This was an ugly game, deserving of an ugly recap. There are certain losses that seemed designed to induce quasi poetry, in the vein of beauty born out of suffering. There are other losses, blowouts or less meaningful early season games, that are still frustrating but still easy to write. We are, after all, Mariners fans; the tragedy and the comedy exist as one and the same in our small sphere of the world. Unfortunately tonight doesn’t fit either of those categories and I’m honestly having trouble figuring out how to properly articulate the events of tonight. For someone who is usually far more articulate in written, rather than spoken, word this is especially troubling. There is rage and sadness and frustration at that sadness, emotions all in ample supply, but the words themselves come more slowly.
*If you do not wish to relive that nightmare, please skip down to the final two paragraphs where I rant about Scott Servais*
Have you ever read those choose your own adventure books? Tonight’s game felt like that; bursting with possibilities, and new chances, and oh-heck-I-picked-wrong-let-me-go-back moments. The first inning of offense felt like the natural continuation of this 1 for 6 stretch, while the bottom half offered some hope with a 1-2-3, seven pitch inning for James Paxton. A Dae-Ho Lee surprise double in the top of the second hinted at the promise of more, but Martin flew out to end the inning and the ember fizzled out. By the bottom of the third, after Adrian Beltre hit a two run home run to push the score to 4-0, this felt like yet another late August write-off. At this point the Ms could have shut down, as they have been recently, and simply let the innings run out on a muggy night in Texas. But instead they woke up, and that’s what makes this loss particularly painful. Our team showed up, pulled it together, and still came away with the loss.
The fourth inning was silly baseball fun, wherein we got to watch Cole Hamels lose every last shred of his command and walk not one, but two runs in. A veritable hit parade came in the fifth, sparked by a game tying Kyle Seager single to score Shawn O’Malley and Robinson Cano (made all the sweeter by a Carlos Gomez error). Dae-Ho Lee singled in the go ahead run, and then Leonys Martin singled in one more because he did not want to chance fate against his mutant former team. Everything felt good, and right, and there was talk on the radio about "Boy, oh boy, the Mariners could really use a game like this". We even got to see Seager do his best beached walrus impression.
Steve Cishek appeared in the seventh and set to work loosening the wheels of the Mariners already shaky tricycle by immediately giving up a single to Ian Desmond. Kyle Seager then kicked at the tires a bit and caught a pop up in left field which he promptly chucked over to the vicinity of Dae-Ho Lee at first, but Lee has been working out and no longer occupies the same amount of space as he once did, so the throw was well wide. With Desmond at third lovely baseball man Adrian Beltre did his job and singled him in. Vidal Nuno came in and gave up a hit to Odor who was promptly tagged out trying to stretch his single into a double. Altavilla cam in and gave up a game tying RBI single to Jonathan Lucroy and induced an Elvis Andrus ground ball to end the inning. Don’t worry, we’ll get to Scott Servais in a minute.
The Mariners scored a run in the eighth off a Robinson Cano sacrifice fly, and were helped not at all in their pursuit of more runs by Adam Lind: Pinch Hitter and Scott Servais: Bunt Lover. Diaz arrived to save the day and got out of trouble with a huge Carlos Beltran strikeout to end the inning and we all turned off our televisions/radios/GameDay devices and lived happily ever after, the end.
Oh, I’m sorry, silly me, that was only the eighth inning.
Seager, Lee, and Martin went down in order, Diaz came out for the ninth, threw his 34th pitch of the night to Rougned Odor and the Mariners lost 8-7.
Here’s the thing, baseball is a team sport. Obviously. There are nine guys on the field and a whole bunch more sitting and waiting for their turn. With that in mind, it’s usually sloppy to declare that one man lost his team the game but goddamn if Scott Servais didn’t make a real good case for that tonight. His pinch hitting decisions were questionable at best, he pushed for a bunt on an 0-2 count, and his bullpen management was a complete and utter abomination. Far and away his most egregious error was the decision to leave Edwin Diaz in for two innings. Diaz is an incredible pitcher, but he’s not a golden ticket for guaranteed saves that Scott Servais can gleefully wave around and redeem in any given situation. He is, in fact, a 22-year-old man in his first major league season who has, quite honestly, been having a lot of trouble finding his release point lately.
Servais also gets to shoulder the blame for tonight because I’m tired of hearing all sorts of crap about the Ranger’s good luck. Sure, it seems like they might have sold what was left of Jeff Banister’s soul to now have a 30-8 record in one run losses, but that’s the cheap shot. You can jokingly bemoan it, sure, but eventually writing off the success of another as simply being lucky only makes you blind to your own shortcomings. If a manager has done his job correctly fans will generally walk away without giving him a second thought, kind of like an average waiter at a restaurant. However, if your server is terrible, or the manager makes decisions so obviously bad they become noticeable to fans, you leave vowing never to return again.