The ball was hit deep into the left center field gap off the bat of Adam Jones. Yes, Adam Jones. That symbol of all the horrible transactions of time long gone, still holding down center field in Baltimore, the franchise he was traded to and eventually committed his prime to. In the past, in this situation, watching Adam Jones stroke another ball into a hard to reach place of the territory he has roamed with such proficiency in the countless years since Erik Bedard came to Seattle, the sad trombone was already playing. The script was written long ago. Except, today, much like most days so far this season, something very different happened.
The Seattle Mariners lost 5-2 to Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles. It wasn't that fun to watch, the M's came up short in essentially every situation in which they threatened, and we were treated to the Mark Trumbo Home Run Show during the process. However, there is undeniably something different happening here. Adam Jones smoked a ball deep into the power alley, about a foot from sailing over the fence. It didn't fall in. Leonys Martin had it the whole way.
Taijuan Walker had the start for the M's tonight and it was clear from his first inning that he didn't have his best stuff. The fastball out of the gates was a couple ticks slower, averaging closer to 92 than his now-typical 95. However, the above catch got Tai out of trouble early in the first inning and that felt like maybe it would be enough until the second inning when Mark Trumbo stepped up to the plate and the 23 year-old hung a curve ball. Mark Trumbo found it to his liking.
After the following batter, Matt Weiters followed Trumbo with a solo home run of his own, the score was 2-0 and there were no outs in the second. It wasn't looking awesome with rain falling. To cut the suspense, the Seattle Mariners would never take a lead in this game. Tai did settle in, mostly. He'd escape the second without any further damage and go five full innings. He'd give up three earned runs on five hits and two walks and only struck out three. Towards the end of his outing he found 95 a few times with the fastball, but he just never had the juice of that real heater he can find, that 98MPH one. He faced an inconsistent zone, especially on the low and away corner, but it didn't ruin his evening by any means. For what it's worth, his slider was a relatively effective out-pitch for him tonight.
On the offensive side of things, Leonys Martin, leading-off the third inning, decided to contribute more than his glove tonight. He absolute tatered a cutter that didn't cut over the right field wall, and at the time, cutting the Baltimore lead to 2-1, it felt like it would be enough to start the offense back up.
That's a Camden Blast.
However, the bats really never came around tonight. The Mariners pushed one across in the fourth after Nelson Cruz lead the inning off with a stung double into the right center power alley and Kyle Seager worked one of his three walks to follow. Adam Lind pushed the runners to second and third with a fielders choice and then with one out, Chris Iannetta hit a deep sac fly to even the score. The Orioles would take the lead right back in the bottom of the fourth after a Mark Trumbo single turned into a run after a misplayed double off the bat of Weiters.
Beyond the fourth, the only other inning the M's managed to mount a threat came in the eighth. Down 4-2 and having found nothing resembling a rally all game, just some pocket lint and an old paper clip, Seth Smith popped out to center field. Robinson Cano followed the All Star Dad by "doubling" into right field off of Jonathon Schoop's glove, and after a Nelson Cruz walk, Kyle Seager walked to the plate having walked three times in his three appearances so far. The Mariners, having not had a single inning with two hits, needed something from Kyle. Being in the form he's in, and the defense unable to shift with runners on first and second, Kyle singled sharply between first and second. Bases loaded and one down for Adam Lind.
Except, the Orioles found this an appropriate time to go to their closer, Zach Britton, which, in turn, made Scott Servais go grab Dae-Ho Lee to face the lefty. Dae-Ho struck out, seeing only fastballs on the outside low corner of the plate, and Iannetta followed by grounding out straight to Schoop at second base. It was over then and there, even with another turn left. The Orioles pushed another run across off a sac fly in the bottom of the eighth with Joel Peralta pitching and that was the final score, folks. 5-2.
Yet, there's something else here to consider. The Seattle Mariners are in first place in the AL West, thanks to the Rangers losing in Oakland before the M's game concluded. Even with losing four of the last five, with the offense pulling a stinker off a seemingly hittable Chris Tillman who threw slop and couldn't locate the curve to save his life, there is an acceptance of due process here. The Mariners are five games over .500, a mark that for the past fifteen years we have judged, and often came short of, seasons by. First place is still ours, it's in our hands. We are closer to June than April.
See, wrapped up in all this is a lesson on resilience. Ketel Marte looked like trash at the plate all night, but then managed an 11-pitch at bat off of one of the premier closers in the AL, slashing a double down the left field line to lead off the ninth. Tomorrow, early, the M's play for yet another series win with the very in-form Nathan Karns taking the hill. Resiliency is a trait we do not stress enough, it's perhaps the prerequisite skill of a baseball player. You are going to fail in this game, but the game is not defined by the failures. We start 0-0 every day. Losing Adam Jones is a piece of history. Leonys Martin certainly doesn't care for the narrative. The game is about which team succeeds enough times to win the game. We cannot end in a tie in baseball. Tonight, the Seattle Mariners did not succeed enough times to get a win. But they are in first place. They play tomorrow.
Here we go again.