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48 Years Ago, Cuyahoga River Catches Fire; Today, Mariners Don’t

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After a 3-run first inning, the M’s bats are promptly extinguished

Seattle Mariners v Cleveland Indians
No thanks to this long, lean, strikeout machine
Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

On June 22nd, 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire. The river was so saturated with industrial waste that all it took was a spark from a passing train to set the whole river in flames.

This incendiary event was instrumental in prompting the environmental revolution of the subsequent decade, including the 1972 Clean Water Act, a monumental piece of legislation that regulated the discharge of pollutants into bodies of water.

Toasty.

Of course, none of this would have been necessary if they simply had Andrew Miller.

Cleveland’s all-star lefty reliever is something of a baseball anomaly. Not limited to traditional bullpen roles, like closer or setup man, he instead has invented a new position: fireman.

This strategy was deployed brilliantly throughout Cleveland’s captivating 2016 postseason run, Miller coming in from the bullpen to handle the game’s highest leverage situation, whether that happened to be in the 3rd inning or the 9th—consistently putting out the biggest fires in the biggest games, before they burned the whole season down.

The Mariners should take note.

Anyway, today’s game started out hot enough:

With three beautiful runs on the board, and the sparks of an offensive outpouring in the hearth, the M’s offense turned things over to Yovani Gallardo.

The veteran was coming off his best start of the season, in which his two-seamer was tailin’ and his changeup was changin’. In fact, as Lookout Landing writer and self-confessed Gallardo-proponent Jake Mailhot recently pointed out, Yovani has maintained an impressive weak-contact rate that belies his otherwise shaky start to the season.

Any excitement we had going into the half inning, however, was quickly extinguished.

Cleveland took advantage of Gallardo’s wavering fastball command, working three walks, before José Ramírez and Lonnie Chisenhall sealed the deal with a 2-run double, and 2-run single, respectively. Just like that, the Mariners’ 3-run lead became a 1-run deficit.

Seattle Mariners v Cleveland Indians
38 pitches in the first inning will have that effect
Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Thankfully, Gallardo settled down marvelously, and with his fastball grooving, cruised through the next 5 innings without incident. He even tied his season-high with 7 strikeouts along the way.

Un-thankfully, Cleveland starter Danny Salazar settled down as well, pairing a 96-mph fastball with a sweeping slider, keeping the M’s hitters entirely off-balance—until the top of the 7th inning, when the fire was rekindled.

After Guillermo Heredia drew a one-out walk, newly promoted left-hitting Boog Powell appeared primed to make his MLB debut, stepping in to pinch hit for Mike Zunino. The universe had other plans.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen, and Mariners fans worldwide looked on in horror as none other than Andrew Miller emerged. Taking your first big league hack against one of the game’s most dominant players is a fate I would not wish on my worst enemy, and evidently, Scott Servais feels the same, because Boog was promptly pulled for Carlos Ruiz. Chooch managed to work a walk, but that was all the tomfoolery Miller was willing to permit.

After striking out Taylor Motter and Jean Segura to escape the 7th, he returned for the 8th to strike out Ben Gamel and Robinson Canó, then retiring Cruz on a fly-out.

I think LL staffer Anders Jorstad is onto something.

Nick Vincent and Marc Rzepczynski were strong in relief, but the M’s hopes ended in the 9th at the hands of Cleveland closer Cody Allen. Fire officially extinguished.

In his 2013 classic, “Fork”, innovative hip-hop stylist 2 Chainz poses a simple but incisive rhetorical question:

“I’m so hot / Who gon’ put the fire out?”

To which he coyly responds:

“I’m the fireman / I put fire out”

I imagine these bars to be Andrew Miller’s mantra. He was exceptional today for Cleveland, as was Salazar and Allen. But with the exception of two swings in the first inning, the Mariners were cold. Very, very cold. Maybe if the M’s hitters go dip their bats in the Cuyahoga, the fire will be rekindled tomorrow.

Until then, Go M’s.