One of my favorite parts of Ken Burns' Baseball is when some old white dude (doesn't really cut it down, sorry) starts talking about how he loved baseball because he didn't have to watch baseball all the time, but could whenever he wanted to. There was and is a comfort in the knowledge that for half the year if you want to watch a game you can just turn on your tv, radio, or internet-connected screen of choice and go nuts.
It's also the worst thing about baseball. Like a video game player who must finish every game they own with 100% completion or a collector relentlessly pursuing the final card/stamp/record/coin/whatever to complete a set you can lose the things that made it all fun in the first place if you never stop. This past weekend, I stopped. I watched 3 innings of Mike Montgomery on Friday, which was 2 more than I should have. I listened to 2 innings of Felix on Saturday in my car, and yesterday I checked on my phone. I felt it was the right time for a break when I saw a 7-0 score and my first thought was "they'll probably blow it." I knew it was time for a break when I was right. Today I stepped back into it, refreshed and ready to cover my first game in a few days.
But, see, the thing is if you're a baseball player you don't get to do that. You play and you play. You play past the point of exhaustion, annoyance, rage and hate. No matter what, you play. The Mariners after last weekend are exactly where we are. They are wearing nicer clothes and driving faster cars and man can they play baseball and/or are handsome but they're miserable. In the top of the 3rd with a 3-1 count and nobody on Logan Morrison put one foot out of the box and looked at Rich Donnelly. He made a motion twice with his hands, and said 2-3 times, exasperated "What ya got?" It was just such an everyman exchange. Here were two humans, forced into daily interaction, working for a failing company, who just ran out of patience for each other.
The game was eventually defined by the Mariners apparent fatigue. In the 1st inning with a runner on 1st Taijuan Walker, who going with the idea of fatigue was missing 2-3 miles per hour on his fastball tonight, threw a terrific spit finger to Prince Fielder here:
Fielder topped the ball weakly to second. Only the ball rolled and rolled and where was Robinson Cano? He arrived, eventually, but not at top speed and he appeared to give a half hearted swipe at the ball as it skittered into center. One pitch later and Franklin Gutierrez was chasing down an Adrian Beltre double and it was 1-0.
In the 4th the Mariners did that thing that a baseball player can do where they don't swing at four balls in one at bat before getting three strikes. They did it twice, in fact. After Robinson Cano struck out Franklin Gutierrez roped a double down the line off of Cole Hamels to tie it bring the Mariners within a run. If you'll forgive me the weakness of OPS as a stat and the indulgence in some SSS theater I enjoy this tweet:
Then, in the 5th, things started to get weird.
I have a board game called Space Alert. In it you are given a hand of cards and a play sheet that allows you 12 turns to essentially program your little astronaut's movements around a little space ship using the options presented by the cards. The kicker is that you're doing this in real time while a soundtrack on the fly tells you about new incoming enemies, communications breakdowns, etc. All the while your teammates are trying to do the same thing and they're shouting at you and you're trying to remember what was where and oh shit did that generator get charged and why are we firing the lasers into empty space and oh god we're dead.
Lloyd McClendon manages like he's playing Space Alert, only all his cards say bunt. In the 5th inning (!) McClendon ordered Ketel Marte to bunt with two on and nobody out in a one run game. The Mariners, a team that had scored 10 runs each of their previous two games and have the highest post All-Star Break OPS in MLB played for one run, to tie, in the 5th inning when the next three hitters were Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, and Robinson Cano. Also it didn't work, as the Rangers got a force out at 3rd. I forgot to mention that in Space Alert it's possible to simply not play a card for a turn and just let things be. Lloyd, hold the cards dude.
In the bottom of the 6th after a, yep, bunt put runners on 2nd and 3rd MLB: The Show Create-A-Player come to life Ryan Strousborger lifted a shallow fly to center. Now Elvis Andrus is fast, this is a given. But still Austin Jackson had time to move in, set himself, get his body moving towards home, set, and fire as good a throw as he can make. The ball was cut off 20 feet past 2nd base and the Rangers took a 3-2 lead. Trade Austin Jackson. Please.
If there has been one enduring theme of this season it is that fate has been swift to point out the comedy of the Mariners' failures. In the top of the 7th after a, well hey look a bunt, Ketel Marte, who started a terrific double play today, doily'd a ball into right-center to tie the game 3-3. This brought Kyle Seager up with one out. Seager lined out to Shin Soo-Choo, who made a terrific throw home to nail Logan Morrison for the 3rd out and to keep the game tied. However, great throw aside, I still have a complaint:
The Mariners are tired.
The 9th was just baseball writing its own narrative. Fernando Rodney came into pitch and you know what? Look, I've been blasting Lloyd in this but who the hell is he supposed to use? Mariner starters barely threw 9 innings combined in the Boston series. The team had to get 2 scoreless innings out of Edgar Olmos' MLB debut just to get to this point.
Anyway, Rodney came in and Strousborger bunted it into the Bermuda Triangle between P-1B-2B and got a hit.
Then my least favorite Rougned Odor bunted to third. Kyle Seager looked to 2B, forgot how fast Odor is, hurried a throw to first but Odor was called safe. He was probably out but well hey, it's a shame MLB doesn't have replay.
After that nonsense Fernando went full Fernando and drilled Shin-Soo Choo in the back.
But then, because Fernando Rodney's favorite part of Saving Private Ryan is the stabbing scene, he struck out Prince Fielder.
Then, well, I'm sorry friends, but if you read the headline you know: The Mariners lost. Fernando Rodney walked Adrian Beltre.
The Mariners are tired. I am tired. Bill Kreuger is tired.
Back at it tomorrow. I guess.