We're all desperate for baseball. The thrill of the offseason has faded. Our most interesting trades are behind us, along with the sins of last season. Our baseball futures are tantalizingly close, but still lay some distance off. It's easy to settle into a kind of ennui. Luckily, ROOT Sports, sensing our
vulnerability impatience, has stepped in with their Mariners Mondays offering. Every Monday, they rebroadcast shortened 2015 Mariners games, sometimes organizing several games around a theme, sometimes showing particularly important contests in their entirety. And so in the spirit of "Oddly optimistic, spliced together baseball is better than no baseball at all," I'll be recapping these games every Monday, because what better means to wile away our time before April 4th than reliving some of the highlights of last season?
This week? The Mariners win two thrillers in Tampa Bay. The Theme? Woof, Rays.
Game 45, May 26, 2015
The First Inning
The Mariners entered the game two games under .500, having won three of the last four, and ten of our last sixteen. It was still early. We thought we had a lot of time back then, and series like this one against the Rays were a big part of why. Anyway, is the top of the first and Alex Colome was on the mound for the Rays. And hey, there's Austin Jackson! Hello, old friend! This was his first game back from the DL. Remember when it was exciting to have Austin Jackson come back from the DL? That happened. You were there. Colome's command looked pretty spotty early on. Or it did, back then. In May. Of last year. When the Mariners might still be good.
Jackson leads off the game with a single and then promptly TOOTBLANed, but is saved from his demonic base running possession with an E2 that allowed him to scoot to third. Buddy, you should have been out. Don't worry, you will be someday soon. Seth Smith hacks an RBI and the Mariners are on the board.
Then Robinson Cano came to the plate. Remember in the first season of "Homeland" when Carrie locks herself in her apartment for several days as she Beautiful Minds her way to solving a terrorist scheme, and discovers the terrorist's fallow yellow period? Yeah, that's where we are with Robbie going into this day. We were in Robbie's Fallow Period. He was slashing .253/.295/.337. Cano singles anyway (take that, terrorists), and suddenly we have runners on the corners with no outs and are again cruelly reminded by the Mariners Mondays editorial board that this is why we thought this team was going to turn it around.
Kyle hits a little chopper back to the mound, which Colome fields like a gosh darn professional shortstop as Smith comes home. Rene Rivere was there to apply the tag, but Smith was called safe on a very close play. And then January 2016 ROOT Sports decides to commit to historical realism in broadcasting and shows us the entirety of the safe call at home replay review, because you're already re-watching Mariners games from May and they want to remind you of that fact. The call is upheld, and a run scores, and up comes LoMo.
Oh LoMo. Logan works a 3-1 count and then HACKS AWAY. Never change Lomo. Or do. Whatever. You're someone else's problem now. Despite the hacking, LoMo works a walk. Gosh, why did we trade this guy? Oh right. Aaron Goldsmith and Mike Blowers note the team's prolonged grand slam drought as Welington grounds into a double play. Maybe that's why Jack traded you? Probably not.
J.A. Happ pitched this game for the Mariners. Jay Happ? Jai Happ? Blowers notes Happ has all of the pitches, which is sort of like saying someone has all of the fruit from the grocery store, while failing to note that some of those fruit are sort of squishy. Both these starting pitchers pitch at a glacial pace. Are the Mariners somehow still playing this game? Happ gives up a double, plunks a batter, issues a walk, and just like that, the Rays have tied it. If J.A. Happ were an alien from The X-Files, which alien would he be? He strikes out beautiful person Kevin Kiermaier and finally ends the inning. As he returned to the dugout, he shook his head like the weird alien he is, as if trying to reorder human words in his mind to explain what happened.
The Eighth Inning
And we jump ahead to the 8th! Seattle 2, Tampa Bay 3. At this point, I receive a message from fellow LLer Kate: "I like watching the games like this because it mirrors the rage blackouts I had during the actual games." Touché, Kate. Touché. I'm reminded of the dramatist's rule that you can't have the bases loaded in the first act without them going off sometime in the third act.
The booth keeps referencing weird strangers like Ruggiano and Weeks and Elias. 90% of the fun of these rebroadcasts is looking up and saying, "Hey, that guy!" You know when you go to big family events and your weird cousins are there and you don't know any of their names, but know you should because someday you'll maybe want the same chip and dip from your Grandma? Well, what's up Cousin Rickie? How's your mom? Rickie promptly strokes a pinch hit infield single up the middle. Cousin Rickie, you have that chip and dip. You've earned it. Recent Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame Inductee Willie Effing Bloomquist comes in to pinch run because we had just that much speed on the roster in 2015. This is... I guess our best option.
Cano singles sharply. Two on, none out, Cruz up. Nelson absolutely drills it to Nick Franklin, who temporarily thought he was still a Mariner and errs. And just like that, the bases are loaded. And Kyle Seager is up. On the first pitch, our Sweet Prince sees a beautiful meatball of a fastball right down the middle and he belts it. GRAND SALAMI TIME. It was our first grand slam since now Ray Brad Miller hit one on September 28, 2013. Somewhere, Chekhov nods in approval. 6-3 Mariners.
Fernando Rodney is going to make $2 million next year. It will not be with the Seattle Mariners. Innings like the ninth are why.
Here is how the first four batters of the 9th went for Rodney: single to left, single to right, hit by pitch, double to center. Two runs score. We didn't know how bad things were yet. What I know sitting in January of 2016 is that I am about to have a rage stroke. I can't figure out why ROOT would insist on showing us this. Maybe ROOT also likes to be sad? Forsythe pops out in foul territory, and it's one out. Then Elmore sends a grounder to Kyle, who fields it cleanly and throws to Cano, who spikes the ball. The game is tied. Everything hurts.
This had the feel of a classic Mariners collapse. Cruz singled. Kyle came up to bat. Cruz took off. Cruz was out at second. Oh yes, we've cooked with these ingredients before. Kyle was behind 0-2, but had that look. There was an extra little shimmy in his stance. That's because he is a baseball angel. Because on an 0-2 count, Kyle hit his only home run of the year to dead center over the head of beautiful person Kevin Kiermaier. It was the first home run Boxburger had given up all season. Blowers would note on the next day's broadcast that it was the first Mariners extra innings home run on an 0-2 count since Edgar Martinez hit one against the Red Sox in 2001, which is of course a fact that immediately rockets Kyle to not getting into the Hall of Fame. And it was beautiful. Beimel notched a save for the first time since 2009. Rodney got the win because pitcher wins are dumb. Joe, shoot that arrow and then hypnotize Rodney to sleep through his alarm for the next couple months, won't you?
Game 46, May 27, 2015
Felix against the Rays feels like a weird fad diet in which a sterling pitching performances get very little run support and you sweat off ten pounds in an afternoon. This was his 14th career start against the Rays. He had an ERA of 2.12, including the Perfecto and the marvelous 15 K game he had in 2014. He got approximately 1.5 runs in all of those games. Don't check, I did that for you.
The First Inning
The top of the first inning was fairly emblematic of what the Mariners would see from Chris Archer:
- Chris Archer strikes out Austin Jackson.
- Chris Archer strikes out Robinson Cano.
- Seth Smith doubles.
- Chris Archer strikes out Nelson Cruz.
The Second Inning
And the bottom of the second inning was fairly emblematic of what the Rays would see from Felix Hernandez:
- DeJesus singles
- Forsythe grounds out
- Nick Franklin walks (just forever letting the Mariners down, huh buddy?)
- Elmore grounds into an inning ending double play.
Chris Archer kept handing out strikeouts like they were going out of style, sort of like cowbells at the Trop (HEYO), but Felix was much more efficient, flirting with trouble but facing the minimum. He leaned on four ground ball double plays to get out of scrapes; he walked a few and even plunked a guy, but it was never a performance where you worried about him too much. At some point around the fourth, it became clear that this was truly a war of attrition, only our camp was closer to a clean water source and the supply lines. Poor Chris Archer. It was a beautiful performance. We know what it is to be outflanked without rations. We truly do.
The Eight Inning
Logan Morrison and Brad Miller ground out in back to back at-bats. Two outs on two pitches. You corncobs. I wonder if the Rays looked at these at-bats and thought, "Man, we need both these corncobs. Clearly. Obviously. Desperately." Probably.
Felix, ever the not-corncob, opens the eighth at just 59 pitches. May 2015 Meg was driving back from grad school in Wisconsin when this game was happening, and started to get the sinking feeling that the team wouldn't give him the runs he needed to win. January 2016 Meg marveled at how much less stressful this problem becomes when you know the future, which is actually the past. May 2015 Felix promptly ends the inning on a nasty curve that is lovingly caught by Mike Zunino (Mike, do you need Tacoma restaurant recommendations?). Both May 2015 Meg and January 2016 Meg are pleased.
The Ninth Inning
Mike Zunino strikes out look. Honestly, Mariners Monday, you can skip over the crummy Zunino at-bats. Or at least showing his framing metrics the whole time you do. You're harshing my vibe. Austin Jackson appears to be golfing? Nah, he's just striking out too. May 2015 Meg and her mom have just crossed the Washington border and are in need of lunch. They decide Taco Time is the best choice. They exit I-90. Seth Smith walks. They arrive at the drive through. Then Cano walks. Both May 2015 Meg and January 2016 Meg are nervous. May 2015 Meg orders a burrito and tots (gotta get the tots) as Nelson Cruz stops into the batter's box. He's pretty good at hitting the baseball. I'm nervous. Do you think Boxberger is nervous? May 2015 Meg and her mom arrive at the drive through window and, "THE STINGRAYS WILL HAVE TO TAKE COVER." May 2015 Meg and her mom freak out in the car, showering her Jetta in tots, and scaring the crap out of the nice Spokane lady working the drive through. January 2016 Meg idly wonders if that lady is ok. May 2015 Meg doesn't care because Nelson Cruz has come through in the clutch, delivering a three run jack just when we needed it. You beautiful eyebrowman, you.
Felix comes back out for the 9th and May 2015 Meg is white knuckling it, because this is where you white knuckle it. You want the Maddux. You want it for the King. But 101 pitches will do just as well. Felix strikes out Butler swinging to end the game. The Mariners are back to .500. It was early. It was all ahead of us. And January 2016 Meg would like some tots.
Join me next week as we relive two dominant young pitching performances, and get one step closer to baseball.