We are plenty used to watching baseball games between a good team and an overmatched team but suddenly it's us rooting for the lions and the other side who has a friend out there in the pit and they grew up together and ew! Look away friend, look away.
I think this season has been the hardest because it's made us feel the dumbest. It's taken in more of us jaded by cynicism and the Mariners than seasons past. We bought in in ways that most of us just don't. After 14 years of this crap we are the Missouri of fanbases. You gotta show us.
This year the Mariners have failed to show us, themselves, or anyone much of anything other than yet another season of bitter disappointment. But tonight they reminded us of what we thought they could be, and did so against the Rockies, who are very much what we thought they were.
In the first the Mariners found themselves in a typical situation with a runner on 2nd base with 2 outs. Coming into today the Mariners had a .201 batting average with RISP and 2 outs. But why is today different than almost all other days? On all other days we play baseball near sea-level. Today we play a mile in the air. So it was that Robinson Cano lashed a 2 out double past an awkward, combat rolling, Charlie Blackmon. Then Jesus Montero worked a full count before dumping a liner into right field to score Cano. Mariners, clusterluck. Clusterluck, Mariners. Please get to know each other better.
After the teams traded runs for a bit to get to 3-3 Seattle started off the top of the 6th with a Mark Trumbo single, which brought up Brad Miller. Now, a few facts:
- I am a big Brad Miller fan. Before Carlos Christ got called up by Houston Miller was in the conversation for the American League's best shortstop.
- Brad Miller is kind of an airhead. He makes weird, annoying mistakes.
It was just the latest positive contribution from Gutierrez, who has come from the longest of odds to carve out a vital role as a plus bat, smooth fielding 4th outfielder. What a joy he has been.
In the bottom of the same 6th the Mariners bullpen found itself in trouble, which probably doesn't surprise you. Having already surrendered a run and with runners at 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs Mayckol Guaipe faced Charlie Blackmon, who had already homered in the game.
Now I am not a particularly clever person. The majority of my jokes are a desperate attempt to link something semi-pop culture related with something that's currently happening with the team and hoping that enough of the low hanging fruit has been squeezed to create some juice. So you give me Charlie Blackmon, a bearded, left-handed, below average throwing caucasian outfielder and I'm going to try and make a Dustin Ackley joke. Like I said, not clever. However, when Blackmon struck out on a Guaipe slider to end the threat it became very clear that there was very little Dustin Ackley within Charlie Blackmon.
If you add up all the times Dustin Ackley's body has every conveyed an emotion other than "standing by" it doesn't equal this demonstration. Way to ruin my bad jokes, Charlie.
The Mariners were ahead but they were ahead with their bullpen in Coors Field. As such, it felt very much like they were behind. So in the top of the 7th Nelson Cruz did the thing he does to baseballs when they are put in front of him by careless, forgetful baseball pitchers:
This got brought up in the chart but you wanna hear something crazy? Here is the list of single seasons a Mariner has had with a higher wRC+ than Nelson Cruz currently has:
Edgar Martinez - 1995.
End. Of. List.
Cruz has now homered in 5 straight games. Since the All-Star break he is slugging .779 with 9 home runs in 18 games. He is simply the best hitter this franchise has had in a long, long time. What an amazing year.
The Mariners kept the pressure on in the 8th, plating three more runs to stretch the lead to 9-4 thanks to singles from Austin Jackson and Robinson Cano. While Nelson Cruz deservedly basks in the spotlight it's hard to overstate how good Cano has been for the better part of two months now. Since back to back days off June 7-8 Cano has a .290/.338/.519 line. His BABIP over that time is a very reasonable .308. He has been excellent over the last 1/3 of the season.
Once Seth Smith roped a double to make 10-4 there was nothing left but for Fernando Rodney to finish it off, which he did quickly and effectively, as apparently his 97 MPH fastball and diving, baffling change up are much more difficult to hit when every single hitter doesn't know which pitch is coming on every single pitch. Try to not imagine how different this season would be without that little oversight lingering for months.
There were other things to mention: Vidal Nuno roped an RBI single, breaking an 0-52 streak by Mariner pitchers. Mark Trumbo got awarded 3rd base when he almost got picked off of 1st but got hit in the head instead, because baseball is a silly game with rules written during opium's glory years. Mike Zunino did not strike out.
The Mariners won tonight, their 3rd in a row. It says much about 2015 that this is the first time since May 25-27 that the team has strung together this most modest of streaks. But It has been fun to see it happen with Cruz, Gutierrez, Cano and even Montero. These are likeable players that are all some combination of young or under contract for long enough that we are going to be rooting for them for awhile. It's hard to imagine a year more frustrating than 2015, but this is about 2016 now. That's off to a nice start.