It was...not...the worst thing you've ever seen. Shocking, really, because Felix was at 74 pitches after four innings, and the only available arms in the pen were Fernando Rodney, Carson Smith, and that pudgy guy with the BIG DOGS! t-shirt hanging over the rail watching both warm up. At this point, it was 2-0 Rangers, and you didn't exactly feel the most confidence you had ever felt as a Mariners fan.
First, it was Prince Fielder earning his first career hit against the king, making him now 1 for 18 against the future
Hall of Famer God of the Universe. And it's not like Felix was broken, falling apart in pieces like that robot from the side of the road that I read one headline about and have decided to not pay any more attention to in the interim. No, he was hitting 95 on the edges of the plate, and generating contact outside the zone to force weak hits. Still, the Rangers were making him work, and work he did. In the top of the second, Mitch Moreland struck out on a classic slider down in the dirt, except it took Felix six pitches to get there. Which would be fine, considering Moreland is hitting .294 and isn't exactly someone you can just expect to walk back to the dugout, but then there was this
and then this
and suddenly the Rangers had tacked on their first run of the game thanks to some great hitting. And look at that--Andrus and Hamilton are different hitters hitting on different sides of the plate, but the balls that ended both at bats were essentially in the same exact spot, and all things considered, it was actually Hamilton's that should have been the bad pitch despite the fact that the result was completely different. Instead of getting jammed inside, Andrus whacked 93 mph into left. Despite seeing something on the edge of the zone but still right in the double range, Hamilton rolled it over and only touched first while turning back around for the visitors dugout. I only mention this to show you that Felix did just about everything normal today, and sometimes in this game, the result is just exactly the opposite of what you would expect.
Kind of like being down 2-0 in the fourth with a tiring starter and no bullpen. Except these Seattle Mariners are not one for doing the expected this season. I mean, we're talking about the consensus AL West champion, built-and-bought slugging powerhouse that was supposed to watch as a questionable signing in Nelson Cruz is surrounded by doubles and doubles and doubles off the bats of Cano, Miller, and Seager before a lights out bullpen. And literally, actually literally, the opposite has happened.
So to kickstart opposite day, Cruz leads off the fourth with a walk before being quickly erased by one of those stupid unassisted double plays where the baseball magically leaves Robinson Canos bat and just, suddenly, appears in the glove of first baseman Mitch Moreland, all but standing on first base. And yet, once Seth Smith reached with a blooper a minute later, you kind of just, well, knew it was coming. You knew it.
Up walked the ice cream man. The sun in his eyes. They said redemption was on his mind, but this was not so--no, he was trying to catch up to an 82mph slider which he had just tipped back into the glove for strike one. Maybe it was here, this moment, that he remembered it all--the laughs, the boos, the front page articles all across September. The disappointment in the eyes of his family.
No, he wasn't thinking of that either, because he was thinking about how being late on a slider once made it a whole hell of a lot easier to not be late on the same slider a second later, especially when it was right over the got dang center of the plate.
Montero's two-run blast gives #Mariners the lead. WATCH: http://t.co/kaANwzGm6Q pic.twitter.com/JIdf8J7uLh— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) August 9, 2015
After the game he stared ahead blankly while his interview was beamed through every speaker inside Safeco and across the national network receiving the broadcast of ROOT Sports Northwest. Jesus shrugged his shoulders and said "um" a whole bunch, and I'll bet you a thousand dollars he thought about what Jack Zduriencik told him last fall and how disappointed everyone was in him and how awful the whole thing felt. Jesus just kind of stood there and stared forward and then he said "you know he hung the pitch in there, and I hit it good, and I'm happy to help the team to win, and that is a good feeling." Jen Mueller then asked him about hitting with two outs in the inning, and after saying he wanted to hit the ball hard, he said "I'm very happy to win today, excited, you know, it's good because Felix was throwing the ball good today too." ROOT then cut to this image of a man who sixth months ago may have never played professional baseball ever again.
And it was at this moment that I realized I've never rooted this hard for a person, completely divorced from the outcome or results which are tied to the baseball team I just happen to follow. They are going to be talking a lot about 2016 in the months to come, and about Montero's future and this club and they are going to be describing how they fixed him. And every single word of that will be wrong, because Jesus Montero fixed Jesus Montero. And that, my friends, is my favorite sentence I have typed on this website over this entire calendar year.
Oh yeah, and then to top it all off, Nelson Cruz put a baseball on the moon:
Cruz has now hit safely in 19 straight games, which is absolutely bonkers when you think about it. After this, Rodney and Smith didn't melt down, and the Mariners won the game and my god, how hilarious is this all going to be next May when the Mariners have two right-handed power hitters on pace for 40 home runs while Jack Zduriencik watches it all from his office inside Marlins Park? You can't make this up, you really can't.
So they end the week taking the series from the Rangers, and will now head into their final East Coast stretch tomorrow on a pretty dang good note. With playoffs all but out of the question, it has been pretty fun just watching this team fire on all cylinders recently, especially considering bullpen meltdowns can now lead not to inches between us and the Wild Card, but actual DFA's and opportunities for the kids. It may not be what we wanted in April, but after all that has happened between then and now, well, I'll take it.