Let us start with the caveats tonight. This season sucks. The Mariners have taken the surest bet in over a decade at playoff contention, melted it down, molded it into a stake, and stabbed it through our hearts. The bet in this metaphor is metallic for some reason. Quit complaining. Sorry you don't get metaphors.
There is no sport that makes suck more inescapable than baseball. Like a bad job or an unhappy relationship bad baseball confronts you, hangs over you, daily. You can try to push it aside, throw yourself into your work or some other hobby but you'll know. You may not watch most days of course but your phone is right there and that At Bat App makes it so easy for a quick check. "Hey look they're ahead in the 7th" you'll say and you stop what you're doing and amble over to the television. A baseball win is like a nighttime shot of caffeine for the soul and you're hooked. But then, this team sucks. They lose, and you turn off your television and swear off the whole thing for a week.
The Mariners gave notice in the 1st inning that this game was different than usual when a Kyle Seager line drive wasn't caught by a diving left fielder, Nelson Cruz got hit in this hand and a Robinson Cano ground ball skittered past Ian Kinsler into center field for an early 1-0 lead. Seth Smith, dutiful student of the game that he is, took note of the fact that Shane Greene is crap and crushed a 1-0 fastball over Anthony Gose's head for a double.
Now, let's pause here and consider the way this usually goes for the Mariners. As Gose chuffed after the ball two scenarios played out in my head:
- Rich Donnelly activates Pinwheel Mode and Cano TOOTBLANs, killing a chance at an early big inning.
- Cano is held at 3rd and the Mariners fail to play add on with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs again.
Of course one of the hallmarks of this season has been the pitching staff being almost completely incapable of following up a productive offensive inning with a zero. The bottom of the 3rd saw Victor Martinez lean into a curveball for a HBP and then J.D. Martinez lean into a fastball for a very, very, very long home run.
Statcast put the ball at 467 feet, 12 feet longer than Cruz's home run.
Martinez' home run appeared to set in motion a bit of a collapse for Taijuan Walker. In the bottom of the 5th Walker allowed an Ian Kinsler single prior to Yoenis Cespedes hitting a game tying 2 run home run off an inside cut fastball. It was Cespedes' 14th home run of the season and of those 14 a whopping 27 have come against the Mariners. An out and a single later McClendon relieved Walker with Dave Rollins. Walker's line of 4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 4 K, 0 BB marks his 3rd straight start of relative struggle. He will have to regain his composure and command to keep from slipping into the bad habits of April and May.
After Rollins, Tom Wilhelmsen and some questionable defense combined to give Detroit a 6-5 lead the very few of us still paying attention spent the next 3 innings merely waiting for the game to end. Dave Sims began talking like a golf announcer, the Mariners offense slipped quietly to sleep and the game appeared to be resuming the Natural Order of Mariner Defeats.
The top of the 8th started with the Mariners trailing 8-6 and, as all innings must, with a Mike Zunino strikeout. However next came back to back singles. After a pop up Robinson Cano blistered a line drive so hard that Austin Jackson had to hold at 3rd. For the 2nd time in the game and for what feels like the millionth time this season the Mariners had a chance to do something memorable. This time it was Franklin Gutierrez against Neftali Feliz. The Mariners have examined these moments. They have looked them over, carefully considered them, ruminated on their benefits, and almost exclusively decided "nah" and handed them back. This seemed like just another soon to be discarded half-formed memory. Feliz, fallen though his star may be, had only allowed a .333 OPS against Mariner hitting in 109 plate appearances.
Tonight, however, a 1-1 fastball was why we got hooked on all this nonsense in the first place:
It was the 2nd pinch hit grand slam in Mariner history. The first led to a pretty cool moment:
Tonight, well we don't need to speak about the writer but the moment? Yeah, that'll play:
I cried. Just a bit. Guti deserves that moment right there. I don't know if I deserved to watch it or experience it with him but I certainly feel like I needed it. 11-8, Mariners.
They kind of farted their way through the last 6 outs. There's no easy wins with these guys. Not this year. Fernando Rodney wild-pitched a run in and even Carson Smith, the Sanctum Sanctorum of 2015's bullpen, fiddled his way through 4 outs. But it held. The Mariners found a moment, they seized it, and they held on to it all the way to the end.
The Mariners will play again tomorrow. Some folk in the area are apparently making a campaign out of not paying attention to the team until there are changes. That is fine. Each of us process things in our own way. I'll keep watching. I mean, I kind of have to for this gig I guess. But also I'll watch because even in the agony that has been 2015 I'm having a blast. It's not the fun I wanted, but that's how it goes sometimes. It turns out life doesn't really give a shit what you want. It's on you to meet it where it's at, best that you can. Best that we all can.
The Mariners will play again tomorrow. I'll just keep watching. It's fun.