The game started under a gray, Seattle-like sky in Cleveland, OH. Cleveland, patient zero of sports pain and misery, has seemingly infected the Mariners every time the team has touched it. Yet today the Mariners were faced with the rare and precious opportunity to win a series, and improve to 4-2 on a difficult, five thousand-some-odd mile road trip.
It began with the unexpected. Whenever the Mariners acquire a new player, I struggle to visualize them hitting a home run, until he hits the first one. That goes double for catchers, and goes triple for backup catchers. In the second inning Steve Clevenger began to swing at what I assume he thought was a 2-1 fastball. It was in fact a 2-1 changeup, but he kept his hands back enough to serve (the least intimidating word for a home run) the ball into the right field seats for a two-run homer. It was a shock, and the Mariners dugout was so excited that a race broke out to be the first to congratulate Clevenger:
From there things took a turn for the Clevelandy. Everyone remembers 2007, when an entire four-game series was snowed out, and Mike Hargrove performed his single greatest act as Mariner manager by essentially filibustering a
Randy Wolf Paul Byrd no-hitter:
Hey look at Eric Wedge in that picture, he looks upset. How unlike him.
Anyway it started to rain in Cleveland. I know I know, bad weather in the Midwest in April, what are the odds!? In the 4th the rain increased, with Nathan Karns uncharacteristically efficient and Cody Anderson falling apart, Terry Francona stole a trick from Hargrove and began to slooooooooowwwwww the gaaaaaaaammmmmmmeeeeeeee dooooowwwwwnnnnnnnn. Mound visits, time outs, asking for a fresh set of signs, and so forth; It was clear Cleveland's strategy was to pray for rain, and make the Mariners come back to Cleveland on another trip East. Somewhere I'm sure Ichiro's nose began twitching.
To that nefarious end Francona pulled Anderson and put in Trevor Bauer, the closest thing MLB has to Cobra Kai made manifest. Bauer played his role well, attempting to sweep the leg from underneath the Mariner's certain victory by walking the first two batters he faced, including one with the bases loaded. By the time the fourth was over it was 5-0 Mariners, but the specter of rainout loomed over the game.
In the fifth, which thus far in the young season has been the toll of midnight for Nate Karns' stuff, the Indians jumped right back into it when Rajai Davis jumped on a first pitch fastball and lined it over the 19-foot left field wall for a three run home run. 5-3, Mariners. Now it was our turn to pray for rain but Cleveland, as it always does, would not cooperate. This game was going the distance.
The Mariners answered Davis' dinger immediately in the top of the sixth when, after a Nori Aoki HBP Robinson Cano whapped a ball off the fence for an RBI double. Nelson Cruz followed with a single up the middle and our heart lowered itself gently down from the confines of our esophagus. 7-3, Mariners. But joy in Cleveland must be paid for in blood, and the Mariners were yet uncut.
The bottom of the sixth: Virgin ground in 2016 for Nate Karns. He claimed its fresh soil by stamping the Flag of Karns into the earth with a leadoff walk to Carlos Santana. An out later Jose Ramirez doubled him home and Scott Servaise said "you're outta here!" only far less rudely than that. Karns' line on the day, was very, very Gil Mech. I mean Nate Karns. I mean Gil Karns. Nate Meche?
5.1 IP 5 H, 4 R, 5 K, 4 BB, 92 pitches, 55 strikes
Karns' subpar command is going to be frustrating all year, but his stuff is among the very best on staff and I cannot believe that it sounds like I'm complaining about that line from the team's number five starter. This rotation is deep.
After Karns' departure Lonnie Chisenhall singled home Ramirez and, once again, we were forced to sweat as Cleveland crawled back to within two. At this point, Cleveland tried to Cleveland the hell out of the Mariners.
In the 8th, with one on and two out, Joaquin Benoit faced Mike Napoli. Now Mike Napoli has had a fine career, and I am always inclined to think fondly of someone with a bone to pick with Mike Scioscia. However it has been at least two years since Mike Napoli has been a particularly useful player, and at this point in his career he is essentially a mistake hitter. After falling behind 2-0, Benoit obliged with the cementiest of mixers:
After leading 5-0 and 7-3 the Mariners were tied, 7-7.
When the team went down in order in the top of the 9th I think we were all bracing for the worst. Cleveland has been known to walk-off the Mariners from time to time. Nevertheless Tony Zych held off the tide of memory. It went to the 10th.
Steve Clevenger began it with a walk. Clevenger, who has had a rough start to his Mariner career, played by far his best game of the season, reaching base three times and throwing out the pocket-sized Carlos Correa that is Francisco Lindor to end the 9th. After successive lineouts and a wild pitch it was Franklin Gutierrez drawing another walk. Now, with runners at at first and third, it was Robbie Cano. He did not wait:
Would you like some more Robinson Cano facts?
- Robinson Cano has a wRC+ of 164
- Robinson Cano's BABIP is .196
- After seeing his BB%/K% trend in the wrong directions in Seattle Cano is now at 9.0% and 13.% respectively on the year. The last time he struck out and walked at a similar rate was 2012, his best season in New York.
- Robinson Cano now has six home runs on the year, which leads the American League. You already know he started 2015 slowly but to emphasize the difference he hit his sixth home run on July 7th of last year.
- In conclusion: