You can admit it. When the Rangers took a half-game lead in the AL West, you thought the Mariners would never retake the top spot. It was so very...Mariners. Sure, the team had contended deeper into the year than recent memory allowed to recall. Sure, the offense looked potent and the pitching capable. Sure, the coaching seemed accessible and competent. Sure, it all made for cute headlines and funny hashtags from bloggers. Sure, it wasn't even June.
It was time to cool it off after an ugly series with the AL-worst Twins and a sad-trombone inducing, lop-sided loss to the Padres in PetCo last night. The Rangers, despite allowing the M's multiple chances to grab the AL West by the horns, had stuck around either by their own merit or the recent additions to the Disabled List. I checked the score of the game in the fifth inning, still at work, and just sort of laughed. Sure, I could talk about whatever the hell just happened in San Diego. Say why this game isn't the one that matters, but the one Friday. Say something about how six of the next ten games are some of the bigger moments we have all experienced as a community since...well, since I don't know when.
And that would all be true, really. The Mariners could have lost tonight, could have packed it in, down 12-2 in the fifth inning, and headed to Texas to face the Rangers down a sole game in the AL West and started a hell of a series with implications we haven't seen in years. They could have done that and nobody would, or should, have cared too much. They would have been 30-23. In the great expanse of Mariners fandom, that's a hell of a job on June 2nd.
I didn't sit down to watch this game until Nelson Cruz came up to bat with the bases loaded, and one out in the seventh inning. At the time, the Seattle Mariners were down 12-7. Even that felt like an accomplishment considering when I checked the score before heading home from work that they were down 12-2. This offense is an absolute monster. I wouldn't fault them for losing two nights in a row when scoring more than six. Baseball baseball's in the course of 162 games. Yet between the Padres scoring seven in the fifth, and me finding a TV, Kyle Seager had doubled in a run and Dae-Ho Lee hit a ball into the Club Level for three runs to lift the M's to within five.
The first at-bat I saw was, in my mind and at the time, the most crucial of the entire game. For the M's to make a serious run at scoring five runs in the final three frames, Nellie had to do something with the bases loaded and one down. It looked like he would, too. Working a long at-bat, to a full count, barely missing cutters on his hands and fouling them off straight back. When he struck out, to make two outs in the seventh with the bases loaded, I sort of figured the M's would make a fight of things, maybe find a run or two, but ultimately lose by three runs or more.
And that alone is an impressive mindset to find myself in. Imagine the offenses of the past that I've subconsciously overcome to get to this mental state. Down 12-7 with two outs in the seventh, I resigned myself to at least an entertaining final few frames. I cannot begin to count the teams of the past that would have seen me go on to something else to finish the evening. And then, for once, the Mariners rewarded stubborn love with pure magic.
.@Mariners 9-run 7th inning:— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) June 3, 2016
With two outs, in a relatively meaningless contest on June 2nd in San Diego, the Seattle Mariners hit seven singles in a row. They scored nine runs. Norichicka Aoki stole a base. Shawn O'Malley clutched up. Cody Martin ended with his first Win as a Mariner. The counting stats, the simple one-liners from that inning alone, are amazing. This game, is in itself, an anomaly of the sport we all love. The Mariners outscored the most prolific NBA player of the modern-era in the first night of the NBA Finals. You will never see any of this again. And if you do, you will not be the same. I don't know what any of it means, I really don't.
Except, in a way, I think I do. The Seattle Mariners won 16-13 tonight after spotting their opposition ten runs with half of the game to play. They stared down the fate of their evening, the reality of three of their major contributors finding themselves on the DL, of Felix being in Bellevue while they toiled in San Diego, and whispered something sweet into the wind, "Fuck it."
The most difficult force to stop is not the one that expends its energy in spurts. No, the most powerful objects of the universe commit themselves to the slow march towards the wall. They arrive, according to schedule, with a will that is unyielding, yet a commitment that is even more unbroken. Nelson Cruz, the most-feared power bat in the entire American League, strikes out with the bases loaded. Kyle Seager singles.
It's simply hole in the dam, nothing to fear.
The water was bound to find the weak spot.
Another hole appears.
And so on until the river comes rushing forth.
The Texas Rangers went to bed tonight, with this being the last game to finish in the MLB, thinking they were leading the AL West with the reeling Mariners coming to town. Instead, the Seattle Mariners roared back. From ten runs down, they found strength in the slow march towards the gates of their enemy. The Creek has risen. The dam is broken. Something stirs in the West.
They will hear us in their sleep.