This game came down to a few simple things. Actually that's not true. Every baseball game is an amazing combination of millions of tiny, fractional influences. What did Felix Hernandez eat last night? Did his children let him sleep through the night? Are his parents well? Does their impending old age weigh on his mind in any way? What about Mike Trout? Did he have something other than a Subway sandwich and if so was it a shock to his system? Did he say two full complete sentences and then have to take a nap due to exhaustion? What about Ronbinson Cano? Can he turn on a fastball today or is that stomach muscle too painful?
These are the real life factors that add up to whether a baseball game among the most gifted athletes our species has ever produced is won or lost. We call them "intangibles" because they are not at present within our capacity to chart and measure. Maybe someday the combination of financial investment in these players and scientific measurement will be such that each professional athlete will be implanted with chips and nodes that track their every heart rate fluctuation, blood sugar level, etc. Maybe die hard fans will be able to track these levels in real time. Wouldn't that be a treat!
But, for today, we only have what we have. So, within the hilariously narrow field of my vision: This game came down to a few simple things. They are things we talk about a lot. You see the Mariners lost 4-3 to the Angels tonight. They were ahead 1-0, because Nelson Cruz hit his 42nd home. It was, like so many of his home runs, a ball instantly destined to leave the confines of its designated, green world. The home run meant that Nelson Cruz, the man so many, including myself, spent years making fun of the Mariner front office for signing before they signed him set the all-time Safeco Era home run record for a Mariner. Let's have a look:
Like so many things in 2015, however, the home run was bittersweet. The pitch prior Ketel Marte was thrown out trying to steal 2nd. Another day, another TOOTBLAN.
This brings us to Felix. Felix was, well, he was 2015 Felix. 2015 Felix has been a lot like 2006-2008 Felix; before 2009, when everything changed and Felix stood astride the American league for over half a decade. There have been some great moments for Felix this year, there have been some truly awful moments, and there have been many, many moments where it just seemed it wasn't *quite* there.
Tonight was that last thing. Felix came out of the gate hungry, like a two day starved wolf smelling blood. The 1st inning was over in 9 pitches; all of them vicious, hissing missiles at or near the strike zone's pinkest and softest parts. Although no one struck out, these were not the swings of professional hitters. These were the wide-eyed flails of men meeting a force beyond their grasp.
The 2nd was more of the same. This time 10 pitches, full of decades of practice, peaked genetics and knowledge fired in exactly the right spots. Anytime Felix, and I hope forever going forward, goes through the first two innings in order I perk up a bit and start to pay close attention. This was no different. With Felix, history is never further than right outside, waiting to be invited in.
Then, the 3rd. The first pitch was the Doom. An inside fastball that rode up and in to David Freese. Freese, even by modern standards, dives with his upper body into the strike zone. The pitch was here:
Nonetheless, not only did it graze Freese but the LA(A) third basement immediately turned and barked at the Mariner dugout. This led to home plate umpire Alan Porter, hallowed be his name amongst overly promoted mediocrities, to warn both benches. Now, I don't really know that much about baseball. But I do know that Felix Hernandez, even if he hated David Freese as a mortal enemy, isn't going to intentionally drill some dude with a 105 wRC+. David Freese shall now be known as David No Chill.
This all was exacerbated immediately when Carlos Perez, who I'm not going to double check but I'm pretty sure hit his first career home run against the Mariner earlier this year, dribbled an infield single. Now, it was time for David Murphy. Let's do that awful thing - Jesus Sucre called for the ball here:
Felix threw a change up here:
And David Murphy's pipe cleaner arms hit it here:
The Mariners rallied. Seth Smith scored from first on a Franklin Gutierrez single to cut the lead to 3-2 but then, well, here's the awful thing again. This one is worse because the count is 0-2 and the batter is Mike Trout. The pitch is supposed to be here:
Oh no the pitch didn't go there and Mike Trout is very good and his arms are pipe cleaners yes but like 17 of them all wound together:
The Mariners rallied. They do a lot of that these days. It's possible that when the 2016 Mariners clinch the AL West one year from today we'll look back and realize the seeds were sown in the 2nd half offensive surge from the 2015 team. This team does not go quietly offensively. Not for a few months now, anyway. This time, again, thank you Guti. Here's a meaningless stat, beyond that fact that it gives me joy:
Live MLB SLG leaderboard (min. 120 PA): Franklin Gutierrez - .674 Bryce Harper - .669 Giancarlo Stanton - .606 Nelson Cruz - .593
— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 16, 2015
Unfortunately, a few innings and several wildly original strike calls later, the Mariners ultimately lost. It's frustrating. There's just those few things. It feels like the whole of 2015 has been upturned by "Just those few things". A blown call. A blown save. A TOOTBLAN. If 2014 was a year of a missed opportunity than 2015 is a year of dozens upon dozens of missed opportunities. Long into the summer, well past the point of logic and reason, many of us on staff and many in the fanbase clung to the idea that this team would, at least for a few precious weeks, string together victories the way we expected them to way back in March.
It hasn't happened. Maybe that's just a few things. More likely it's thousands upon thousands of tiny things we'll never see or know about. That's baseball. That's 2015.
BONUS: GIFs I liked but could not work into the recap in any sort of functional way.
- Jesus Sucre tries to frame Erik Aybar.
- Robinson Cano tries to slide into second base.