Look around you, look down the bar from you, the lonely faces that you see...
This all felt like it was going to go differently. Like so many Mariners' losses this year, it felt like we were going to be nickle and dimed out of a win. The neighborhood play wouldn't result in an out. Joe Beimel wouldn't pick off Odor at first. Kyle Seager would watch a ball go by rather than flash a brilliant out in the seventh. We would look back and ask, "Are you sure this is where you want to be?" Two days ago, this game ended in a bullpen meltdown; tonight it would end in Carson Smith triumphant. In days past, we would hope for mistakes, and bunts; tonight we would look to Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz and nod approvingly as they showed all of the brilliance we expected.
Like so many losses this year, this win would start with Mark Trumbo, hilariously out of place and dangerously outmatched in the outfield. Having watched Kyle Seager (!) muster a steal without a score (really though, Kyle is not fast so maybe don't strike out, Robbie), the second inning would see our saddest trombone, our most wilting of violets, lay out in left field, only to watch the ball skip by and two runners score. Iwakuma's pitch count would climb; the Mariners' side would go down in order.
In the third inning Logan Morrison, so often the subject of opprobrium from fans, managers, baseballs, and occasionally his own bones, doubled to right field. Ketel Marte singled to move LoMo to third, but even then, when the Mariners brought it within a run on a Hamels baulk, it felt like scoring on someone else's charity. This was the Rangers' game to win or lose. In the top of the fourth, Kuma would get into trouble; back to back singles would be alleviated only by a longgggg force out review. But the respite would be temporary; on a wild pitch, Mitch Moreland, who almost certainly has to have factored into country songs about trailers and tragedy, would score.
(Mike Zunino really couldn't do much to stop this pitch. As the great Willie Nelson once sang, "Afraid and shy, I let my chance go by, The chance you might have loved me too." He was probably singing about a very good defensive catcher dealing with a wild pitch. I mean, we don't know that he wasn't. Mike tried very hard. The pitch was very wild.).
These are the moments when we lose. Austin Jackson would walk but be picked off. We headed to the 5th. But then a funny thing happened. Kuma wouldn't give up any more runs. His pitch count would stabilize. We would lift our heads up and realize that it was still early. The sad trombone would homer, defying almost all expectations, and redeeming himself ever so slightly. The Mariners would pull within one.
And then, Nelson Cruz stepped to the plate. The joys of watching Nelson Cruz swing the bat are well documented; this site recently spent an entire day singing the praises of an offensive weapon last seen in the halcyon days of 1995 Edgar Martinez. Nelson looked at one ball and that was all he needed to launch his thirty second home run to left center field. But still, on many days, that would be where it ended. In times past, Nelson would round the bases, the game would go to extras, and we would bemoan that our heros have always been cowboys, and they still are it seems. But tonight, Robinson Cano, who has hit so brilliantly since July, who has finally gotten over the hump and poor health, would step into the batter's box, hear us say, "If I ever needed you, buddy, you know how I really do, buddy, don't ever let me start feelin' lonely," nod casually, and hit the ball into center field.
(I would embed both of these home runs but hey what do you know they aren't available. Joy is fleeting, memories are forever maybe, GIFs are the best.)
From there, it was a matter of doing all the ordinary and extraordinary expected things well; Kyle would spin like a whirling dervish, and throw out Elvis Andrus. Joe Beimel would pick off a runner at first, and make it look much, much easier than it really is. You don't even realize this is going to be a moment until the moment was over.
In the early ninth, Mitch Moreland, facing Carson Smith, singled to center field and you could feel the stadium groan; here we go again. But instead of imploding, Carson settled in. Like the steely eyed ranger he is, the kid from Texas nodded to Josh Hamilton and said, "You're the first, but you won't be the last." Smith dispatched the side from there, and Safeco flashed the "Mariners Win" moniker we expected to see far more often this year. It all could have gone differently. A hundred small plays could have tipped. But tonight they didn't. Tonight Carson stood tall, and Kuma painted the corners, and Nelson and Robbie went yard. The defense held, and the runs were enough. It all could have gone differently. But instead, it was fun.
So look around you. Look down the bar from you, the lonely faces that you see. Are you sure this is where you want to be?
Yes. Yes, it is.
The Mariners will look to pull ahead for a series win tomorrow as we celebrate Jamie Moyer's induction into the Mariners' Hall of Fame.