It's really strange, because usually something really specific and bizarre happens in the middle of the Mariners' games I have to write about, making this whole thing really easy in the process. Last time it was a Logan Morrison dinger with a Cano celebration that felt like real Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, then that one time it was the Kyle Seager walkoff dinger against Houston that ended the eight-game losing streak and simultaneously kicked off whatever it is this season has been so far.
In a way, though, you would think that Mike Zunino's fifth-inning home run that won the game for the M's tonight would be an event like the ones I mentioned earlier. It certainly felt like it, for at least a second, because the Mariners were down 1-0 and weren't hitting anything all game, and boy, you've seen that Happ-torNoesi-en before, and it wouldn't be wrong to worry that this game was over at that point. But of course, Zunino was in a 2-0 count with two on and then he did this:
It was great, too, but you honestly kind of knew it was going to happen before it left the park, and don't tell me you didn't feel that same emotion at that moment. Mike Zunino does two things--strike out and hit dingers--and against one of the worst pitching staffs in all of baseball it was only a matter of time until the second part of that sentence came to fruition. And truthfully, if you were watching this game, I would bet money you knew it was coming as well. In this way, Zunino's dinger wasn't exactly the thing you can talk about because it was just a thing, a thing that happened. A thing that is going to keep happening. This is good, but of course, it had to happen at a specific moment.
Before this, the game was blanks until the top of the fourth, when Dayan Viciedo took an Hisashi Iwakuma pitch that was maybe .05 centimeters off the right corner of the plate and put it over the Boeing sign in right-center field. It was 1-0 White Sox, and Dayan Viciedo proved he was strong, but the thing is that Mike Zunino is maybe stronger, and while I've written a lot about Mike Zunino already, heh, I can keep writing more. Because look at that. That dinger came off the bat of a catcher that has basically been Yadier Molina with more strikeouts and home runs, and he's ours, and he'll be ours for a long time, for the cost of an '07 Northwest Green Prius with 87,000 miles and a few dirt stains in the backseat.
Zunino's dinger scored Chris Denorfia, who walked on four pitches, as well as Logan Morrison. Morrison reached first because Conor Gillaspie ran back to get a popup just out of the infield and ended up dropping it because the White Sox are haunted by some kind of ghost that makes them play defense like third graders hopped up on smarties and caffeine-free coke. It would be all the Mariners ended up needing, but even that wouldn't stop them from scoring another run only a few moments after that Zunino bomb.
That fourth run came later in the fourth, and if you remember a bunch of people were yelling about how the Mariners were overperforming on Twitter, and that may be true but also, a win is a win! Pythag be damned, or something.
Here's what happened after the Zunino home run, which remember, the Mariners are supposed to be terrible:
- Chris Taylor whipped a single into left field.
- Austin Jackson singled into center to send Taylor to second.
- Ackley bunted despite being the best hitter in July, but it moved the runners up and was only the first out of the inning.
- Robinson Cano was intentionally walked.
- Hector Noesi spit a few sunflower seeds out of his mouth in the dugout, making eye contact with Robin Ventura like a drive through fast-food worker learning he had to singlehandedly take the Saturday afternoon shift on 14th and Taylor.
- Kendrys Morales whapped a sacrifice fly into right field, scoring Chris Taylor. Taylor ran as fast as he could even though he was safe by a good foot. Seager stood behind the plate, guiding Taylor to touch the outer corner of the plate in order to be safe. It was 4-1 Mariners, and if you count yesterday, 17-2 Mariners.
- Hector Noesi emptied his packet of sunflower seeds on the dugout floor, took his hat and jacket off, and started texting his mother, lost and alone. It would only be a matter of hours until he took the mound against his former team, but it was only a matter of hours since he was reminded that the universe wasn't indifferent--but instead, ironic, bitter, malevolent. He will pitch tomorrow and I hope this doesn't come back to bite me, but it probably will.
Hisashi Iwakuma, meanwhile, was throwing a usual gem, walking none and striking out three over seven innings. His homer to Viciedo was just a thing that happened when you face someone that strong, and while he left in the third, the best bullpen in the American League carried the victory through the rest of the game. Charlie Furbush came in and struck two in the eighth before giving up a hit to Leury Garcia, and was replaced by Yoervis Medina a minute later. Medina struck out Alexi Ramirez on a regular curveball that broke his legs and if you remember.........
(please someone find this .gif because I'm having trouble getting solid internet)
Tom Wilhelmsen did this same thing two years ago to the same batter.
The same batter. The same pitch.
Please someone find this for me, because I'm posting this from a hotspot on my phone while I'm in the process of moving.
Tomorrow Hector Noesi takes over for the Sox, and James Paxton looks to rebound from a decent albeit underwhelming start in Baltimore last week. The second wild card beckons, and the M's have some work to do. Here's to more meaningful August baseball, which is in itself, quite a gift.