Welp, the Mariners are at it again. At it playing baseball, yes, of course, but also at it turning this
so yes, my friends that wonderful game we all know and love is back...it's back baby.
Last night Paxton came right out of the gate pumped to be back in the swing of things, and by all accounts, ready to right this ship into the direction of the playoffs for the first time in a generation. Paxton stepped onto the mound, turned those death-filled eyes--two blinks away from revolution--towards home, and then put a baseball inside his trembling hands. He tasted blood. The first pitch he threw was low for 97. The next was just above, in the zone, still at 97. Then the same spot, but 99. Then up and out of the zone for 98. Holy shit, you guys, James Paxton was alive, ready to take on the entire AL West himself. He may have even cracked a smirk in the process! Then he threw 98 right down the pipe and George Springer put it over the fence in right and whatever, ha, he really had you going for a minute there didn't he?
Now of course, lost in all of this is that Paxton really wasn't as bad as his line suggested on the evening. Nine hits, six runs, and one strikeout is pretty bad, yes, but most of that damage didn't come until the fifth inning, by which time it was clear that Paxton was toast. His command had been a bit spotty all night, but he was getting away with it by mixing in 99mph with high 70s, and making batters guess as much as possible. Of course, that kind of thing works twice through the lineup. Later, you're going to be able to turn an obvious walk into an RBI double because you're an agent of the Dark Lord or obnoxiously lucky or all of the above:
After the game, Paxton told Bob Dutton that he was trying to be too crafty and forgot to be the power pitcher he's always been. There's obviously something to that--we're not in his body feeling the results of moving arms and bending backs. But he was throwing 99 tonight, and though he was mixing in a lot of pitches the problem seemed more to be an ever-so-slight command issue exacerbated by an Astros lineup that...oh god.../swallows pride, chokes, begs for forgiveness in the face of death...can hit the ball pretty well when firing on all cylinders.
Ok enough of that, how about the M's bats? Well as you can see from the photos at the top, Ketel Marte sprained his ankle while sliding into third on an attempted triple early in the game. He was replaced by O'Malley, and by all accounts it's nothing to worry about. And while getting blanked by the Astros for eight frames is worrisome, there was a brief moment in the fifth that suggests that this team really does have the seed for something better growing in the dirt of impossible dreams out back.
After Kyle Seager grounded out to start off the fifth, Dae-Ho settled in ready for his second at bat of the game. Facing him on the mound was a young pitcher who just so happened to have the same name as the pitcher the Mariners traded for Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush all those years ago--clearly not the same guy, as we know that baseball players don't hold trade value for more than five years, but a strange coincidence nonetheless. Anyway, so Dae-Ho takes one of his huge trademarked sloppy swings at an 87mph fastball up at the top of the zone, and doubles his way into left field. After this, his occasional platoon partner Adam Lind (who is proving to be just as exciting hitting behind him) seds him to third with a grounder up the middle.
After falling behind 0-2, Leonys Martin promptly watches his next four pitches land outside the zone. Just like that, the bases are loaded for Shawn O'Malley. O'Malley falls behind on the first three pitches he sees, but then promptly forces Fister to throw six more, fouling off fastballs on the corners to force a pitch in the middle. Fister is clearly frustrated, and he ends up throwing a wild pitch to score Dae-Ho. And when he finally throws one in the middle of the zone, O'Malley deposits the ball into the gap in left center, scoring two runs and making it to second base himself. All of which is followed up by a four pitch walk to Seth Smith.
Now sure, even the worst baseball teams can put together little runs like this when the opposing pitcher starts to run out of gas. But what was exciting about it was the way that it all happened at the edges of the M's lineup, with players who were supposed to be coinflips behind the Robinson Canos and Nelson Cruzs of the roster. Throw in a couple TOOTBLANS and eight innings of a different story and we're talking about another thing altogether, but you can't say they didn't tease you or anything.
So with that, they're back, taking to the field this afternoon to try and see if yesterday was just the first blurry day at work after a long vacation or a harbinger of things to come. I wish I knew which was which but then again you also think we would have learned after all these years. Onward and upward.