The short version is this: The Mariners were winning, and then they got distracted, and then they blew it before getting it all back again.
The longer version would take a few more words and specifics, phrases such as Franklin Gutierrez Home Run(s), 7-0 lead, Ninth inning collapse, and extras, and I at once want to say all of those and none of those because what actually happened was something much worse.
What actually happened today was that the Mariners came into Fenway for the final time in 2015, having given up thirty-seven runs within 48 hours, and promptly started kicking ass. Yes, today the Mariners walked out into the 90-something degree heat to take their spot in a batter's box that has hosted Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Bill Buckner, and Stefen Romero, and they threw three runs together before even getting into the second inning. First, it was Ketel Marte doubling on the second pitch of the game, and then it was Robinson Cano and Franklin Gutierrez hitting back-to-back dingers like it was 2010 all over again.
The next three hours aside, this development should give you a bit of confidence as we now shift to dreams of 2016 and the slight indigestion that comes from a ginormous contract that while only a few years old, is quickly entering the yellowing fray right above the "toxic" line. Cano's awful start to this season has retroactively been linked to that debilitating stomach virus, and while he's been swinging a hell of a bat recently--owning a wRC+ of 162 since July 1st!--it's undeniable that the cracks in the facade are going to start to show soon. Which is why this dinger, pulled, but closer to centerfield than not, should be yet another reminder that time isn't always the inexorable monster we often make it out to be.
Here's where the ball landed:
And now, just for posterity, his spray charts from a career best 7+ fWAR 2012 and a near career worst 2015, courtesy of Fangraphs:
What you'll immediately notice are the obvious signs, less dingers, greater occurrence of ground balls vs powerful hits, and so on. But also keep in mind this is a player who was basically no better than my currently broken bobblehead of himself until two months ago, in an incomplete season that is far from indicative of the player he truly will be for the next couple of seasons. For the most part, there are no glaring inadequacies beyond a simple downtick in everything during a crappy season. His ability to go opposite field does not appear to have radically diminished, and you have to also keep the park factors in mind with a move to Safeco. I'm not sure why I just wrote all these words about Robinson Cano considering the fact that Franklin Gutierrez hit two incredibly unlikely dingers in this game--one a second after Cano's--but maybe, just maybe, those two events have more to do with one another than we would like to admit.
After the second passed with indifference, Ketel Marte put a little bit of that storied plate discipline to use by earning himself a leadoff walk. Of course, by "storied plate discipline," I mean competent coherence of a struggling 23-year old lefty having difficultly finding the strike zone in his third-ever start, but you know, whatever, here's a way to get on base while swinging your bat once:
This here image doesn't really tell you anything about Ketel Marte, but what it does tell you is just what the Mariners were up against in Boston this afternoon. Which isn't to take away from their (early) performance. Seager promptly sent Marte to second with a single a moment later, which was turned into third thanks to Rusney Castillo flashing some of that Pawsox strength out in right field. Then, Cano again, with a single. And then, Guti. Guti, Guti, Guti.
My favorite thing about this video is the way he bursts out of the box as if his entire body wasn't made out of a bunch of wet noodles paper clipped together inside a soggy envelope. It probably didn't look like a dinger right off the bat, and while it landed in almost the exact same spot as Cano's dinger from the first, albeit a little closer to the fence, that split second is all you need to know what Franklin Gutierrez thinks when his team is up 4-0 against a struggling rookie pitcher during a shit season with just about no hopes for relevancy left whatsoever.
And I don't even mean to pretend this is some sort of Team First guy with Real Leadership and all that nonsense. No, Guti bounding out of the box here is nothing but proof that Franklin Gutierrez just loves playing baseball, and that he has decided that no matter the odds, no matter what his body has told him he can't do, no matter what the days racking up on a wall calendar to represent when he can hardly move his head from one shoulder to the other, he has decided to throw all that in the garbage and just have fun playing baseball as long as he can. And if nothing else comes out of this season, then I'll be damned if that's the worst.
Except, it won't be the last thing that comes out of this season. That's because in addition to housing Benjamin Button on the 25-man, the Seattle Mariners also house Babe Ruth 2.0, who crushed his 36th homer of the season this afternoon, which I hope you will realize was a fastball up and outside the strike zone hit far, far into the opposite field because Nelson Cruz is actually the subject of those old Justin Smoak tree-punching commercials, and we just never realized it back in the day.
No Mariner has hit more than 40 home runs in a season since Alex Rodriguez did it in 2000, and Cruz is--get this--14 games ahead of schedule from his league-leading 40 dinger season last year. That's because he hit his 36th on September 1st in 2014, and is now on pace for, I don't know, but more than that. The best part about all of this is that while we all know that Cruz will be hard pressed to repeat this season again next year (when it's all supposed to matter, AGAIN), he's probably only going to be able to replicate a portion of his 2015 success. Which means, oh god, FINE, I guess we can settle for 32 home runs from a 36 year old baseball player, for crying out loud, god baseball sucks.
The Red Sox managed to tack a few on starting in the fourth, once the Mariners were up 7-0, which is at once obnoxious but also just kind of what happens any time we get something nice so at this point your complaints are just wasted breath. There were two in the fourth, one in the fifth, and then two more in the seventh. Poor Vidal Nuno, still hoping for his first win in nearly 140 innings pitched, could only watch as his 7-0 lead got pissed away by a run from Tom Wilhelmsen, a walk from Joe Beimel (Lloyd loves his platoons), and then the man himself, Mr. Fernando F. Rodney, throwing cheese so cheesical that it left the hard-to-hit connotation of that sentence and entered the hit-the-backstop-allow-a-steal-here-hit-this-I-don't-know part. The Sox pushed their comeback to 5 after challenging a play here in the 7th, and they then entered the ninth to face Carson Smith, still probably broken but also a bright shining example of No Other Option as the Mariners hope to squeeze every bit of value out of these remaining few games.
Carson led off the bottom of the ninth with a five pitch walk to Jackie Bradley Jr., which had a questionable ball four call but also a whole bunch of sinking fastballs far away from the strike zone around 90mph, so, what are you gonna do. He promptly followed that up with a lucky strikeout to Mookie Betts, throwing yet again one 92mph sinker and two sliders, all outside the zone. Then, almost the same to Brock Holt, except he managed to rip his 85mph slider into right field to put runners on the corner with two outs left in the ballgame.
In fact, the highest Carson Smith managed to touch today was 93, and unless gameday and Brooks are both failing me, hasn't relied on his fourseamer since June, when he solidified himself as the go to guy for the 9th once Rodney came back down to earth. Smith used to go out there and throw fast and junky, and Lloyd would shake his head and say you know, Carson's young and I just don't know if we can trust him to close every day yet and you guys need to be patient and look at this from both sides and we got pissy and now he's doing this shit:
If it's frustrating, that's because you've been paying attention: this is what happens every game. Smith runs into trouble, and then starts throwing a bunch of sliders and slow moving fastballs. Thankfully before this above atbat, Lloyd had Smith intentionally walk David Ortiz, who could have very well been the winning run on this here Travis Shaw single, except you know David Smith is held together by dental floss and popsicle sticks, so he was out at home by a mile. And then it was extras. After the M's were up 7-0.
The Mariners finally managed to sneak a few across in the 12th a after Craig Breslow gave up back-to-back singles to Austin Jackson and Mark Trumbo, which put the M's in position to snag two runs after a Mike Zunino single and a Kyle Seager single a moment later. Rob Rasmussen and Danny Farquhar combined for the final few outs and you can bet your ass the M's wanted to get as far away from Boston as possible as soon as Jackie Bradley Jr.'s grounder bumbled its way up to Farquhar and into Lomo's glove at first.
Somehow, the Mariners are only 9 games back from first right now, and while that's a pretty lofty deficit, there is still a month and a half of baseball left to be played. Crazy, considering the 37-run drubbing they went through at the hands of the Sox on Friday and Saturday, and unfortunately, terrifying considering the way the pitching has been answering unexpected hot streaks from certain corners of the lineup. I don't really want to think about either of those things anymore, but the fact of the matter is that the worst few games of 2015 have probably come and gone with this weekend, and now we can look forward to two, beautiful things: an unexpected push for the second wild card, or the slow limp towards the heat death of the universe. And with this team, I'm never sure which is which.