In a way, it was about as routine as a colonoscopy in your sixties. But then again, there are few things less experientially "routine" than a colonoscopy, no matter your age. You can't drive home afterwards. Your body, having undergone a form of mild trauma, requires hard drugs in order to fool it into thinking what just happened, maybe, didn't. It is suggested that to cope you spend hours sitting on the couch for a while, maybe crying in the process. On any other sports website this would be an odd way to start talking about a Seattle Mariners baseball game but I suspect it all made sense to you as you were reading it.
Today the M's were perfecto-ed into the fourth inning, and each inning's half couldn't have felt more different. First there was Edinson Volquez, who appeared to have put little magnets inside each baseball aimed for the very corner of the strikezone from those obnoxious ESPN broadcasts. He was jumping from 94 to 83 to 79, often in the exact same corner of the plate. To a less skilled pitcher, this would be a death sentence. To Volquez, it was, at least, playing to the competition. I mean, look at this:
Over the past week, Nelson Cruz has struck out 41% of the time, walked in only 8.8% of his at bats, and is sitting on a slightly troubling BABIP of .214. This would be troubling had the sample size been something longer than a single week, but the fact remains that what you're looking at here is a pitcher who only two weeks ago threw possibly the worst start in all of MLB history throwing three fastballs in the zone to a player trotting out a 141 wRC+ on the season, and easily getting away with it.
But alas, as I'm sure you realize by now, Volquez indeed did not take this here perfect game into the ninth inning. Although the Royals managed to get three in the second off three Wade Miley Doublebagger Specials, it is often said that the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice...or at the very least, chaos. With two outs in the fourth, Canó managed to rope an 0-2 curve into left field for the first Mariner hit of the day. Up walked Cruz, who perhaps recalled the mincemeat Volquez had made of him earlier, and stepped in as if to say Get Thee Behind Me, Satan!
Far from redemption, but justice, or chaos...I don't know, take your pick. Here, this will help you decide.
As if all they had needed all along was for someone to flip a danged switch, the Mariners came out in the fifth still carrying the momentum given by Seager's three-run blast in the end of the fourth. Adam Lind roped a double into left, then stood to watch as Chris Iannetta got drilled on the hand by a 93-mph sinking fastball, sending him flying to the ground (if you want to know what happened, just go ahead and look who was the crew chief today). One out. Ketel Marte slapped a sinker up through the gap to put two on with a good chance to put the M's on top for the first time all afternoon, but then quickly got caught in a rundown when it appeared he confused ball three for ball four to Leonys Martin. Two outs. The next pitch was then ball four. The Mariners did not score.
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Had Wade Miley ever actually played Starfox, he would have known that barrel rolls are really only good for those brief moments after you beat the boss and you still have control over flying for a minute, and then you hit L-R-L-R-L-R a couple of times just to make the pictures on your screen do a fancy thing. But alas, Miley was finally pulled for the Bartender a single batter too late, and the M's were down 4-3. Salvador Perez hit another dinger in the seventh, and it was soon 5-3.
The M's real last chance came in the eighth after a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz gave Kyle Seager a chance to bring the go-ahead-run to the plate with a single up the middle. He did that, and up walked Franklin Gutierrez, pinch hitting for Dae-Ho after the slugger was pulled early in the game on an errant swing. Then, another masterpiece from floor five of the Louvre:
Part of what makes this team so goddamned frustrating is that they aren't this bad. They aren't sending out starters to get lit up every other day, they aren't getting one-hit into the seventh inning in front of 7,000 people watching a team filled with players one year removed from overseas stints. No, instead they are thoughtful, kindhearted opponents. They seem to have forgotten the point of competitive sport is to willingly do everything in your power to keep your opponent from winning, not hey here's a gift-wrapped out! or I had better not pull our starter yet, not before your seven-hole hitter has a chance to drive in three runs!
It's frustrating, it's getting old, and it's hard to watch--I get it. But that is precisely why this here clip here is so...strange. When Seager hit his single, Cruz, from first, took off as fast as he could (read: not very fast) to try and make it for third. I couldn't help but cringe at the thought of him getting thrown out, and frankly was kind of surprised he wasn't. But still, you have to think that that empty, glaring second base probably felt a little different late in a two-run game than runners on first and second would have. Man on first and second, you keep the rally alive, maybe push your legs a little harder. Man on first and third? A bloop is only going to get one, and you're still down a run. Seager was anxious.
And that, perhaps, is the problem. I don't know enough about the mentality that comes with being a baserunner, but the lead he was dancing with at first seemed to me to be an entirely reasonable lead in any other situation when a second and a half cut out of the paths is the difference between a loss and a win. Perez catches the ball, takes less than half a second to transfer it from his glove to being already out of his throwing hand, and Kyle was caught out on the paths. Potential rally killed by possibly one of the only catchers in the entire game capable of something like this.
I really don't think this is something you can be entirely that upset about--in a vacuum, it is an example of the centimeters and milliseconds which spring forth out of the vast stretches of nothing in an average game of baseball, visible moments of excess which make the game worth watching in the first place. Then again, when rewatching this, I realized that Perez knew this was coming all along. You can't perfectly compare at-bats with different bases manned or in particular counts, but look at how Perez was positioned behind the plate with a man on second against Chris Iannetta earlier in the game compared to where he's facing before throwing Seager out:
And if you watch the clip above, you can even see him literally jump towards the far corner of the opposite side of the plate, like Ichiro training himself to bat left handed to be that much closer to first base. I'm almost positive Perez saw Seager's lead, decided he was going to throw him out at the cost of everything else, and just let it fly. Could Seager have been smarter here? Perhaps. But this was no boneheaded brainfart leaking out in the dirt somewhere between first and second. This was a player declaring boldly, and correctly: I'm Better Than You, at least for today. And isn't that kind of why we watch baseball in the first place?
The M's will be looking to stay over .500 with the final game of the series tomorrow, and while I'm a little sad the OG Mariners Dad won't be making an appearance, I suppose it will be nice to have all my rooting preferences in order before heading into the All Star break. Onward and upward.