Somehow, someway, inexplicably, it worked.
I mean, look. Today Lloyd pulled the car up to a busy intersection, parked it on the sidewalk and left the keys in the ignition with all the doors wide open, and also there were piles of 100 dollar bills sitting on the seats. It was still there when he came back to get it.
Lloyd McClendon promptly watched as the controls on his twin-engine Cessna started sparking and flashing, and the plane was going down, down into the ground and he was reading an issue of Archie. As his co-pilot frantically dug under the hood to reattach a few wires through grinding teeth, miraculously landing the thing, Lloyd couldn't believe that Jughead once again would choose a delectably juicy cheeseburger over a trip to the Winter Formal. What a bozo!
Today, Lloyd McClendon, possible candidate for 2014 Manager of the Year, watched as his starter came within two outs of a Maddux, then promptly pulled him after he unfortunately tied the game with a dinger off the bat of Brian Dozier, who is wont to do such a thing now and then.
And before we got to this point, you really had to be feeling good. I mean, today Hisashi Iwakuma was facing the Minnesota Twins for the sixth time in his career, a team which he had not allowed a single run to, ever, and he lasted 8.2 innings hanging out inside a strike zone which often looked like this:
Yes, Hisashi Iwakuma trotted out there and he threw 91 pitches and he struck out 8 Twins and came within two outs of a complete game. He earned one single walk on the day, but it came in this at-bat, which, against our abolition of chatspeak around here, is, well, excuse me, but, um, lol.
Meanwhile, the Mariners were doing their usual job of responding to a kindly starting pitcher giving them every opportunity to take a lead by BABIP'ing the shit out of just about every at bat until the ninth inning. In fact, the only bright spot of the first portion of this here baseball game was the not-inauspicious arrival of one Ketel Marte, childlike in his enticement of optimism and also childlike in the fact that he was literally a child, until a few months ago.
Today Marte led off the game with his second career hit, followed that up with his third career hit in his next at-bat, his fourth after that, and finally ended regular-inning play with an unlucky laser right into the glove of Twins' third baseman Glen Perkins, which easily could have been a double with a foot of variance in that infield. Ketel Marte is at once what we were supposed to expect out of any shred of competency in player development, and at the same time, maybe only a hollow reflection of what has so often come before in its place--the promising debut of Dustin Ackley, the will-he-or-wont-he peaks of Brad Miller, and the cartoon version of Nick Franklin that he always tried to sell us on. Only time will tell which side of all this Marte will end up on, but if his teammates' production is any indication, then beer's in the fridge, friends.
And to be sure, Twins' starter Mike Palfrey was having himself an efficient afternoon, nearly matching Kuma in his eight innings of work with only four hits allowed, mostly dribblers that bounced out of a shift or past a planted glove in the dirt. Pelfrey is not a strikeout pitcher, having only ever averaged around 5 K/9 in a ten-year career that has seen him up and down and up and down, finally throwing more than 24 innings for only the second time since 2011.
And to be fair, the Mariners are bad. Real bad. But to his credit, what he was doing worked. I mean, look at this:
This is pretty indicative of what Palfrey was doing all afternoon. Hitting his spots--freakishly so for a pitcher who just last year was averaging nearly 7 walks per nine--but still there it was. And the joke is that he didn't even have to work this hard to get Mark Trumbo to strikeout or roll over on a sinking pitch in the middle of the goddamned strike zone. I mean, Trumbo keep those balls in the zone, Trumbo isn't going to do jack. And yet--cause, effect, black smoke, there's a new pope, etc. His name is Regret.
The Mariners finally got on board in the ninth inning when Twins' closer Glen Perkins threw Nelson Cruz three balls near his elbow and then one over the center of the plate. And there it was: the only run they would have needed coming after two outs. After Cruz's solo shot, Cano ripped one out into right field, and Lloyd, wisely cautious of Cano's still shaky availability after getting hurt, put Logan Morrison out there to run for him. Seth Smith then struck out to end the inning.
Now, because Mark Trumbo is bad, or something, Lloyd decided that the bottom of the ninth would require the still injured Logan Morrison out on the field catching baseballs at first base. And to be fair, yes Mark Trumbo is bad. But Mark Trumbo is really only bad at trying to hit baseballs, or perhaps running to stop gappers in the outfield. It's at least arguable that we don't really know whether he's a bad first baseman or not. Recently, he's shared 1B duties with Jesus Montero after Morrison's thumb injury, and all things being equal, Lloyd was right in that Morrison is the best defensive first baseman out of the three of them.
But all things are not equal. This defensive replacement was also a man who, arguably, wasn't really able to swing a bat as recently as yesterday. And most importantly, because he ran for the DHing Cano, the whole thing meant that the Mariners would be forfeiting their designated hitter should the unthinkable happen--such as, say, Hisashi Iwakuma giving up a home run on his 91st pitch in the ninth inning to an awaiting hitter currently slugging .504 on the season. Which, I mean, hey, nothing to worry about here.
So the Mariners were headed to extras on the road without their DH in an AL stadium. Not exactly the best place to be in, but at the very least, you could chalk the whole thing up to a lack of foresight amounting to a ricochet off the foot rather than a bullet straight through the tendon. So after Iwakuma gave up the dinger, got another out, and then watched a former MVP hit a harmless single, Lloyd decided to go to his bullpen to get Carson Smith to face...a righty. With the pitcher's spot due up second in the top of the tenth.
So in a matter of minutes, Lloyd McClendon managed to 1. Lose the DH, 2. Burn (arguably) his best reliever to face a righty Iwakuma arguably could have retired, only to then be forced to 3. Waste a bench spot fifteen seconds later with the pitcher guaranteed a turn at the plate.
And it gets worse.
You have to give the guy credit for wanting to win, I suppose. And really, ultimately, 95% of this is on the fact that this team currently has a piece of scotch tape for a backup catcher and an invisible bullpen. But even if those things were literally true, Lloyd could have continued this whole charade, chalking it up to a bit of a brain fart in the ninth and a non-binding promise to cool it on the Managing™ for the foreseeable future. Instead, he licked his wounds and pinch hit Jesus Montero, who promptly walloped a double only to be stranded on second with two outs after Brad Miller grounded out.
And then, a Cezanne:
Do you see this? Do you see how utterly, brazenly magnificent this masterpiece is? Let's break it down for those in the back:
- With two outs in the bottom of the tenth, having already lost the DH and burnt a bench player two batters earlier, Lloyd McClendon decided to pinch hit for the second time in the inning.
- Mind you, we're in extras. Possibly unlimited, endless extras after both teams combined for two total runs in fifty-plus at bats.
- And then, the masterstroke: this pinch-hitter was for an admittedly bad backup catcher not with the other catcher on the team, but with an oft-injured utility outfielder.
- An oft-injured utility outfielder who struck out.
- And who would need to be replaced by the other catcher seconds later.
- Three players burnt in less than one minute.
- An empty bench.
Yes, Fernando Rodney came in, escaped the 10th without incident, and then watched from the dugout as Ketel Marte walked, stole second, was joined on the bases by Kyle Seager, scoring on a Logan Morrison double despite the fact that he was supposedly unable to swing a bat as of ten minutes ago. The runs kept piling on, and with Fernando Rodney wearing a batting helmet in the dugout, the baseball gods pulled their cruelest bait-and-switch since, well, the Mariners had taken the lead despite themselves moments later.
OMG PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE pic.twitter.com/5WRmLlyjQu— Jose Rivera (@notjoserivera) August 2, 2015
Fernando Rodney did not hit. The Mariners, somehow, won the game. I have no more words about this event. Existence is an eternal struggle. Like the ocean, giving and taking. And yet, you were the one to choose to follow this baseball team. Have a beer.