game into a winnable game is what makes people think a team is unbeatable.
And finally, after John Jaso happened, the White Sox happened. To be completely honest, this didn't hurt as badly as I thought it would, in part because I haven't been paying real attention to the playoff race, in part because this was all too insanely bipolar for emotional depth, and in part because I and many others figured this might be coming. As unbeatable as the Mariners felt in the top of the ninth, they still had a bottom of the ninth, against the White Sox, in Chicago. There's not a team I dread facing more. That was the case even before the events of this evening, and now it might be some time before I'm able to think differently. The White Sox have a history when they play the Mariners. History repeats! Have you heard that before? If you haven't heard that before, at least now you've observed it.
I don't remember how many times the White Sox have broken the Mariners' hearts, and while Baseball-Reference makes that sort of research easy for anyone to conduct, I don't have the stomach to review it. Let's just all agree that it's true, and so let's just all agree that tonight fit the pattern. It even fit the pattern in that this was a new heartbreaking way for the Mariners to lose to the White Sox. The Mariners came back from down five to lead by one. They lost minutes later, and they lost after two Mariners outfielders collided and the baseball came out of one of their gloves. Truthfully, the run probably would've scored on that play regardless, since Dewayne Wise runs well and both outfielders fell to the ground. I don't think the Mariners lost because Eric Thames had the ball and then didn't. But it made for quite the representative image. Off the bat, it looked like Paul Konerko had won the game. Somewhat miraculously, Thames ran it down for what looked like the second out. Then the ball escaped and the White Sox celebrated with Paul Konerko having won the game. There are parallels between that one play and the whole entire contest, and I'll leave them unexplored.
To whatever extent this stung me, writing about it is my therapy, because I've already mostly calmed down. It's laughable the way things played out, and it's laughable that people might be so devastated after the Mariners were down 7-2 after eight innings. From that perspective, it doesn't make rational sense, but of course after the top of the ninth took place, it didn't matter what had taken place before that. Everything just builds and builds and builds and then in the end in turns out what was built was shitty and stupid. Kind of like the White Sox's ballpark! All right.
If you want something to be happy about, the Mariners slapped together that rally. Carter Capps worked through Kevin Youkilis, Adam Dunn, and Paul Konerko 1-2-3 with a pair of strikeouts. Dustin Ackley picked up three hits and has his August average at .271, which is something. Trayvon Robinson singled, doubled, and homered, and now with his defense you wonder if he might be closer to being a legitimate fourth outfielder than we assumed when he was promoted in the first place.
And there was Jesus Montero. This was a baseball game of a scout's evaluation of Jesus Montero: he struck out twice, he slugged a pair of extra-base hits, and he made a few mistakes behind the plate. Tonight, Montero didn't look like a great catcher, and he didn't look like a very disciplined hitter, but he drove a double on a first-pitch slider in the sixth and he homered on a high and tight fastball to begin the ninth. Montero's game was supposed to be all about power, and he finished the evening with more total bases than plate appearances. All he was missing was a line drive or deep fly ball the other way. Maybe tomorrow.
There's also the fact that the Mariners faced Phil Humber and didn't let him retire all of them this time. Humber came out of the bullpen for what was supposed to be an easy ninth. He allowed a home run, he got a fly out, he walked a guy, and then he was removed. Three batters, two baserunners, although it's weird to me that home runs count as baserunners. That's a lot better than 27 batters and zero baserunners. Safeco effect vs. U.S. Cellular Field effect at play? Sure, why not, that's probably it. Park effects are crazy. Especially with these two ballparks.
That was a very exciting and very exhausting and very shitty baseball game that the Mariners just played. They played it on the road against the first-place White Sox and lost by a run. I'm never going to be able to make things okay with words, but at least this wasn't really anything new. At least this wasn't really anything new. The first time a kid at school gets his lunch money stolen, he's hurt. The second time a kid at school gets his lunch money stolen, he's hurt. The fifth, sixth, seventh times, he doesn't hurt that much. He starts to see it coming. Maybe he comes to school prepared. It's on us to be prepared for this shit, because this shit probably isn't going to stop. God damned White Sox.