This year, you guys. The Mariners hitting was pretty bad when the pitching was pretty good, and the pitching was down right unwatchable when the hitting has been really, really good. Despite a strong showing lately and the stumbling of the Astros, the M's look to be pretty well done. And while this season has had a surprising number of highlights for such a bummer year, it had some pretty low lows. So a few members of the Lookout staff thought they'd celebrate Friday by recalling their Worst Play of the Year. This is but a sampler. Cheers to the freakin' weekend.
David: Paxton "fielding" vs. Cleveland Indians. May 29th (Editor's note: this game took place the first night I was back in Seattle after moving home from Wisconsin. Mike Zunino hit a home run off Corey Kluber. I think he did it for me. I thought we were fated to win. We did not win.)
The play I chose seems innocuous enough. James Paxton lumbers off the mound to field a bunt with one down and a runner on first. He picks the ball up cleanly from the grass, but then and seemingly out of nowhere, the ball gets rubbed down with food-grade grease and jellyfish legs. The result is simply an infield hit. No worries, runners now on first and second with one down.
But let me tell you (or remind you) about what you don't see. This was the sequence that followed this mishandled bunt: walk-single-error-fielder's choice-groundout resulting in three runs for CLE and a 4-1 hole for the M's. They would never recover from this hole despite Zunino and Ackley both going yard.
Think about that summary of a game. The M's lose a game in 2015 where they leave the yard twice due to a team scoring on a single, an error, a fielder's choice, and a groundout. It all started so harmlessly. What it became was the inevitable downfall of the game. When thinking about the worst play, no single inning of the season stood out more than this one. To make it even more delicious, this is the game where Paxton injured his middle finger to which I wrote, "He (Paxton) exited the game with a 'middle finger injury' and that's all we know so far about the matter. My guess? Something horrible. But I rarely guess right."
Meg: Fernando Rodney blows the save vs. the New York Yankees. June 2nd (better known as Kyle Seager Bobblehead Night)
Uh-oh. We were pretty tired of Fernando Rodney at this point, but we didn't yet know what exhaustion was. I should back up. I had just moved back to Seattle and secured gainful employment the previous day. I thought I would celebrate by attending Kyle Seager Bobblehead Night because 1) I love bobbleheads 2) I love Kyle Seager and 3) I was flush with happy feelings. The Mariners looked like they would oblige my celebration. First, there were fireworks, with Mike Zunino and Lloyd McClendon getting tossed after objecting to the #umpshow with some swears.
Then there were runs, with Nelson Cruz and Austin Jackson RBI giving the Mariners a narrow 2-1 lead going to the 9th. And then the LED strobe light extravaganza began, and out trotted Rodney from the Mariners bullpen. Rodney promptly walked Chase Headley, and that was probably the first time I turned to my friends and said, "Uh-oh." We had moved down to seats along the third baseline, but even from there it was clear that Rodney's command was all the hell over the place. But then Carlos Beltran flied out to right and Didi Gregorius struck out swinging, and it looked like that lead off walk might not matter after all. The couple in front of us must have agreed because they headed to the exits. "Are they new?" I said to my friend. (Brian McCann singles to left, Headley moves to third) "Yup."
With runners on the corners, Stephen Drew stepped into the batter's box. Stephen Drew, who that night had gone 0-3. Stephen Drew, who was batting .157 at the time (Update: Stephen Drew is currently hitting .202 and maybe lose his job). Stephen Drew stepped up, got behind 1-2, and then doubled deep to right field and brought home Headley. "UH-OH." A lot of things have gone wrong this year, and there have been some terriiibbbllee plays. But Rodney blowing the save against the Yankees and sending the game to extras was uniquely terrible for me. One of my friends went home in the 10th with a migraine (fair, dude), but a couple of us stuck it out until Jones' three run homer in the 11th. As I waited for a car to take me home, I stood on the sidewalk cradling my Seager bobblehead like a tiny baby, tears of anger welling up. Rodney blew six saves for the Mariners this year. Some were walk offs, one ended up being a Win because pitcher wins make just that much sense. Hell, one was a walk off walk. But of all Rodney's tomfoolery, that blown save against the Yankees was the worst for me. Because Kyle's bobblehead deserved better, and so did I.
Andrew: Felix Hernandez gives up all the home runs against the Boston Red Sox. All of them. August 15th
Back on August 15th, Felix Hernandez stepped up onto the mound to face off against the Red Sox in Fenway. Despite getting thumped by Boston 15-1 the previous afternoon (due in large part to a horrendous start by Mike Montgomery), the Mariners had been playing pretty good baseball, winning eight of their last 13 games. Their playoff odds were down to around 5%, but if they could manage to win the series against Boston (the team with the worst record in the AL at the time), they would be back to six games under .500 with more than 40 games remaining on the schedule. Their postseason pulse certainly wasn't strong, but it had yet to be extinguished completely.
And then Felix had maybe the worst start of his career and everything was terrible and the Mariners lost 22-10. Looking back on it, this was probably the game that finally convinced me to let go of that last little bit of hope. It was a very sad day. There were many awful plays (i.e., Red Sox hits) that occurred during Felix's outing. He gave up 10 earned runs and 12 hits (five for extra bases) in just 2.1 innings! It's difficult to do so, but I guess if I had to pick just one thing from this game that felt like the worst thing, it would be this home run by Alejandro de Aza:
This play felt especially bad because 1) De Aza isn't very good at hitting home runs, 2) Fenway is such a dumb ball park, 3) this represented the THIRD home run given up by Felix in this game (something he's only done in eight of his 332 career starts), and 4) he responded to the HR with this face:
This is one of the few times that I remember seeing Felix look defeated. It was an awful moment in the middle of a terrible start towards the end of a very disappointing season. 2015 has had its bright spots, but man oh man has it also had its bummers.
There are so many more: Cano walking "home" against the Dodgers, Brad overthrowing first base and blowing a game against the White Sox, the pitching the entire Boston series. Leave yours in the comments. You'll feel better getting it off your chest. Maybe.