Ken Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest: Mike Montgomery (.311 WPA)
Leibniz: Adam Lind? (-.077 WPA)
It was at once the entire season compressed into a few confounding hours, and just another stupid baseball game. Confounded head shaking preceded by unmitigated joy, shock that they actually seemed to know what they were doing for once before sleeping on what was required to keep it up in the hours/days/weeks that followed. We're sitting at the "halfway" point of the season and the Mariners are now one game over .500, and you'd be absolutely lying if you said this information would have upset you last November. It would, however, also be facetious to claim that it hasn't been like nails on a chalkboard getting here.
First, the good. Today Montgomery came out of the gate throwing strikes, throwing hard, and locating well. He said before the game that his plan was to treat his first innings like he was coming out of the pen, throwing hard and then settling down with stuff once runners got on base. By all accounts, he was expected to last only as long as he could before giving it up to relief for the last day before the All Star break, but then again there are few pitchers on this roster to whom "by all accounts" could be less applicable, both in the positive and negative sense. Well, today MiMo lasted six innings and some change, striking out only three but giving up only a single run and letting his fastball fool Royals hitters into weak grounders, as is his wont. And during those innings of record the Mariners managed to score eight runs--eight!--which is just enough to even let your bullpen come in a fuck up a little bit in the slow road to nine outs. But alas, if this game-as-season metaphor is to hold any water then, well, you know.
The first two came in the first inning. Ketel led off the game with a single and was replaced at first by a FC from Seth Smith, who made it to third as Canó reached on an error. Nelson Cruz tied the bases by getting drilled by a pitch, and finally Kyle Seager plated the earlier two with a single up into right field. In the fourth, Royals spot-starter Dillon Gee was sitting on seventy-something pitches before giving up two-two out singles to the bottom of the order. He was finally pulled after 84 pitches--twenty more than Montgomery took into the middle of the seventh inning--only to have Ketel Marte bunt his way on to score a run in the process.
It was really a fascinating bunt--proof that the anti-bunt crowd is really only responding to bunting as a strategic fallacy rather than the concept itself, in a vacuum. It's also proof why Marte remains on this roster, for better or worse. With two outs and a man on third against one of the most obnoxious offensives in the league, Ketel Marte promptly tapped a ball right here:
Now without scrolling down, this looks potentially dangerous (and what a perfect camera angle here, my god, give this ROOT employee an Oscar). Marte isn't dumb enough to bunt it towards third, and even though it's landing in about as safe as a place as it could, your mental map has the pitcher getting to this long before Marte even gets close to the bag. Then look at the relative distance between Ketel and Martin taking off from third: Martin had a lead to begin this play, and although you have to take into account the fact that Ketel knew to run and Leonys had to make the judgement after reading the play, there really isn't a huge difference between their relative positions away from safety. So where are they when the ball is finally scooped?
Marte will be safe on this, in part, because Royals pitcher Brian Flynn takes a split-second to transfer the ball from glove to hand, but he also definitely doesn't bobble it: watch the replay. But importantly, look at how much more ground Marte has taken over Martin. This is in part because Martin knew that there was no chance they would throw it home, so he would either be safe or not, but it also should show you just how fast and how dangerous Marte can be on the basepaths when he's not a part of a simple routine play.
That is, I think, one of the most important skills a player like Ketel can offer: not simply speed or fortitude or whatever, but the knowledge of how to use his skills to the team's advantage when the situation calls for it. In short, Ketel fast, luck springs forth eternal, and by god this was a nice cushion in the eighth inning. Of course had he been out I would have spent just as many words decrying the worrying trend about decisions on the basepaths but OH WHERE WERE WE THAT'S RIGHT
The swing is nice, the bat drop is even better. https://t.co/BCslgtDzVb #TheCanoShow pic.twitter.com/IpvA7zgEEY— Mariners (@Mariners) July 10, 2016
I don't need to tell you that Robbie is going to be in the Home Run Derby this year, but what I will tell you is that this two-run blast tied his season-high from his abysmal 2015, which had eight more dingers than his perfectly acceptable 2014. And moments after this, Nelson Cruz singles, Kyle Seager--him of the 140 wRC+ variety--also singles, and then, well, I'll let Christian take it away:
Is Blowers' "Oh boy" the best HR call in baseball. I love it. https://t.co/DUc37GI1wm— Kingdome Turf (@KingdomeTurf) July 10, 2016
Of course, the whole point of that "game as season" metaphor would imply that some not too rosy-skies awaited the Mariners at this moment, and goodness gracious, gee-whilikers, was that not the fucking truth. After Diaz relieved MiMo in the seventh, Servais went to David Rollins in the eighth with an 8-1 lead and just six outs to go. I've never pitched even a little league game of baseball, and poor David Rollins has had a hell of a couple of seasons after getting Rule-5'd by the M's, but the result was what you might call....sub-optimal. That same lefty we all salivated over--96 from the left side!--was sitting around 90 or so, topping out at 92 on one pitch. He was also, once shit got going, having trouble making anything land:
This could have been any number of things: nerves, mechanical issues, just a bad day. But when it also becomes a semi regular appearance in a bullpen that isn't even beholden to the actions of single actors anymore, it has to have you wondering how on earth the Mariners are going to respond to that eight-run rally/early season play/god my god why have you forsaken us?
**Editors note: We have omitted a paragraph about Steve Cishek we found to be inappropriate, unsavory, and altogether irresponsible. The responsible parties have been sacked.**
Well here we sit, one game over .500 at the All-Star break. It is simultaneously about the most disappointing result imaginable after an early May which teased out so much and also one of the better first halves in franchise history. It is frustrating to no end to watch this team of blundering nincompoops squander away lead after lead, game after game.......and yet still be positioned perfectly to take a run at a Wild Card spot here in a couple of months. If you still have reservations, I invite you to watch the following two clips, and think about everything that has happened over the past ten years, and then also think about how much any of it actually really ended up mattering. Then look at the Mariners' current win loss record, think about their lineup, and then maybe Have A Beer, because, my word:
That is all. Goms.