These games don't matter. The Mariners are out of it. They're playing like they're still in the race and they're not. You look at the math, the teams in front of them and the probability of them somehow pulling this off—it just isn't going to happen.
If you publicly raise any level of optimism around the Mariners and the tail-end of this season, you'll receive responses with any number of the reasons and points presented in the paragraph above.
I'd like to say I'm above telling fans how to feel—but I'd like to say a lot of things about myself that are mostly untrue. So, I'll be blunt on people trying to dissuade others from having any hope around a 2015 Mariners team breathing its lasts breaths: I don't get you people, at all.
With the Houston Astros' loss earlier today, the Mariners had a chance to move within four games of the second wild card spot before that obnoxious team would take the field again—and before a three-game weekend series against the Angels. For reference, that'd be only a single game more than where they were in the middle of the horrendous Blue Jays series last year.
It's not great, but it's not dead either.
So why not live these last few days while they're still there to live? The Mariners have played thousands of games where they gave you no choice, where applying any significant meaning to the outcome of the contest was all but impossible. So why lump these few precious games where there's something on the line in with all the others?
Well, maybe tonight's why.
As they've done so many times this season, where you'd kill for just one more victory in the string—the one that'd confirm that they might just be doing something, the one where they'd really suck you in—they instead did the opposite. And they did the opposite and lost in such an almost-tactical way that they seemed deliberate in their effort to extinguish any optimism.
Entering tonight, the Mariners' bullpen had the best September ERA in baseball—second in fWAR and FIP too. So of course, if the flames were to be doused, it would be there, as the bullpen's recent run of excellence has been a key part of the team's September success. And so they were, as the Mariners suffered their 22nd blown save of the season. Now, in mentally adding whatever fraction of that you'd like to the win total, remember that they might've ended up winning some of those—or even blowing two saves in one game.
Also, adding to the misery, the loss had to wipe away another bright spot, one of the biggest bright spots in September, with Ketel Marte fighting back from a slump. It looked for a moment like he'd go quietly, slip away at the end of the season like other middle infield prospects did before him. But he hasn't. He's adjusted. And when he stepped to the plate in a big spot, I genuinely believed he was capable of doing what needed to be done—and then he did more.
Maybe he shouldn't have swung. He probably shouldn't have swung. But when a guy covers the plate like this, with this swing resulting in a 99mph screamer into the gap for a go-ahead two-run triple, you have to smile.
Alas, it was for naught.
And so was a somewhat gritty Roenis Elias start, one I think anyone would take before the game had started. Six strikeouts are nice, four walks are not—but one earned run through 5.1 innings is about as much as you can ask for at this point, and that's what you got.
But of course, it didn't matter. The Mariners lost 4-3 after leading 3-1. They lost on a walk-off, which was their 66th since 2010. That's the most in baseball, and it isn't even close.
I'll admit I don't think I'm doing a good job here of making the argument for caring about the Mariners when the odds say you shouldn't. But maybe it's that heartbreak that reminds us why we keep on doing what we do, the reminder of how much sweeter it'll be once it's finally erased.
Or, I don't know, maybe feelings of terror and anxiety throughout a semi-meaningful game—and then the crushing disappointment that follows a loss like this—are better than not feeling anything at all. We're familiar with that, right?
I wish I had answers for why I think more people should feel some kind of way about tonight's game. But the best I can answer is just, that's baseball. Baseball's great. And for good and bad, tonight was baseball.
- I love Ketel Marte. You probably know this. But man, how fun is he? After 202 plate appearances, he's slashing, .298/.365/.410 with a 119 wRC+ and (metrically) above-average shortstop defense. I don't know where the hell the 10 percent walk rate is coming from, but it's there, and that's cool while it lasts. And you know what else is cool? This:
Stats aren't always there to blow our minds or refute what our eyes see. Sometimes they just confirm what we think. I'm starting to think Ketel Marte has adjusted to the league's adjustment. Maybe, just maybe, that's true.
- Roenis Elias, also still fun at times. Honestly, I didn't get home and put on the game until the bottom of the second, when Elias had two men on with nobody out. That's when he did this:
And then this:
I will love that yakker forever.
- Robinson Cano had his 2,000th hit tonight, and that's pretty damn great. Thanks to this post from Jeff Evans on the Mariners PR team for noting some interesting facts on the feat. Cano's just the fifth active player to reach the milestone before turning 33, and he's only the 14th player to do so in the first 11 years of his career. Here's to hoping we see him hit number 3,000 in a Mariners uniform.
That's all I got. That was a bummer, but there's ten games left to play. They're not dead yet. So we keep going.