For 4.7 seconds, the ball hung in the air and just kind of stayed there, much in the same way that water ominously gathers together in the sky and blocks out the sun before dumping rain on top of your head for the next several hours. Before it finally landed, approximately 4.7 seconds into Friday's game against the Houston Astros, it was just that--a stupid metaphor for everything this team has gone through in the past three months that was so accurate it felt like it came from the pen of someone who doesn't understand there at least needs to be some level of signification in the act of symbolic comparison. Lead off home run off the bat of George Springer. Pacific Northwest rainstorm. Disappointing season. Giant earthquake that will kill everyone you know and love.
Okay, woah, we're getting overboard here. But we can be honest with ourselves when we say that this was just about as Mariners as it gets. I mean, look:
The Houston announcers had yet to even settle in before needing to jump to Level-Eight Excitement here, opening their broadcast on a sentence that started with And we're set to go, Roenis Elias on the hill and ended with Astros quickly lead it 1-0, number eleven on the year for George Springer. Then the color guy chuckles and bemoans the fact that he didn't get a chance to stretch yet, and I have to wonder what the hell he was doing with himself for the past twelve hours.
And yet what you saw last night was ultimately not the most Mariners thing you could possibly imagine after all. It could be due in part to the fact that it would have been all too perfect--that the baseball gods had finally just given up altogether and let a four year old run the computer who has yet to learn any sense of nuance or dramatic flourish. Or it could be due to the fact that after months of the most pathetic luck--nearly leading the league in hard-hit data, spreading a BABIP-flu around the dugout like an airborne disease, hell, spreading actual diseases amongst one another--they were due for some good ol' fashioned POSITIVE REGRESSION! What say you, Boss?
Ah yes. So let's see, how did the Mariners answer Elias' first-pitch fumble?
- Logan Morrison single.
- Successfully challenged tag play deeming him safe at first after a pickoff.
- Austin Jackson walk.
- Robinson Cano loading the bases on a fielding error by Not José Altuve.
- A run walked in to tie the game with Nelson Cruz at the plate.
- Mark Trumbo RBI groundout.
It was a little unfortunate that the Mariners came away with a no-outs bases loaded scenario with only two runs, especially when the batters who were ostensibly set to do the brunt of the work with grand slams on order were Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, and Mark Trumbo. But to their credit, Astros starter Lance McCullers, he of the 10.00 K/9, 40 strikeout, one-dinger-two-point-oh-ERA just-old-enough-to-buy-beer chicanery was having himself a real, classic, old-fashioned Hard Time out there, and the correct approach was to be patient and let him dig his own grave. And though they didn't all come in the first, the approach paid off by the end of the night with at-bats looking like this:
Before last night, McCullers was only six games into his rookie season. And while his results to date had been clearly something to write home about (1.3 fWAR in six games!), the fact of the matter is that six games is not enough to know anything about anyone. I mean hell, what's the rule of etiquette for the sixth date? You're not bringing baby photos to that shit, are you a crazy person? No, you need to give that thing time to play itself out. Which is what happened last night when we saw McCullers, whose zone profile is entirely blue, start to buckle at the knees when things didn't go exactly as expected, scratching his head, grinding his teeth at misplayed grounders, and failing to backup home on a relay throw that he never would have expected to have to deal with after facing only his sixth batter.
Much of it was mental, and you have to give credit to the Mariners for taking advantage of a situation they needed to pounce on, even if they didn't come away with it looking like the offense we all know they are theoretically capable of being. Morrison's leadoff hit very well could have been scored an error--or caught, as a lack of communication and a friendly wind gust knocked a towering fly ball just out of the reach of a fielding glove, which I'm sure McCullers just loved. That, coupled with sitting on his ass while the umps reviewed a clearly safe pickoff attempt, must have been frustrating for the Astros' rookie.
He did kind of make Kyle Seager look like a fool with a three-pitch strikeout right in the middle of the rally, but a clear fear of pitching inside to Nelson Cruz (hey, protection theoretically works even to yourself!) backed by a fazed infield playing hot potato with the baseball probably did too much of a number to give them anything tangible to work with.
If that doesn't get you hot and bothered, then go ahead and give this little number a gander:
If this here moving image is moving too fast for you, well, I completely understand. It's probably difficult to discern exactly what is going on here, aside from the fact that you can kind of tell it's Roenis Elias in there, and it looks like he's throwing pitches. You would be correct in this assumption, and in fact, he's not only throwing pitches but he's throwing strikeouts. Four of them to be exact. If you are still having trouble seeing where those pitches ended up then, well, I guess you kind of...struck out in a way, ha, haha, ho ho, hee hee. You and the Astros both, my friend.
Yes, that's right, Elias answered his first inning kerfluffle with a 10 strikeout, four hit bid over seven complete innings in this here win against the snotty Astros who always seem to show up at exactly the wrong place and the wrong time in Seattle. Instead, Elias buckled right in and draped a wet blanket on top of an obnoxious ballclub known for biting the Mariners' collective ass like a gnat, and gave his offense a chance to tee off against a struggling pitcher to earn the win.
And tee off they did. After only stealing two runs in the bottom of the first inning, the Mariners would go on to snag five more off the hot bat of Robinson Cano (reaching base every time he was up and hitting a surefire double and he's fine, fine, I swear), Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager. And hey, he might not be Trumbombing but the newest Mariner wound up with three RBIs on the afternoon himself, which is all the Mariners would have needed to ultimately win the game. Carson Smith looked phenomenal in the closer role yet again, and the M's ended the week on an upward trend, 8.5 games out of first but with a chance to mount a sizeable comeback if trends remain the same.
Tonight the Mariners will look to get win number two on the series, and although I'm not exactly interested in watching Dallas Keuchel inevitably tear through this lineup like you know he will, it sure is nice that Taijuan has been on a bit of a hot streak recently. They need to get at least one more win out of this series before hosting the Ro--wait no, no not going to say it. Not going to think about it. Going to play bad teams, going to beat division rivals, going to make up space in the playoff hunt and be all smiles and candy.
And if you're still not feeling good about all this, know that the last time Monday's opponent Joe Blanton faced the Mariners--in 2013 no less--this happened. I joked at the time that he was mad not because he blew the game, but because it was The Mariners. He was losing to the Seattle Mariners.
If this unpredictably crummy year has gotten you down, please take a deep breath and watch this wonderful GIF one more time. After that you should wonder if it's possible, however unlikely, that this entire season has all been one long con to really fuck with Joe Blanton on Monday.
He thinks he's going to be facing The Mariners again, after all. But that's not going to happen. And on Tuesday, you can wake up knowing full well that the M's are going to get back to winning every single game like they were designed to do. You can quote me on it.
And until then,