Henry Blanco dropped the first pitch he caught. It was probably a strike, and it got called a ball. First impressions don't really matter, but they stick anyways. That is, until you break a game wide open a couple hours later. Blanco wasn't supposed to do this. Blanco is supposed to hang around for veteran savvy, give tips, tutor, mentor, look scary. Whatever experience he can share appears to be is great value to this organization, clearly. He certainly isn't supposed to give advice about how to hit a grand slam, let alone do it himself.
When you're stuck in the midst of another disappointing team and losing season, you live for moments like this. Moments that make you shout at the top of your lungs. Kyle Seager had a moment like this, but the M's still lost. Today, the game took a huge swing on one single pitch.
That's why this game is so weird, and why being a pure fan with a rooting interest is unavoidable to anybody, traditionalist and saber alike. Nothing's going to convince you that Henry Blanco will crank a inner fastball out of the yard in his first game. Henry Blanco. Numbers give credence to variation, but that variation is where the moments of joy and despair rest together. One swing isn't meant to make or break a game wide open, and it's all the ones before an after that truly define a result. But logic be damned when faced with two very different possible outcomes. Blanco could have easily hit into a double play, and the Mariners could have been locked in another scoreless extra innings game. Instead, he blew the door open and grabbed the glory, and his jubilation cracked even the coldest of hearts.
When the Mariners decide to win a few games in a row, hope starts to creep up again. They're not that far from .500, I tell myself. If they could just get to .500, anything could happen. On days like this, it feels like everything and everything is once again possible. It's a wonderful reminder to all of us that this game is so damn fun, no matter what the team's record is. Add to that, and we are watching the next next generation of young Mariners talent play at this very moment. There's a real good chance this season will provide some more fun moments like tonight.
- Felix Hernandez was brilliant tonight, and while he struggled with a high pitch count early, he settled down to throw 7 outstanding innings. He's been a little shaky over the past month, but tonight was vintage Felix, moving the ball over the plate, striking out hitters at will, dancing, shaking. You'd be hard pressed to find anybody more entertaining to watch than Felix when he's dialed in.
Michael Saunders is just plain busted. His first plate appearance, he swung at missed at all 3 pitches. This is some kind of slump, and it's going to force the Mariners to do something about it if it continues. Keep your eye on Ackley and see if the team starts playing him exclusively in CF down in Tacoma.
Henry Blanco's first professional baseball game was in 1990. Mike Zunino wasn't born. Henry Blanco's grand slam was his first since 2000. Mike Zunino was 9. Henry Blanco is old. Mike Zunino is young.
- I wasted a lot of words talking about Kelly Shoppach over Henry Blanco, but games like this quickly make you realize how little it can matter - over the course of the season, it may be a negative decision, but the impact is going to be low. Today, Henry Blanco used his dad strength to muscle one out in the most spectacular fashion and made me love the unpredictability of a game we love to predict. It's what makes it so infuriating and lovely all at once. It's weird that you're here, but thanks Henry.
2. I just started reading The Name of the Wind. What is your favorite fantasy novel series?
3. Did any of you make it out to the Washington Brewer's Festival today? Planning on going tomorrow? I went yesterday, and it was fantastic. Any stand out beers or breweries?