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#EdgarHOF - Day 56

One last dinger Friday

New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners
a gift, part one
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

If you ask anyone what they know about Edgar Martinez, they’ll say The Double. It’s one of those Seattle sports moments that has a title—the Tip, the Double, things that are so ingrained in our collective sports unconscious that we only need one word to access the memory. But the Double doesn’t happen unless the Mariners get to that decisive Game 5, and that doesn’t happen without Edgar’s performance in Game 4.

The Mariners had begun the ALDS with two straight losses to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, and returned to the Kingdome needing to win three straight. Game 2 had been a heartwrenching affair, a five-hour-plus game that the Mariners lost despite a three-hit day from Edgar and Buhner and a two-hit, one home run day from Junior. The big three did their best, and yet after fifteen innings, it wasn’t enough, which sounds chillingly, unpleasantly familiar.

In the first game back at the Kingdome, the Mariners struggled to get going offensively. Randy Johnson was able to hold the Yankees to just two runs across seven innings, long enough for the Mariners to scrape together some runs. Edgar led off the fifth with a walk, and then Tino Martinez punished that leadoff walk with a home run to get the Mariners on the board. In the sixth, with runners on at second and third, the Yankees decided to take the bat out of Edgar’s hands, and again, Tino Martinez was able to punish the Yankees for that, singling in a run. The Mariners would leap out to a 6-1 lead, and when Edgar came up again in the seventh inning, the Yankees would again take the bat out of his hands. Two intentional walks in one game; that’s the power of Edgar. The bullpen would wind up almost blowing the game, because that’s what the Mariners’ bullpen did in the mid-90s, but the Mariners escaped with a win, living to play another day.

That day, Game 4, did not begin auspiciously. Chris Bosio gave up three runs in the first inning, and then another two on a Paul O’Neill home run to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead and a 89% win expectancy. So when the Mariners finally got two base runners on in the third with a pair of singles from Cora and Griffey, Edgar didn’t waste any time, taking the first pitch he saw from Yankee starter Scott Kamieniecki—a pitch that was pretty far inside—and turning on it to send it into the seats.

(If you want the Niehaus call, click here.)

The Mariners would tie it up, and then go ahead, and in came Norm Charlton to close up shop and oh no Norm. The Yankees re-tied the game on a wild pitch. It was up to Edgar, again, in the eighth. John Wetteland had loaded the bases and had nowhere to put Edgar. He needed to make a good pitch, a smart pitch, to either retire Edgar or keep the game reasonably close. He did not.

I have no explanation for the pitch Wetteland threw Edgar in this 2-2 count. He threw the pitch exactly where he should have not thrown the pitch, a fastball straight down the middle where any competent MLBer could have done damage to it. In the hands of Edgar Martinez, though?

I will never understand what made Wetteland throw that particular pitch, but I know I am grateful for it. I think I heard the fans in the Kingdome all the way in West Seattle, shouting all 400 feet of that hit into the night. When a ball arrives at the plate, a fork in the road appears. If the batter flails at it, or watches it go by, dumbstruck, that pitch belongs to the pitcher still. But if the hitter can do something with it, the pitch becomes a hit, and ownership transfers to the batter. Every pitch, a skirmish that may or may not end the war.

Edgar doesn’t just own this pitch. He builds a kingdom around it and appoints himself its ruler. All Bernie Williams can do is wave as the ball flies over his head, like catching a glimpse of passing royalty. It was so strange and wonderful and transcendent, Dave Niehaus briefly traveled into the 1950s for his call: “Baby, he pickled it. He deep-sixed it.” Even Edgar couldn’t believe it. Look at the O of surprise his mouth makes when he hits the ball. I think even Edgar—quiet, non-demonstrative, humble Edgar—is saying “wow.”

The Mariners needed one. Edgar gave them four. More importantly, he gave them a Game 5. And that’s where we will pick up the story tomorrow, for the last day.