I firmly believe, intellectually, that baseball is a dumb game and that we should not ascribe the importance to it that we do. I say this as someone who has spent roughly 86% of his life playing baseball and credits it with many of the most formative moments of his life: it is a fools errand to try and predict individual events in this silly silly sport.
God, I love baseball.
Last night, the bottom of the first began inauspiciously, as Ariel Miranda allowed a walk and a double to bring up Mike Trout with runners on second and third with nobody out. Miranda gave up a sacrifice fly to Trout, but escaped the inning without further incident with a series of great pitches and weak contact induced. Miranda pitched well enough to give the Mariners a reasonable chance to win, which is often all you can hope for from a pitcher with stuff that does not overwhelm and little experience at the Major League level. The Mariners lost.
Tonight, the bottom of the first began inauspiciously, as Cody Martin gave up a hard grounder off Dae-Ho Lee’s corpus for a single, followed by a double on an elevated fastball to give Trout a second go at this appetizing situation. A hit by pitch later and Albert Pujols was faced with a bases loaded situation against a pitcher making his third career start with a high 80s fastball and a curveball similar in movement and velocity to the one I threw the last four years at my Division III College. Thanks to some TOOTBLAN and incredible defense by Robinson Canó and Leonys Martín, the Angels emerged with just two runs.
The offense engaged as it has most of this year. They were aided and abetted by Tyler Skaggs struggling to throw strikes, and the M’s tied the game up quickly. Canó, Iannetta, and Cruz all missed home runs by about six feet collectively throughout the next few innings, which would often spell trouble for a team with excellent power and only average contact rates. Tonight, just like last night, an excellent bunt from a man with the capacity to play shortstop gave the M’s a lead, courtesy of some exceptional baserunning by Martín, whose influence was evident all night long.
Our gift from Texas had had a single, a sacrifice fly, stolen base, two outfield assists, and a couple.
I cannot emphasize enough how strange it is for the Mariners to have won a trade, period. Even more bizarre is the sensation of pointing to a trade and laughing at Seattle’s fleecing of their partner. In under a year, regardless of the result of this season, Jerry will have done this, something the M’s have not pulled off since at least Pat Gillick. Not only did Martín show out, but Tom Wilhelmsen, increasingly high priority suspect of double agent behavior with Texas this year, again put up a zero in the eighth inning.
That gave Edwin Díaz some leeway, which he would uncharacteristically need when Yunel Escobar decided to have the night of his life and go 5-5 and a series of singles put the Mariners on the brink of a full repeat of last night. Albert Pujols was intentionally walked and last night’s foil, Jefry Marté, struck out on three sliders, learning not all 100 mph throwing Mariners are created equal.
Díaz took the count full on Andrelton Simmons, putting us all on edge, and setting thousands of #sameoldMs tweets into draft stage. Ball three had me truly nervous, but a devastating slider down the middle with the game on the line put me at (relative) ease. With a full count and no alternatives, Díaz threw another dang slider that miiiiight have been a bit high. Simmons, a shortstop the Mariners would be lucky to have, is also the owner of an 83 wRC+ and mercifully swung, putting a ball down the line. That would be enough. For Kyle.
If there was a game the Mariners should have lost in this series, it was this game, but with the back of the rotation in shambles as it is, they’ve been lucky to get one of the previous two. I’ve always felt it’s a bit lazy to say a team “knows how to win.” It is, however, a skill and a credit to the players, and/or the management & organization, when a team stays locked in for an extremely losable game and refuses to do so. I find myself smiling at the end of games like this, and I hope you are too.
Clearly they are.
Or at least, they’re trying.
DEFENSE!!! Great plays all night by Canó, Leonys and Seager, who made the play of the game in the 9th.#TheSwelmet pic.twitter.com/j7qt0LmG9U— Manny Acta (@MannyActa14) August 18, 2016