When Wade Miley was traded for Ariel Miranda, my initial thought was that Jerry Dipoto had found his team weighed, measured, and found overly expensive. It felt like a minor "sell" for a fringe back-end starter closer to thirty than twenty with a single pitch. What has happened between July 31st and now is a book within itself. The Mariners became sure-fire playoff favorites again, only to squander that, and then find themselves here. A phoenix arising from the ashes on several, momentous occasions. What Ariel Miranda, and the rest of the men wearing the Teal and Blue have now left us to wonder is just how long and how far will this particular incarnation soar.
And soar is what Miranda did for six full innings of work tonight in the Los Angeles area of Anaheim. What's been more than encouraging from the twenty-seven year old Cuban has been his ability to use a much more complete arsenal than expected. The change was always known to be a legitimate pitch, but what's more impressive to my eye is his ability to consistently work RHH's inside. This is what sets up the change. Sitting around 95 on the hands makes anything diving off the outside edge extremely difficult to barrel. Miranda worked this, and managed to avoid his potentially troublesome first inning to exit at the end of six shutout frames having allowed just three hits and a walk. He struck out three, using his slider with great success as he got further into the game.
The big story from this game, this sixth win on the trot, however, will be the offense. Yes, the offense that has spurred the M's on their most recent trip from the grave to the Wild Card Doorstep has been a mix of fine pitching but an offense that has found new life, again. The heroes have been up and down the lineup, but tonight in Anaheim they were named Ben Gamel, Robinson Cano, and Leonys Martin, among others. Yes, Leonys Martin smashed the ball all over the field, going 4-4 on the evening with three doubles and a single, scoring three times. Robbie leaned into a towering solo home run in the top of the third to make the score 2-0, and Ben Gamel, a defensive substitute in the seventh, hit an opposite-field two-run jack in the 8th.
There were so many stories that it's hard to grasp them all from a single evening. The majority of the scoring was done in the top of the seventh when the M's, currently leading 2-0, lead off the inning with a Leonys Martin double into the right field corner that would have been a triple were it for a fan grabbing the ball. Following a mini-meltdown by Scott Servais and any M's fan watching, Mike Zunino was hit by a pitch. Ketel Marte followed by laying a perfect bunt for a base hit, loading the bases with no outs for Nori Aoki who would single up the middle of a drawn-in infield, 4-0. A balk would score Marte and send Aoki to second before Cano would plate Aoki with a errant throw home on a fielders choice by Cliff Pennington, 6-0. Cano would also contribute this absolute gem later on while turning two.
The other thing of note from this game will be the MLB debut of Dan Vogelbach. The man-turned-bus-turned-man-again got his first AB in the top of the ninth, hustling out a FC to erase a double play. Then something we all hoped would happen, happened. With Sexy Bach/Vogdor/Danny V sitting on first base, Kyle Seager singled into the right field corner, allowing Dan to go from first to third. However, Vogelbach was called out, almost immediately by the second base umpire. What follows is what happens when a kid is very, very excited to be making his MLB debut in a silly game that's 8-1 in the ninth.
Daniel Vogelbach made one of the most memorable M's debuts I can recall, and that's some elite company. Here's to many, many more games of Dan, and exponentially more times touching second base.
And that's really it, sans an ugly duckling of a seventh from Nick Vincent, the bullpen held its water just fine and the offense was in cruise control for most the evening, managing eleven hits and beating up a bad Angel's bullpen. This is what teams with momentum and cause do late in September, they overpower and will positive results. And that's what this team has to do in order to make what has looked both so manageable and so impossible, playoff baseball, come true for Seattle for the first time in fifteen years. To fight off your demons is no easy task. It takes a deliberate and laborious set of firm actions with no pause. Now is the time to swing the hammer against an inferior foe.
Now is the time to fight.