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After extended bout of identity crisis, The Mariners return to form in 8-3 loss to Astros

Not the best way to kick off the last week of the regular season.

Scott Halleran

Today there was a baseball game. It was a miracle, when you really get down to it.

At any given time there were at least ten professional baseball players standing on the same patch of grass plopped down in the Houston metropolitan area, and each of those ten baseball players grew up in different cities under vastly different economic and political situations completely beyond their control. Many of them speak different languages. Some came to baseball late in their lives, while some had dreamed of this since before they had hair under their armpits. But despite the myriad possibilities of diverging futures, each and every single one of those baseball players effectively lived their entire lives as if a map guided them to that stadium right there, together, and individually. Same day. Same building. Same field. Same time. When you think about the odds in the long run, that's kind of a miracle.

Now using that lens, it's almost as if Yoervis Medina's woeful outing today was nothing more than the result of the cosmos indifferently flipping a coin while looking out the window. That Hisashi Iwakuma's rough four innings were the result of chaos doing its thing in a directionless system, and boy, for this team that is almost a way of life. Even though Medina gave up a three-run homer to Jake Marisnick in the seventh, as well as another on an RBI single in an eighth inning that saw him fall almost face first trying to grab a dribbling baseball, you can rest easy knowing that somewhere in one of the multiple universes floating around out there he struck out the side, blowing a bubble as he hopped and skipped back to the dugout to the tune of Kenny Loggins' Danger Zone to pick up his Cy Young award waiting on the bench covered in melted chocolate.

Now the problem with all that is that even if it's true, the universe we live in saw the Mariners drop a huge game like they were holding a china bowl with hands covered in vegetable oil. And the other problem is that calling the result of their play random happenstance hides the reality that Yoervis Medina isn't as good as Lloyd McClendon seems to think he is. It obfuscates the fact that Hisashi Iwakuma seems crazy tired, and is not pitching as himself even though these are the most important games of his MLB career.

Scattered throughout these infinite realities are some where the Mariners will make the playoffs in a week, and the good news is that it could happen in the one we find ourselves in. But the number of days we have between Now and Then is shrinking faster than we can learn to cope with untimely losses, and if something doesn't change soon, we are going to be back in that familiar universe of watching other teams play baseball in October. None of that has to be a miracle, but it really hurts to say that the Mariners may need one soon, if nothing else changes.

And honestly, if you missed this, you also didn't. You've seen this game before. Something is clearly wrong with Iwakuma, and it also looks like there is something wrong with Chris Young, and even though it's all probably just fatigue it couldn't have come at a worse time. Iwakuma walked three Astros hitters in four innings today. He walked one in all of July. He did manage to rack up eight strikeouts, but a) Iwakuma has never had trouble striking out hitters and b) he was facing the Houston Astros, and sometimes I think they actually try to strike out on purpose. Home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn certainly didn't help things much, especially when you consider that Iwakuma typically lives down in the zone and hey, look at that:


But most of these calls were in at-bats that ended up resulting in a strikeout anyway, so the real problem is, again, the problem the Mariners have been facing all year. Seven hits and only two runs: nearly all coming from the bottom of the order. Michael Saunders hit a dramatic two-run shot in the fifth off starter Collin McHugh, but he will sit tomorrow when the M's face a righty because that's just what Lloyd does. This isn't the time to start complaining about lineups, and I'm not trying to do that here, but boy this upcoming week needs to go a little differently.

The Royals won today, and as I write this the Athletics are tied in the bottom of the tenth with the Phillies. These three teams have been The Story in the Wild Card hunt this season, and if the Athletics win tonight there will be only two games separating them all--still a great place for the M's to be. Of course, things don't always go the way we want them to. And if we are talking about multiple realities here, we should also be talking about time, specifically, time the Mariners haven't been spending looking in their rearview mirror: