We talk a lot about how baseball imitates life. How there can be periods of crushing defeat followed almost instantaneously by moments of incandescent joy. But rarely do we acknowledge baseball’s slow trudge, perhaps because that becomes a bit too applicable to our lives. At the beginning of tonight’s game the Mariners accepted an entry level job at a generic corporation with the defense that it was just a starting point, they needed to make some money and then they could really go pursue their dream. By the third inning they’d been with the company long enough to accrue a few weeks of vacation time, and their cubicle was adorned with the visual comforts of a life quietly lived. No, no, they reassured family members, this isn’t a long-term situation. We’re simply setting ourselves up to make the big jump soon. At the end of the fifth new employees knew that the Mariners were the ones to go to, to fix the persnickety printer; the dream remains, but with it now is a lingering discomfort. Can we really do that? What if we fail? Where we’re at now really isn’t so bad, in the grand scheme of things.
By the close of the seventh inning they had invested in an ergonomic desk chair to soothe an ever-aching lower back.
There’s no good reason for me to devote much time to the first seven innings of this game. This is a Mariners blog, and for the first two and a half hours of tonight’s competition the Mariners might as well have not shown up. They had a handful of token hits but were, for the most part, understandable stymied by David Price, who spent the better part of the evening painting the corners of the plate as if his $217 million contract depended on it (it does not. He could fall into a pit of construction beneath the viaduct and fracture his entire body and still earn every penny. Play baseball, kids). For his part, Wade LeBlanc battled mightily himself, giving up three runs off of five hits throughout six mostly painless innings. This was also his second start as the underdog half of a marquee pitching match-up and against both Chris Sale and Price he has pleasantly risen to the occasion. Back in May did I expect to see Wade LeBlanc pitch for the Seattle Mariners? No. Did I want to see Wade LeBlanc pitch for the Seattle Mariners? No. But in a sea of Hail Mary reclamation projects he stands tall, and I am very happy to have him. He is now our only Wade and we must appreciate him thusly.
By the bottom of the eighth inning the Mariners had long since settled into their dingy cubicle life. That once-new ergonomic chair had molded to fit their ever expanding derriere and if life was not all that exciting, hey, at least nothing traumatic had happened. But with the first pitch of the inning Mike Zunino said no, with a laser shot over the left field wall. And with that, just like in all the feel-good movies, the other Mariners rose to their feet and joined him in eschewing mediocrity. A trio of singles from Leonys Martin, Luis Sardinas and Guillermo Heredia’s FIRST EVER MAJOR LEAGUE HIT scored another run, and then Robinson Cano was at the plate. I was prepared for a traditionally disappointing Mariners ending, and in my mind the losing recap was going to highlight Heredia and his journey to that glorious moment but Cano would have none of that. So on top of him being money obsessed and lazy, he’s also a complete spotlight stealer. Just add it to the list of his many faults because it was hard to think back to Heredia’s hit when minutes later Cano destroyed a baseball
In dramatic fashion the Mariners stormed into their boss’s office and declared that they quit. Life is too short, they cried, to simply sit on our asses and think about our dreams. Enough of the monotony, enough of the waiting, now is the time to pursue our dream. No longer did Safeco Field feel like Fenway Park of the West, with cheers for David Ortiz at bats and “Let’s go Red Sox” chants shaking the walls. Newly invigorated Mariners fans awoke and reclaimed Safeco as their own, and with the opening chords of Def Leppards “Pour Some Sugar on Me” they rose to their feet, cheering, and clapping, and setting their hopes free to drift up through the marine layer.
There was no more exciting time for Edwin Diaz to make his closer debut. If we play along with my silly metaphor and see the rest of the Mariners struggling to make the leap from a life of cubicle monotony, then Diaz is the free spirit already living his dream and urging everyone he encounters to do the same. After two straight blown saves, which forced us to reassess the concept of a heartbreaking loss, there should have been more nerves as Diaz took the mound with a one run lead. But instead there was only excitement, and the heart pumping thrill of a dream nearly achieved. Even the slightly questionable walk to Travis Shaw felt more like a pity offering than anything else. But that was the only mercy Diaz showed, capping off his first save with a three pitch strikeout of Red Sox wunderkid Andrew Benintendi.
We both fear, and are comforted by, the monotony of life. It's so easy to simply exist, and allow your heart to beat in that steady rhythm, but what is there to be gained from a monotonous existence? Tonight the Mariners shook off that cloak of tedium and gave us all a taste of how good it can be to leave comfort behind, to give that dream a try, and allow your pulse to race. I got to be there tonight, on this dull evening made glorious, and, as I type this, my hands are still shaking.