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The one that got away

Collin McHugh manhandled the Mariners for eight innings, and yet they almost won anyway. Almost. Almost.

this guy was annoying all game long
this guy was annoying all game long
Otto Greule Jr

143 games. 5,302 plate appearances. 3,640 outs. 117 home runs. Hundreds of pitching changes, Jay Buhner radio ads, Felix television ads, ten-dollar beers, hydroplane races, putting your keys in the tray to go through the metal detectors, post-game interviews, keys to the game, injuries, roster moves, Dustin Ackley career turnarounds, spring training promises, 1995 references, 2009 references, comment threads, off-topic threads, inside jokes, break-ups, moves, midterms and finals, phyten necklaces, clenched jaws, swear words, and exultant text messages.

All of these things, six months of six months of life, get condensed into a single second, a single inch of a ground ball running like a broken violin string over Robinson Cano's glove.

This is not the last game. It's probably not the defining moment of the season. There are plenty of games left, and plenty of opportunities to waste or grasp. But pennant races play with time like this, press on it and pull it like teeth. My teeth hurt.

The first six innings are barely worth mentioning; both pitchers were exactly as advertised. Roenis Elias scattered his hits almost perfectly; the Astros reached scoring position four of the six innings they faced him, and only scored once, on a Jon Singleton double. A second run was pulled off the board by a replay that overturned another potential Singleton RBI. Meanwhile, Collin McHugh retired 22 of the first batters he faced, with one reaching on error and the other erased on a double play. He looked every bit the pitcher he has looked, which is to say, insulting.

Carson Smith, a September call-up, looked fantastic in two innings of relief, striking out three and retiring all six he faced. The team was still down 1-0 in the eighth, and it looked like a repeat of Sunday in Texas, only worse. Then Logan Morrison did what hitters on playoff teams do.

Ordinarily this would be enough. It would be our Malta: where the besiegers finally recognize the hopelessness of their crusade, throw their helmets down and return to their ships. It wasn't. With two outs Yoervis Medina walked a batter, threw a wild pitch, and gave up two ground ball singles. Brad Miller, so often the hero of late, skied a ball that landed in Robbie Grossman's glove in the shadows of the 401 sign in center, and soon after the Mariners were half a game back of Detroit.

I am, based on a casual observation of the commentariat, taking this loss harder than most people. We all have our weak days, I suppose. The going will get tougher for the team after tomorrow, with fifteen of the last nineteen games against above-.500 clubs. This was the game to get. A game to get. They're all games to get. Pennant baseball has done me in.

Tomorrow the Mariners play the Astros again, in the same place, at the same time. They have the advantage of starting one of the best pitchers in baseball against someone who did not exist three weeks ago. I can't wait for then.