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80-31: Impossible

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Another entry in a periodic series chronicling the worst games in Seattle Mariners history. Today: The Improbable Return.

Impossible. That's been the whole season. Every single day, waking up, opening up the P-I, logging onto SortsNet, and seeing the impossible. It has been Bret Boone every day refusing to give in, crouching low with two strikes, and blasting the ball into the right field seats more than any Mariner hitter since Junior. We came into the season worried about replacing A-ROD, that selfish jerk, and to get nearly the same production from Bret Boone? Bret Boone!? The scrawny hack that annoyed Lou back in the early 90's? Impossible.

All summer long the team's play has defied logic, belief, and descriptive language fit for this earth. As he always does Dave captured it best way back when Ichiro nailed Terrence Long: "It's like something out of Star Wars." That's everything that's been happening all year. Real baseball teams don't have records like 22-6, 31-9, 47-12, 80-30...

80-30! That was the Mariners record coming into today! Those numbers are pets.com stock price crazy, they make no sense. I turned on the radio after work today and the Mariners were putting the finishing touches on a classic rally built around what their offense has done all damn year: Geting on base. If you want to distill how the 2001 Mariners offense has scorched the American League this year it looks a lot like this:

Single, single, single, double, single, single, HBP, sac fly, walk, single, E6, single.

Twelve at-bats, one out. The team leads baseball in on-base percentage for a reason. At that point it was 12-0 and I was sitting in my bedroom in Ballard, just laughing. Laughing at the whole thing. After Jim Thome hit a 2-run home run the Mariners answered right back with two more with, yep, a single, and an RBI groundout. The Cleveland Indians are a damn good team. Kenny Lofton, Roberto Alomar, Omar Vizquel, Jim Thome, etc. all the pieces are there for yet another playoff team. But....

14-2. Impossible.

****

It started, as all catastrophes beyond imagining do, with the tiniest of mistakes. The Indians had capitulated in the 7th, and taken out Ellis Burks for Russell Branyan. Aaron Sele's first pitch fastball simply caught too much of the plate...

Boom, 14-3. Nothing. A crack in the windshield.

Jolbert Cabrera managed to squeak out a two RBI single off of John Halama before the inning was over but, still, 14-5 through seven innings. Just the slightest hiccup in the transmission.

It was the 8th. That's where I started to clean my room a little bit faster, snapping the sheets as I folded them, forcefully placing the hangers back in my closet. Halama allowed a lead off home run to Thome, then hit Branyan, then allowed another home run to Marty Cardova. Boom. Boom. Boom. I can hear that infernal drum from the Jacobs Field cheap seats reverberating through my soul.

Halama allowed two more baserunners before Norm Charlton came in and was promptly greeted by a RBI double from Omar Vizquel. It was here I firstly, but not lastly, audibly said "shit no" to myself. But after a hilarious Lofton TOOTBLAN Charlton K'd Cabrera to end the 8th and I relaxed.

14-9. The check engine light came on, but we're almost home anyway.

The 9th. Impossible. After a lead off single Charlton got a fly out and a strike out. One on, two out, five run lead, for the greatest baseball team I've ever seen play the game. The Indians win expectation was at 0%. The game was over.

A double. Bring in Jeff Nelson.

Boom.

A walk.

Boom.

A single, 14-11. Out goes Nelson, in comes Sasaki.

Boom. Boom. Thunderous. Eternal. Echoing in my mind.

Single. Bases loaded.

Boom boom boom boom boom boom.

The pitches to Vizquel at 1-2 and 2-2 are so close Dave is screaming into his mic, desperate for the Home Plate Ump Jeff Nelson to end it. But no, the wheels of fate are spinning, the brake lines are cut, and we're rolling downhill. Kaz throws a 3-2 pitch, and Vizquel swings. It's a line drive. It's fair.

Boom.

14-14. We've crashed. Impossible. Silence.

I erupted in my little room I was renting from a nice young married couple. Oh how they heard me scream and rage. I have spent my 20 years on this earth trying to be a good Christian man, but I unleashed every foul word I have ever known, nonstop, for about a full minute, at the top of my voice, and then simply collapsed into my bed. I already knew we had lost.

It didn't matter that the Mariners got the 3rd out in the 9th. I knew we wouldn't score in the 10th. I knew we wouldn't score in the 11th. The game was over. Cabrera singling home Lofton in the 11th just wrote the eulogy of a game long dead to me.

15-14. I have never seen a baseball team like the 2001 Seattle Mariners, and I have never experienced a loss like today's. There is not up, nor down. There is no floor, or ceiling or anything in between. Just me, laying on my bed, floating in my many manifold disbeliefs.

Impossible.