A couple of weeks ago we were all sitting right here on this very website, looking at the 2014 Seattle Mariners team and shaking our heads in surprised wonder.
How was Lloyd winning baseball games against good teams with Stefen Romero at DH? How were Cole Gillespie and Endy Chavez and John Buck stringing together back-to-back hits to put the M's in front of teams who still had the taste of the playoffs in their mouths? How was this team multiple games above .500 with only two, maybe three starting pitchers written on the season roster in ink rather than with pencil?
Some of the more reasonable heads all shook in unison around this time, stating things about luck, regression, something called a "mean" which is what I thought people were when they said the Mariners are bad, not some mathematical term that could explain what was going to happen after a series of unpredictable Mariner wins all throughout May. Well, you know, I'm still not willing to give in to outright doubt and despair or anything, but hi, regression. Hello. And also hello to the mean, which is appearing to take shape right in front of our eyes.
And the best part is that today's game was kind of a perfect microcosm of this whole thing taking shape right in front of our eyes. A starting pitcher we all doubted completely with a track record doused in gasoline near an open flame going five innings with only three hits. A stagnant offense coming back from a deficit to tie the ballgame with unlikely contributions from names not on All-Star ballots. That same starting pitcher getting pulled after five because he had 89 pitches and had walked four, coming within a strike of danger multiple times in the game. That same stagnant offense going stagnant for the rest of the game, and then falling short when something could actually happen against a pitcher capable of literally walking the ball to home plate, placing it on a tee, and then folding his arms in quiet expectation. You know, the 2014 Seattle Mariners. The more weird, the better.
Erasmo ran into trouble early and quick before actually settling into a nice groove. After walking two in the first, and getting a timely second replay out on a stolen base that Lloyd challenged in the opening minutes of the game, the Mariners continued right where they left off last night with two no-hit innings against a mediocre pitcher in Joe Saunders, but you know, Safeco Joe and all. Erasmo gave up a double in the second to Robinson Chirinos, but had a clean third and relatively harmless fourth. Well, it would have been harmless for another pitcher, but with Erasmo Ramirez on the mound with two on and two out, you never know what to expect. This time, it was a third out.
The Mariners actually struck first after John Buck whipped a single into centerfield after appearing to be totally baffled by two Joe Saunders 90mph heaters. He got to third after Kyle Seager singled a minute later, and the Stefen Romero walloped a fly ball to score Buck for the first out of the inning. The Mariners would only get the one run, but Lloyd knew that he had some decisions to make at that instant, and was probably grateful just for the one run. Erasmo's pitch count was climbing, and they repeatedly stated that they wanted him to go out on a 'good note,' presumably for his mental state going forward. Enter Danny Farquhar.
Farquhar's sixth looked like this:
- Single to Shin-Soo Choo
- Double to Beltre, scoring Choo.
- Two strikeouts to Rios and Brad Snyder.
- Two-run homer to Robinson Chirinos. 3-1, Rangers.
- Strikeout to end the ininng.
We all know what this usually looks like, and I wouldn't have necessarily blamed anyone for leaving right then and there, except you probably paid for those tickets, and they are expensive! What are you doing? There's another inning of beer service, and you haven't even seen the hydro race yet and oh no, Lincoln's Safeco justification from last offseason really works. It really does work.
Still, the Mariners managed to put a little thing together in the sixth to tie the game after Robinson Cano and Jesus Montero singles (Yes...I needed to take a breather after typing that sentence, too). Ackley replaced Montero on the bases (because well...), Morrison struck out, and then John Buck whipped a single into cineter to score Cano. The Rangers challenged the play, but it was upheld: 3-2 Rangers. Then in the seventh, a similar story following WFB and James Jones singles, a force attempt off Cole Gillespie's bat and the bases loaded and a Robinson Cano..............
....wait for it
Alright, that's a little unfair. The power jokes are getting old. Actually, the Mariners should really be grateful for anything here, as Rios dove to make the catch, and it looked like a routine out, but he somehow missed the catch. I'm still not sure what happened, but look at all slowed down right here:
I suppose it bounced before hitting his glove, and if so, then send that umpire a gift basket filled with whatever nice things people give as presents from Seattle these days. Still, the game was tied. Well, it was tied for a minute anyway. Rodney came in in the ninth and after getting two outs and a single, gave up the winning run on a Leonys Martin single that skipped past Kyle Seager's glove by, oh, a third of an inch. 4-3 Rangers.
In the bottom of the ninth, Willie struck out to send up James Jones to the plate. Whatever that same magic that knocked Martin's ball away from Seager's glove is showed its face at just that moment, as Jones whapped a rocket of a comebacker that would have possibly been extra bases, except it went straight into the glove of Joakim Soria on the mound, and the Mariners were one Endy Chavez pinch hit popout away from their fifth straight loss. And yeah, that happened.
Look, I don't know anything about math. Really, I don't. I took the GRE a few months ago because I'm going to grad school next fall, and I somehow got in despite scoring in the 20th percentile for arithmetic. Part of me wants to use that as an excuse for still believing that the Mariners have something special in store for the second half of the season, but there is a little part of me that absolutely recognizes that this five game losing streak is just the other half of whatever the hell happened in May to make this team look like a fringe contender. You know what, though? Nobody can take those games away from us. And if they somehow end up mattering in September--somehow--the Mariners still won them fair and square.
Tomorrow Iwakuma takes the mound, and then it's the dreaded Padres. I would say these are important games, but the fact of the matter is that they all are.