The Mariners were punctual; you have to give them that. Your doorbell rang at exactly 7:10, even though you thought that was an oddly specific time for someone to pick you up; still, there they were, with the 1997 Ariel Miranda idling on the curb. “It’s not much,” they explained, opening the door for you—nice!—“but it gets us around town.” You’re no snob; you climbed over the center console from the driver’s side (the passenger door was stuck), and settled into the interior, which smelled slightly like smoked baseballs underneath the pineapple air freshener. “Hang on,” the Mariners grunted, “The Yunel Escobar is sticking.” One ten-pitch walk later, the Calhoun joint malfunctioned, lining an 84 mph slider into the field to the right of your house. “It’s fine, everything’s fine, we’ll still make the reservation!” assured the Mariners.
“I can fix it, no problem, we’ll be there in no time”
The first inning takes 41 pitches. You look at your phone, wondering desperately why you didn’t set it up to have one of your friends call to bail you out.
When you actually pull up to the restaurant, something called a Ben Gamel hops out to open your car door, working a five-pitch walk. “It’s been ages since I’ve had a leadoff hitter,” you murmur, feeling a little dizzy. Guillermo Heredia rips a double into the left-field corner and Ben Gamel gambols home like a deer. “Just wait,” whisper the Mariners. The Miranda seems to have cooled off, working a scoreless second inning, so you allow the Mariners to take your hand and lead you into the bottom of the second inning. “Oh, I’m not sure about Korean,” you say, as Dae-Ho Lee steps up to the plate. “Just give it a try,” urge the Mariners. The count is 0-2 and suddenly he rips a single into right field. “Next up, how an appetizer of some Cuban-Italian fusion?” as Leonys Martín and Mike Zunino both work walks. The table is set, the bases are loaded, and the waiter brings...Ketel Marte? “I’m not sure that’s going to be enough,” you say, “it looks like it’s all bones.” The Mariners pass you a napkin and promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised. One run scores, because Dae-Ho Lee runs at the speed of the ice cubes in your water glass melting. “Was that—an eight pitch at-bat?” you ask, as the previous pitcher is removed and replaced with a Jhoulys Chacín. You decide to order dessert. You have won this war of attrition, and it’s only the second inning. It’s Ben Gamel again, doing double duty from his job valet parking, and he takes a bases-loaded walk to collect an RBI. Then it’s Heredia again, and he chops a hard grounder to third. Gamel is out at second but after a good hard slide the throw to first is botched and Zunino and Marte both score. Then the dishes start coming so quickly you can’t keep up with them all. Canó singles. Cruz hits a chopper to advance the runners. Seager takes an intentional walk (which is a disappointing piece of free cheesecake everyone at the table ignores). Then Dae-Ho appears again, bases loaded and two outs, and hits a single, and Kole Calhoun falls down trying to field it because he’s very topheavy, and two runs score, and Martín walks again, and Zunino hits a sharp single into left, and Ketel—again? Wasn’t he just at the table?—swinging on the first pitch hits a smash into right field, and two runs score because Martín runs through Manny Acta’s stop sign, and then Gamel gets punched out on a breaking ball but by this point you don’t think you could eat another bite, anyway, you’re laughing, the plates are stacked impossibly high, and the chef has come out and taken a shot of grappa with you, and everyone in the restaurant is singing, singing. 10-4, Mariners.
The Miranda has settled down now and is tooling around town quite nicely; you’re full but you don’t want to go home, not yet, so you tell the Mariners to go ahead and drive around for a while. The Angels try to act up a little but that extra defensive upgrade is going a long way:
Just turn that static on the radio all the way down. The Mariners ask if you want to go to a club, and you’re not sure; that’s not really your scene. Don’t worry, it’ll be okay, you don’t have to hold your breath any more when a ball is hit to the outfield, the Mariners promise. You pull up and it’s a pretty fancy club. “I don’t know anyone here,” you say. The Mariners just pull a face.
There’s a lot you don’t know about the world, you realize suddenly. Nick Vincent comes in and he’s got some sharp high socks on and dismisses the Angels 1-2-3 in the 7th, and then Evan Scribner, making his first appearance of the year, comes in and works a 1-2-3 8th, and oh yeah Nelson Cruz hits a home run in there somewhere, and you head to the ninth dancing and pleasantly fuzzy-headed and feeling pretty good
Arquimedes Caminero comes in and throws fireballs everywhere and this is REAL danger in the club, and no Cishek in sight. The comfortable lead you’ve watched build is whittled away in a matter of pitches and you’re suddenly stone-cold sober, blinking in the bright lights of the bathroom, cursing yourself for agreeing to stay out this late. You could be home, in your bed, safe from all of this, this improbable comeback, this possible loss. Why would you subject yourself to all of this again when you could be doing anything, literally anything else? But the Mariners have one last trick up their sleeve, a rope ladder leading to a helicopter named Edwin Díaz, and as you disappear into the night, rising, further and faster, the wreckage below you just a winking star, the smell of smoke receding on the salt air, the Mariners turn to you and ask: so can we see you again sometime?
And before you can even think about it you’ve already said yes.