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Misplaced Hope

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An ugly loss begets an ugly truth

Seattle Mariners v Minnesota Twins
I’m mad too, Norichika. I’m mad too.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With nine games left in the season, and when your team is within shouting distance of a playoff spot, every game has outsized importance. Even though games played in May count just as much toward making it to the Promised Land as games this week and next, we as fans don’t consider that. We focus on what’s ahead, what can be changed, and we assume that the M’s are likewise zoned in.

For seven innings today, the Mariners got to face Tyler Duffey. Mr. Duffey, a second-year pitcher who seems like a perfectly nice person, has been far from a perfectly nice player this season. In fact, he’s been downright dreadful. He has a 6.31 ERA, a 4.73 FIP, a WHIP of 1.516. He gave up a home run to Nelson Cruz tonight that put missile defense systems all throughout Northern Europe on high alert.

These are all Bad Statistics. Though there’s certainly been some bad batted-ball luck, these are certainly not the hallmarks of a pitcher that should shut down an offense, much less the Mariners’ offense.

And yet.

In those seven innings, Duffey allowed just four hits, striking out four and yielding just two runs. Those are top-shelf numbers against a lineup that should be firing on all cylinders.

But the real travesty of the night came in the eighth and ninth innings. In the penultimate frame, Scott Servais sent up three pinch-hitters - Shawn O’Malley, Franklin Gutiérrez, and Dae-Ho Lee. All three struck out.

We still had hope though, with our 3-4-5 coming to the plate. And we had even more hope after Robbie Canó went the other way with a pitch (though he probably shouldn’t have been swinging at it in the first place) and reached on a single, quickly followed by Miguel Sano bobbling what should have been an easy double play ball.

These are the breaks that are supposed to happen to miracle teams, squads that claw back from everyone counting them out with long winning streaks, clubs that win games with walkoffs and persevere through a multi-game deficit with scarcely more than a week remaining. And with runners on first and second with nobody out, it sure seemed like the pieces were there for a great win.

With Kyle Seager up, the obvious move was to let the man hit. You don’t have a stud hitter like Seager bunt, and you assume that he won’t produce two outs with a single swing.

And yet.

Now, with two outs and the game-tying run still on second base, it was time for Adam Lind to save the game and, arguably, the season.

Most of you reading this know that Adam Lind has been disappointing this season. Honestly I’m not sure disappointing even covers it. The Eminem lookalike has been worth -0.6 fWAR this year, with a 91 wRC+ that assesses him as a below-average hitter while playing a position that provides essentially zero defensive value. Most of you, given the presence of Dan “Bringing Sexy Bach” Vogelbach on the bench, might pinch-hit with the youngster, for an emotional boost, if nothing else.

And yet.

In perhaps the most predictable result of the season, Adam Lind popped out to shallow center field and ended this game.

Honestly, there have been worse games this season, whether in the doldrums of May or the must-win days of late. I’ve been at worse games this year, including a pair of atrocious starts by the King (notable since I’ve only made it out to Safeco about four times this season). And there have even been worse games in the last week, with some of those games against Team Canada coming to mind.

That still doesn’t take the sting out of this loss, and it doesn’t make me feel any better about the atrocity that was this baseball game. This game was a bitter, bitter pill to swallow, and it could be quite damning to the Mariners’ already-slim postseason hopes.

The beauty of baseball is that there’s always another game, however. We get eight more games to prove our worth, and we probably need wins in seven of them to keep playing in October. The Royals did them a massive favor beating Detroit, and the Angels are pestering the Astros, and for that the Mariners are wildly fortunate.

But the truth: If this team continues to play with so little life, it honestly doesn’t matter. I choose to believe that these boys can get it together. It’s probably misplaced hope, unrealistic hope, but it’s hope all the same.