*This will not follow the traditional structure of a dramatic five act play, because the 2016 Mariners refuse to conform to any reasonable narrative.
Act I: The eternal melancholy of Doug Fister (Innings 1 and 2)
Before many of us had even settled into the baseball mindset the Mariners found themselves ahead 3-0 in the first after Robinson Canó launched his 36th home run of the season. I shared this stat on Twitter, but I’ll share it again here because it can’t be repeated enough: Canó has hit more home runs at Minute Maid Park than Colby Rasmus. Ha. Ha. Ha.
The Mariners scored three more in the second with contributions from Norichika Aoki, Leonys Martin, Ketel Marte, and Seth Smith. I’m not sure which is more spectacular: that that group of men strung together three runs, or that not a single one of those three runs came from a home run. Doug Fister didn’t make it out of the second inning, and finished with a line of 1.1 IP, 5 hits, 5 earned runs and 2 strikeouts.
Also Martin made sure to remind us, once again, how great it is to have a real centerfielder.
Act II: The Baseballers baseball (Innings 3 and 4)
In the top of the third, with Martin at third after a satisfying Jose Altuve goof ,Ketel Marte singled him in because Adam Lind has been counseling him on how to harness the angers of the internet. The Mariners finished their half of the third inning with a seven run lead, which was nice but *foreshadowing* still not enough of a lead for Mariners fans to relax.
James Paxton looked to be laboring slightly this afternoon, and was helped not at all by the Astros fouling off 20 of the first 68 pitches. To his credit, though, he kept the Astros scoreless until the bottom of the third, when he gave up a solo shot to smiley superhuman George Springer.
The fourth inning was scoreless on all accounts. The greatest bit of excitement came when a Houston player (my game notes are sloppy today, I apologize) hit a dribbler back to Paxton, who somehow managed to gather his collective 16 feet of legs beneath him to field and make the throw to first for the third out.
Act III: A six run lead is not enough (Innings 5 and a smidgen of 6)
Every good play must have its villain. In a game against Houston the villain is usually played by Jose Altuve, or sometimes Luis Valbuena, but the latter is on the DL and the former uncharacteristically went 0-4 with a walk and a strikeout. In their stead, Jake Marisnick stepped up with an RBI double in the fifth and a sneaky slide home to somehow score, despite a bullet throw from Martin out in center.
With Paxton pulled after the fifth at 99 pitches with six hits and eight strikeouts, Servais brought in Nick Vincent to start the sixth. He immediately gave up a leadoff solo home run to Fremont Bridge Troll Evan Gattis, which shrunk the M’s lead down to three, and suddenly it seemed as though history was going to repeat itself. Poor Vincent threw eight pitches and allowed three hits without recording a single out and, in what is probably Scott Servais’ quickest reaction time to date, was pulled for Evan Scribner.
Act IV: The revival of Evan Scribner (The rest of innings 6 and 7)
On December 8th, in the midst of a flurry of other moves, the Seattle Mariners acquired Evan Scribner from the Oakland Athletics for Trey Cochran-Gill. Scribner was a perfect fit for the new "Control the Zone" regime; in 2015 he struck out 64 batters and walked only 4 in 60 innings of work. His only problem? An aggressive propensity for giving up home runs. We’re talking, most home runs given up by any reliever in 2015. Now, I’m an odd baseball fan, like we all are, really, and I like to pick out a favorite reliever before the start of the season. I agreed with Nathan’s positive assessment and thought he’d be a good match for Safeco Field and its marine layer, so Scribner became my favorite reliever. Unfortunately, as we all know, he hurt his shoulder during spring training and didn’t make his Mariner debut until September 2. Since then he’s been nothing short of amazing. Small sample size warning and all that, but in 12.1 innings pitched he’s given up five hits, two walks and zero earned runs, while striking out 14. Today he was brought in with two on and nobody out, and still refused to allow a run to score. Same thing in the seventh. WPA doesn’t always reflect the true feeling of the game, but today it absolutely did.
In between Scribner’s domination, Leonys Martin sparked an offensive charge in the top of the seventh with a single to score Nelson Cruz, a stolen base to remind everyone how darn fast he is, and a run scored off a Mike Zunino ground-rule double that came on a 3-2 count.
The Mariners extended their lead to five, but somehow it still didn’t seem like enough…
Act V: Kyle Seager does not like Houston and you shouldn’t either (Innings 8 and 9)
(If I'm slow with the recaps, MLB is even slower at allowing us to imbed videos. Click and enjoy Seager's majesty here)
Kyle Seager has been slumping terribly over the last two weeks, at a time when the Mariners could not afford to have him slump. If you haven’t already, go read John’s excellent breakdown of what’s been going on. Does this home run, a career high 30th for the season, mark the final end of his September swoon? Only the next four days will tell, but I sure hope so.
Tom Wilhelmsen and Diesel Dan Altavilla combined for two final scoreless innings and the Seattle Mariners beat the Houston Astros 12-4.
After this season this same group of men will never play all together ever again. They've brought us plenty of pain, sure, but they are also undeniably one of the most fun teams I have ever cheered on. The 2016 Seattle Mariners have four games left in the regular season. I intend to enjoy every last one of those 28 (give or take) innings, and I hope you'll join me in doing the same.