The 2nd day in our 10 day long Advent Calendar celebrating moments of joy from the 2015 Seattle Mariners
Day 2- We've got a floater here in Tampa Bay
- The box score
- The LL recap
So by the time Archer was through 95 into the ninth inning, the Rays put in closer Brad Boxberger to ensure their young ace wouldn't tax his arm in a blanked game that could potentially bleed into extras with no end in sight. Boxberger, who entered the series with a 13.22 K/9, 2.74 xFIP, and 1.10 ERA. Top-ten reliever numbers in the entire game. The tenth-inning game-winning homer to Kyle Seager last night may have been a bit unexpected, but there was no way such a dominant reliever was going to shit the bed yet again, two days in a row.
- The player quote
"Well, that was my hope," Cruz said. You really didn’t think that was going to go out? "Um, I hit it OK," Cruz said. Just OK? "Well, it was a good swing," Cruz said, laughing.
This advent calendar is going to have multiple appearances from a few people, and I imagine it's no surprise or controversy that one of them is Nelson Cruz. Cruz's 2015 was beyond what even the most wildly optimistic fanboy/girl could have envisioned. Again for context, here are the greatest Mariner offensive seasons in the Safeco Era, by wRC+:
Nelson Cruz 2015 - 158
Alex Rodriguez 2000 - 158
Edgar Martinez 2001 - 157
Edgar Martinez 2000 - 154
As I mentioned yesterday despite their manifold failures the Mariners have produced some transcendent individual players in their 38 year history. In the 15+ years since they opened Safeco Field none of those players, A-Rod, Edgar, John Olerud, Brett Boone, Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, et. all have had a better year with the bat than Nelson Cruz did this year. In a season of torment he was our balm, seemingly a totem through which we could take out all our year's frustrations through the cathartic pummeling of American League pitching.
By May 27th the Mariners were finally beginning to show signs of rallying after a truly horrific month+ of the season. After bottoming out on May 6th at 11-17 the team had rallied to win 11 of the next 17 games, including the previous night's game which saw Kyle Seager sandwich two slices of game winning home run bread on either side of a meaty Fernando Rodney blown save in an extra inning, 7-6 victory.
The following day's contest was billed as a battle of ace pitchers and both Felix and Chris Archer obliged the narrative. Felix was magnificent, but Archer was a level beyond, striking out 12 and walking none through 8 scoreless innings. The game was a classic after 8, 0-0. But despite only being at 95 pitches new Rays manager Kevin Cash blinked, and pulled the Archer for Brian Boxberger, Kyle Seager's victim from the night before.
The 9th began on script, with Boxberger fanning Mike Zunino and Austin Jackson gently waving his soggy rolled up newspaper at a few pitches before also striking out. But then Seth Smith walked on a 3-2 pitch, and then Cano did the same. There was Cruz, the great and powerful, slightly open stance, full of equal parts malice and congeniality. Boxberger threw a 1-0 fastball, just off the outside edge, but a bit higher than he'd like. Cruz swung.
He didn't get all of it, because when Nelson Cruz gets all of a baseball you start laughing maniacally. This kind of home run is arguably even more impressive though, as the center fielder simply jogged back to catch it. He kept jogging. Jogging. Still jogging.
It's amazing how a moment can become transcendent with a few of the right words overlaid on top of it. You can hear how surprised Aaron Goldsmith was that the ball carried that far, floating on the upward gusts of Nelson Cruz thrusting the weights into the air over and over, day after day, year after year. In the pauses you can imagine his brain feverishly trying to articulate the correct way to describe the event. At the end he comes across a playfully juvenile phrase and I can almost hear him giggle to himself: "We've got a floater here in Tampa Bay." For many it wouldn't have worked, but Goldsmith has proven he can bring light to many dark places.
Felix went out, shut down the Rays, and secured his 2nd shutout of the season. In many ways he was the star of the day, as he has been so many times. But in a career filled with victories lost at the hands of offensive incompetence it was the smiling giant that saved the day and provided the moment I'll remember for seasons to come.