It’s terrifying how little baseball there is left. Only 45 games. That’s all. In a matter of seven weeks, we’ll know how this all ends—or doesn't. We’ll know the answer to a question we’ve been wondering about since last October, probably longer.
But for as anxious as it makes me feel to know the time of no baseball is ever more rapidly encroaching, today is as good a day as any to sit back and revel in what we have now. This is the baseball we’ve been waiting years for.
I’ve made an attempt, despite the Mariners’ growing proximity to the finish line, to not take too much stock in the wild card standings. With so many teams in the race, we’ve seen over the past few days how quickly you can go from stalking one team to have another shoot by on the outside. All the Mariners have to do is play well, I've tried to think, and the rest will take care of itself.
Today though, and for the next two days, playing well includes beating a team that's exactly tied with them in the standings. And not only that, but a team whose fans are obnoxious as hell. Normally, I can't stand these series. The Canucks venture down from Canada to boisterously cheer for their mediocre team to beat our less-than-mediocre team, and it's all usually more annoying than it's worth. This, of course, is much different.
The Blue Jays landed in Seattle last night after 11:30pm. That'd be 2:30am in the city from which they departed. And this was before they made their way through customs and back to the hotel. The last time they'd seen a bed was when they left yesterday morning for a day game, which would've been at about 6:30am here in Seattle.
So they wake up today, eyes bloodshot and bodies fatigued—especially those arms, oof, those arms—and will head off to Safeco right about now, shuttled to the ballpark like Christians to the Colosseum, where they'll face the best pitcher in the American League at the height of his powers.
At a time when there's little else left to decide the race to the playoffs than head-to-head match-ups and random variation, there's no way around it—this is big. And the environment will represent that.
This is going to be something else, what with all the Cascadia-based Canadians who'd rather cheer for a team on the other side of the continent than one mere hours from their homes. Or maybe there are a good chunk of Canadians from other parts of that fine country who'd rather travel here than Toronto to watch a game—for which I can't blame them.
While I wish we could do this without the throng from north of the border, maybe this is what we need, a catalytic series to set this fan base ablaze.
Jays fans are going to be fired up, and M's fans should match them at every juncture. And as a quick aside, I credit the Mariners organization, especially Kevin Martinez and his colleagues, with what they've done to make clear the opportunity—nay, the obligation—that lies before us. Up until last night, there were King's Court tickets for $12—a King's Court that will now now encompass eleven sold out sections. I snagged mine, and I'm doing everything I can today to make sure I finish work right at five, so I can walk over to Safeco with that back-row ticket in my pocket at the earliest possible opportunity.
To be perfectly honest, I'm failing to provide words for what this is like. I wish I had great stories harkening back to the glory days, but I've never done this—not like this. I was here in 2000 and 2001, but my 12-year-old self had just moved here from Wisconsin, believing that soldout crowds and playoff baseball were just what it was always like here. In the upswing years of 2007 and 2009, I was away at college. This isn't relevant to you, of course, but again—this is all new. And it's amazing.
As someone who loves baseball, and loves the Seattle Mariners even more—how the hell does it get any better? For a weeknight game in mid-August, there are going to be 40,000 on hand and this generation's Pedro is pitching for our team.
And really, there have been so many moments "isn't this great?" moments this season, while I'm either walking out of the office or taking the bus into the city for a big game, that they're all starting to run together. While I plan to enjoy this series with everything I have, the bigger picture is just that this is how it is now.
This is who the Mariners are, and this is where they will be. And if it didn't seem real before, after those series against Boston and Oakland and whoever else, it should now. It's no mystery why this team is where it is, and you should have confidence they can hang as well as anyone.
Look at this roster, look at what they've done lately. Are there blemishes still? Unquestionably. But this is as complete a team as Seattle has seen in years. They have the finest run prevention in baseball, and now have enough offense to do what's needed. Mike Zunino runs into one for a three-run shot? That's ballgame. An Austin Jackson liner finds some room to roll with a few men on? Well g'luck coming back. Some nights, it won't be there, but even then, finding more than a few runs against this staff is as rare as finding anything more than a slight grin on Lloyd McClendon's face.
For fans who have watched all along, I don't need to tell you to enjoy this. First, because you can't not. And second, you know this can be rare, as success in baseball is fleeting for almost any team.
But for everyone else, everyone who's catching this teal-tinted success out of their fandom's periph, jump in. Maybe you've been away for a few years, possibly longer—grabbing a bobblehead or two a season, but little else. Now, if you haven't already, it's time to invest—whether you love the Mariners, baseball, sports or just compelling stories.
This team may yet break your heart—it's probably going to break my heart—but hell if I won't enjoy this as much as anything I've ever watched in sports. This is our team, and for the next seven weeks, we get to scoreboard watch and count down the hours to gametime.
And while I want to say it all starts tonight, that this is the biggest game Safeco Field has seen in years, I've probably said that three times already this season. The ride is not just beginning, but it's getting to the best part.
Get ready, Seattle. This could be something else.