In 1970 Curtis Flood filed a $1 million dollar lawsuit with the goal of earning the right to choose who he would be employed by. While spite and collusion from the owners of the teams in the MLB kept Flood from ever being able to utilize the rights he helped spur the march for, free agency is a right that all MLB players owe to him, and those who followed him. Tonight, like so many nights this year, Mariners fans should be grateful for Curtis Flood, because he helped bring us Robinson Canó.
Canó has developed a reputation nationally, and perhaps among some locally, as a lackadaisical player. This is mind-boggling for a player who has missed just 14 games three seasons in Seattle despite a double hernia last year and numerous nicks and bumps throughout this year. He will one day be an albatross, but tonight, Canó bent his 33 year old knees and swung the Seattle Mariners up on his back like a doting grandparent greeting a wayward toddler. Canó was magnificent in every facet of the game.
His defense was exemplary, ranging left and right to gobble up grounder after grounder and snuff out rallies before they began with the strongest arm a regular second baseman may have ever been equipped with. The power was there, defying the tyranny of Collin McHugh’s #nice mph curveballs and knocking a double and a home run in the first nine innings that helped the Mariners build a 2-1 lead through eight innings.
Hisashi Iwakuma delivered exhibit #17508 as to the meaninglessness of pitcher wins and was nearly flawless despite a wandering strike zone from home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom. Another free agent acquisition of the Mariners, albeit initially in a more complex fashion initially than Robbie, Kuma kept the Astros off balance for six strong innings. He left the game with a frustratingly slim lead despite allowing just four hits and one earned run.
Ben Gamel helped build that lead with a fluff bunt (a bunt hit with backspin intentionally to make the ball stop rolling rapidly) in the top of the ninth that appeared to deceive James Hoyt due to the rarity of a two strike bunt, much less of the fluffy variety. Thanks to Gamel’s hustle and Ketel Marte’s inexplicable .400 OBP tonight, this bizarre sequence of events led to a 3-1 lead, which would prove crucial.
Evan Scribner, Steve Cishek and the bullpen not named Edwin Díaz held the Astros down as the M’s inched towards a slender victory, but their offense, sans Canó, seemed mystified by one pitch.
When I was eleven I started throwing a curveball. I was not supposed to, because everyone said it would be dangerous. It was so satisfying, though, to see hitters dive out of the way for a slow moving parabola that would drop peacefully down the middle of the plate, or flail wildly at the ~40 mph looper as it began in the zone and ended its journey smothered in the body of my catcher, Garrett. As I grew older, My curveball improved, but so did the hitters.
A large, looping curveball is uncommon at higher levels with only a few players like Zach Duke, Zack Greinke, and tonight’s starter Collin McHugh standing by it as something that accompanies a fastball with true velocity. The Mariners seemed determined to bring it back to popularity, based on these swings.
It’s fun when Beltre does it Adam but you are not him I’m sorry.
Well it’s the same pitch and dang you missed again.
Adam Lind was not alone in the dirt ball chasing festivities tonight, but the goateed squash inhabiting first base (credit Nathan Bishop) certainly most visibly displayed his ineptitude. In a game in which the Mariners check swung approximately 85 times, all for strikes, when Edwin blew the lead in the ninth on a bloop single, a broken bat single, a low line drive, and a slow ground ball, it seemed like all was lost against this Astros team that is largely made up of home grown talent, or players acquired in savvy sell-high trades.
Robinson Canó rebelled. He chose Seattle, and he, like Nelson Cruz and Iwakuma and Steve Cishek and Nick Vincent, stood tall for the new home they chose for themselves. Even if it is temporary for many of them, their diligence has kept the Mariners in the hunt down the stretch, and tonight, Robbie delivered with two strikes on the very pitch that had befuddled his teammates for ten innings previous, and sent one Astros fan on a cardiovascular journey up far more stairs than she anticipated.
Two games back. Six to play.