It is a grave injustice to pitchers that the most vivid individual memories of most games are hits.
Baseball is a game of failure, they say, but when it is said, it is referring to the experience of hitting. For a century, hitters statistics have been comprised of the elite failing at a less frequent rate than others. Pitchers, on the other hand, have been evaluated for generations on their success at limiting others. Perhaps it makes sense, then, that hits, walks, errors, and home runs stand out in our mind. They are anomalies. You expect the defense to be there most of the time, or for a hitter to miss the small orb of cork and leather with a slender branch of ash or maple.
We should remember the pitcher tonight. Taijuan Walker was essentially impeccable this evening, and I suspect many will remember his night as an abstract painting. That we may remember Ketel Marte’s error like the face of one of Caravaggio’s subjects is a tragedy. The rise in carbon emissions from the collective sigh in Seattle at that moment may have been calculable, and certainly it was audible. It was terrible to hear.
“September 13, 2016, Taijuan Walker was lights out, and that was the turning point for him taking over this rotation for good.”
“September 13, 2016, Taijuan Walker shut out the Angels. We thought it was a turning point, but he struggled the next week and still can’t/never put it all together.”
Both are possibilities. It could be somewhere in between, but if you were watching tonight, I don’t suspect it will be forgotten how good Taijuan was. 11 K’s. 0 BB’s. 3 hits. A complete game shutout that included a hat trick of K’s on Mike Trout, who had absolutely owned him previously, and not once did the Fish Man look remotely close. Taijuan threw the Mariners’ second complete game of the year, which also happened to be the second shutout, preceded only by Wade Miley’s fever dream against the
Cubs in July Royals in April.
Taijuan looked like the Prince we once thought he might be. The feeling of watching this September game pitched by Taijuan Walker will never fade from my mind. It will not, however, be the first thing on my mind when I think of the Mariners on September 13th, 2016.
That sigh, blessedly, will not be the first thing I hear either.
I have never heard a sound like that before from tree and cowhide. Jose captured the audio by itself, and while it is pure, I fear the proliferation of baseball cinema may have dulled our senses to authentic devastation.
Let the contact fill your ears. Close your eyes, and press play, again and again, and see the ball fly in your mind’s eye. Watch the replay, if you wish. It can’t stay fair. A running fastball turned on with so much force Statcast cannot fathom it. How could it? The Singularity may come one day, but for now it is folly to expect our tools to be so much more vastly equipped to handle that which we ourselves cannot comprehend. Rare is the beauty that matches that of a 3-1 count to Nelson Cruz, and we were privy to a work of art tonight. Drink it in fully. Bask in the attainment of a moment of human perfection. Plug in to the loop, and don’t look back.
Every player, it seemed, displayed exemplary plate discipline for most of the evening. Mike Zunino was robbed by Mike Trout twice on hard hit balls, and every other Mariner starter not named Robinson Canó reached base at least once. Dan Vogelbach got his first hit. Kyle Seager was a vacuum on defense. Leonys Martín continued to tear the cover off the ball. Norichika Aoki hit another dang home run, and all of it was a prelude for a branding bonanza courtesy of Seth Smith.
LITERAL PAPA SLAM ALERT— Alec Downing (@AlecJD527) September 14, 2016
8-0. Seven in a row. ESPN tomorrow with Kuma on the hill against Jhoulys Chacin.
Merry Sweepsmas Eve, seems like it was only yesterday. Sometimes a picture says it better than hearing any words in the world.