It’s perfect outside. The temperature is Goldilocks-level, erring ever so slightly on the warmer side. The sky is swirled with soft blues and pinky oranges, bisected by pointed evergreen silhouettes. It’s the kind of romantic dusk writers have tried to do justice to for years, and I’m no better. But I’m sharing this setting because if you were to picture an evening in the Pacific Northwest this is what you would imagine, what you might hope for, and rarely in life do those things line up with reality. Yet somehow tonight, by the grace of our King, hopes and expectations aligned again.
Chris Sale vs. Felix Hernandez was anticipated to be a pitcher’s dual, and it was. The game lasted less than three hours, wherein only 13 collective hits were allowed, 22 batters struck out, and there was but one pitching change. It was something out of a Manfred fever dream. We, as a Mariners community, are biased and therefore hoped and crossed our fingers that our ace would best their ace, and he did. The New King showed up in crafty style, allowing eight hits but only allowing one earned run, a solo homer, after an eight pitch Todd Frazier at bat. Felix was kept out of trouble by two Cano-anchored double plays, and two successful pick-off attempts due to White Sox TOOTBLANs that looked like they’d been taken straight from the Mariners’ base running playbook. He was impeccably efficient, throwing 87 pitches through seven innings, needing only nine in the fifth and eight in the sixth. This feat would be impressive on its own, but is deserving of extra appreciation on a night with Vic Carapazza calling his own brand of balls and strikes behind the plate.
The King didn’t run into trouble until the bottom of the eighth. After giving up two somewhat undeserved singles and getting J.B. Shuck to ground out, he issued a seven pitch walk to Adam Eaton to load the bases. I’m not great at being on top of at-bat screenshots, but managed to snag this one at the last minute.
It’s clearly a very smart pitcher against a disciplined hitter, and while that final ball is indeed out of the strike zone, many a non-robot ump might have called it. Heck, Carapazza himself called worse this evening:
I’m not sure there is any current Mariner who has had the fanbase’s hopes more immediately heaped upon him than Edwin Diaz. The electrifying young closer has looked relatively shaky (we’re so very, very spoiled) in recent outings but tonight was once again the realization of our collective hope and imagination. He entered the game with a two run lead, one out, and the bases loaded, and threw just four pitches to escape the jam. Four. Goodness knows I don’t need to remind all of you, but this guy is pretty damn special to watch. Diaz came back to close out the game in the ninth, fired off thirteen pitches and struck out the side. Omar Narvaez didn’t stand a chance. Felix ended his night with 7.1 innings pitched, eight hits, one earned run, two walks and five strikeouts, and was properly appreciative of his team for helping him secure another win.
Buried beneath this badass pitching performance lurked the Mariners offense, who fared as well as we could have hoped against one of the best pitchers in the league. I’m not sure which was a bigger surprise: Guti lifting our hopes by breaking an 0 for 15 streak with a solo home run in the second, or lefty leper and site favorite DFA candidate Adam Lind far exceeding our expectations with an RBI double in the fourth.
You don't "need" a win in the middle (okay, maybe sort of the end) of August, just like walk-off losses are no "bigger" than blowouts. A win is a win; a loss is a loss. But, all fun-narrative-sucking logic aside, the Mariners needed that win. When I was younger I used to get really worked up when the things I hoped for, or expected, didn't work out, and my mom would always remind me to stop, take a deep breath, and then move on. It's a statement that continues to work, whether the problem is big or small, and tonight's game felt like one giant exhalation of relief. After a brief skid the Mariners once again lived up to our expectations, further fueled our hopes, and gave us the opportunity to take a big breath before moving on to tomorrow.