Bottom of the 11th
In the end it was the way it should be. The RISP struggles, Fernando Rodney's one bad pitch, Taijuan Walker's many bad pitches, Kerwin Danley's amorphous strike zone; they all became tire burn leading to the point of impact between Robinson Cano's bat and Ian Krol's hanging slider. The ball spun in place like an ice skater finishing their routine with a flourish and Cano lashed it into right field, a "single" to go along with a home run, a near game winner in the 9th and a ball to the warning track in the 1st.
(here is a moving image: Robinson Cano receives a hanging slider that he hits for a game winning hit. He smiles and begins to celebrate. Robinson Cano received a hanging slider that he hits for a game winning hit. He smiles and begins to celebrate Robinson Cano received a hanging...)
The Mariner were fortunate to get the chance in the 11th after all of Trent Jewett's rigidly tactical decisions and numerous chances for the Tigers to put the game away. However they also created some of their own luck. For example the bullpen was a flamethrower spitting pure, un-diluted green-as-emerald-Wilddfire tonight:
#Mariners relievers got 15 outs tonight -- and 12 were by strikeout.— Larry Stone (@StoneLarry) July 8, 2015
The Mariners tonight because they faced a bad starting pitcher, their best position player played like it and the 2014 bullpen lived, if only for a night. The Rangers and Astros both lost. The Mariners are 6 games out of the 2nd Wild Card. Robinson Cano has an OPS over .850 since June 17th. Hope wakes with us tomorrow.
Top of the 10th
He "has it". We use such dumb cliche phrases to try and describe things we don't really understand. Carson Smith has been the team's best reliever since September of 2014. Tonight he was Hulk Smith. Not only did he strike out 5 of the 7 batters he faced he publicly humiliating them. J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila both missed numerous sliders by what seemed like feet. Smith even showed a tumbling split change twice to left handers with vicious downward movement, although Pitch F/X classified them both as sinkers. I'd show them to you but MLB hasn't linked a highlight to them yet so trust me: They were nice.
Carson Smith, right now, is the best reliever on the Mariners and one of the best in the division. There is argument for trade value to put Fernando Rodney back in as closer. There is none if the goal remains to maximize wins.
Top of the 8th
Cespedes The Tormentor. Yoenis the Yeoman. The Cuban Missile. Etc. Four years and 3000 miles away in Tokyo Shawn Kelley threw Yoenis Cespedes a hanging slider that got hit out to center field. The home run seems to be always repeating on an eternal, silent loop. Almost like, well, a graphic interchange file.
Tonight it was poor Fernando Rodney. Can I say poor Fernando Rodney yet? I feel bad for Fernando Rodney, although I confess I am quick to pity the publicly humiliated. Tonight Rodney was largely FRE-less. He quickly got Jose Iglesias to ground out and Ian Kinsler to pop to 2nd. He then started Cespedes change-fastball to get ahead 0-2. Mike Zunino called for a fastball low and away:
He missed his spot:
Yo knows meatballs. Tie game, 6-6.
Bottom of the 5th
I think the first thing that attracted me to baseball, even from a very young age, was that instant positive tactile feedback. The ball hits your bat and you know right away what you've earned. A kick, a bounce, a misplay or fortunately placed defender may limit or enhance the reward your contact has earned you but that feel tells you everything you need to know. It's hours and hours in a cage, hitting soft toss, lifting weights, looking at tape, and all those things thousands of times. It's that time compressed into approximately .0007 seconds of feedback.
When the feedback brings you the best news, which is best described as no feeling at all, you watch. You just can't help it. Some find it distasteful, some deem it poor sportsmanship. But the gear shift from concentration to joy isn't a simple one, and most just need a minute to get from one to the next. It's damn well earned.
Top of the 4th
"God I'm an idiot"
On Monday when I watched Logan Morrison's three run home run clear the wall I whooped and hollered like a damn fool. The team had survived Hisashi Iwakuma's re-acclimation to the majors and the very un-Safeco barrage of home runs from Detroit. They had overcome a 3-0 deficit and taken a 5-3 lead. That game felt like a Mariner Win. Of course it was a loss, albeit a very un-Mariner Loss loss.
So now here we are doing the exact same shit a night later. Alex Avila got a fastball over the plate, hit it in the air the other way to left, to left, and the ball cleared the fence by 20 feet. It's the heat. It's the formidable Tiger's offense. It's baseball, still after decades finding ways to torment me. Another 3-0 deficit, another thrilling comeback to a 5-3 lead, and another immediate surrender of that lead. 5-5. God I'm an idiot for liking this game.
Bottom of the 3rd
Here, watch this:
Remember this. Think of the concussion on a pick off play. Remember the poor shell of a man who played in 2010 and 2011 in constant pain, robbed of his strength and ability to be the player was in 2009 and seemed destined to be for years. Visualize him hitting a ball on the sweet spot, only to watch it land in an outfielder's glove 20 feet from the warning track. Recall his Father-in-law's horrific injury in batting practice. Baseball has never given anything to Franklin Gutierrez without exacting a heavy toll. He almost stopped. He really did almost quit. Watch that home run above again. That could have been the last one.
Austin Jackson took an 0-2 change from Kyle out to left for a grand slam, the first of Jackson's career. We forget to mention that. We are dumb.
It's just going to be this kind of season isn't it? It's not going to change. Taijuan Walker has been terrific for 7 starts and faces a Miguel Cabrera-less Tigers team and who breaks his month and a half long spell over the American League? Is it J.D. Martinez? Victor Martinez? Nope. It's Nick Castellanos first, hitting an only-a-home-run-at-Safeco-one-or-two-days-a-year shot to center and Matt Adams, healthy and whole but for some reason not with the Cardinals and playing under the alias of Marc Krauss going back-to-back.
The home runs by lesser Detroit players just further juxtaposes the agony of watching spot starter Kyle Ryan carve through the Mariners best hitters with a steady diet of 85-88 MPH fastballs through 2 innings. This is just so 2015. This is the way it's going to be and within two weeks the discussion of selling, front office disquiet, manager firings and all that painful non-baseball that surrounds losing baseball will have to start. Just because Nick Castellanos got a ball into the air on the hottest day of the year. Baseball is so stupid.
My God I'm tired. The kids don't sleep when it's hot. When the kids don't sleep I don't sleep. I've spent the day zombie-shuffling my way through work. My mother-in-law was nice enough to get dinner for the kids and myself but it's still all I can do to spend some "quality" time with my son and daughter for an hour. At about 6:30 I remember: "Oh dammit I'm writing about the game tonight."
I quickly check the game thread to make sure I haven't forgotten anything or made any obvious factual/grammatical errors. I set the kids up with a movie on the iPad and turn on the tv. If it's like most games it will be over before 10 and I'll wrap it up by 11:30. I look at my clock - 7:03. Seven minutes. I am pretty cranky. Something pops into my head from wherever it is these things come from: "You lucky son of a bitch. You write about baseball. You write about baseball and people read it. Shut up and watch."
Out of commercial, Tai on the hill. Small, mincing step back to start the windup, kick, and fire...