Yesterday, something happened that excited me more than anything has in several months. One of my all-time favorite bands, The National, announced their new album, their first in four years. If you haven’t listened to them, The National have a sound that is fairly representative of the Pacific Northwest and also how it feels to be a Mariners fan. Themes of apathy, feeling disillusioned in a society where a typical slice of pizza costs $4.50, and almost-desperate pleas for a sense of meaning permeate their six records that they’ve released to date.
The last four games have felt to me like a National record. The last four games served not only to get the team back to a .500 record, but to draw in a fan base whose attention span had begun to waver. As apathy began to take hold, a seven-run seventh inning against the Rangers six days ago drew everybody back in. As disillusionment began to pervade our collective consciousness, Kyle Seager hit a three-run dinger five days ago to satisfy our desire for one day. As we became desperate for an explanation as to why we assign meaning to a truly absurd game, the Mariners won the most absurd game possible. How could we not be expected to give meaning to all of this, when coincidence so misleadingly begs us to?
Today, it was at first easy to feel vindicated. The last few games have allowed us to believe that running out a four-man rotation comprised of Chase De Jong, Dillon Overton, Ariel Miranda, and Yovani Gallardo is sustainable. A quick two runs in the first inning, courtesy of of a Nelson Cruz moonshot to dead center, gave everybody a sense that this might just work.
Chase De Jong had a reasonably rough bottom of the first, giving up three singles to Blue Jays batters. The first two, unfortunately, occurred on broken bats by Kevin Pillar and our old friend Ezequiel Carrera. Worst Player Ever Justin Smoak knocked in Pillar on a legitimately deserved line drive single, and things started to look a little dicey. De Jong responded by getting Steve Pearce to ground into a slick double play to Kyle Seager, and maybe things were going to be okay. In that first inning, neither Marco Estrada nor De Jong looked impressive whatsoever. Both of them, however, managed to calm down for several innings thereafter.
The second inning gave us all a decent representation of what exactly the Mariners were running out as an excuse for a bottom-third of a lineup. With Robinson Cano a late scratch and Guillermo Heredia unavailable as he was delayed due to visa issues crossing the Canadian border, the Mariners were starting Mike Freeman, Tuffy Gosewisch, and Jarrod Dyson as the seven, eight, and nine hitters respectively tonight. The second inning saw Freeman and Dyson strike out, and Tuffy ground out weakly. It’s tough enough to win baseball games while constantly throwing fifth starters. It’s tougher still while running out Triple-A-caliber players in one third of your starting lineup.
De Jong managed to get through three more innings unscathed, though it was more through dumb luck and good defense than legitimately good pitching. Fly ball after fly ball found Mariner gloves. The fifth inning seemed to be much the same. After two quick outs, Dave Sims declared “this should be a quick inning for De Jong.” Forget the Curse of the Bambino and the Curse of the Billy Goat. Dave Sims’ own Curse of the Fedora caused De Jong to immediately lose any semblance of control and walk two guys, allow two singles, and finally give up a massive dinger to Steve Pearce and land the Mariners in a 6-2 hole.
It’s easy to point fingers, but ya gotta wonder why they thought this was a good spot to aim for in a 1-2 count with two outs.
The Blue Jays’ bullpen has been truly atrocious this year. You think it’s been hard to be a Mariner fan this year, and watch all those blown leads? Trust me, Toronto has had it even worse, if possible. And yet, against relievers that should probably not be throwing major league innings, the Mariners couldn’t really get anything done. Chalk it up to bad luck. Chalk it up to disillusionment. I’d probably chalk it up to only having two thirds of a legitimate major league lineup. This is a team that is already shorthanded, with Haniger gone. Compound that with a missing Heredia and Cano, and this wasn’t a great portrayal of what you should expect from this team going forward.
The team has three more games left against a poor Blue Jays team, and then returns home to face the mediocre Athletics and White Sox. They should have Felix Hernandez and James Paxton back by then, with Mitch Haniger and Steve Cishek close behind. This team has been playing thus far with a rotaton, bullpen, and lineup (wait, that’s the whole team!) hastily cobbled together in the style of a young child attempting to assemble Ikea furniture.
This game was supremely disappointing, but I don’t know that it’s a good representation of this team going forward. Then again, I don’t know that the last four games are that good a representation of this team, but there’s no need for disillusionment. Perhaps morbid curiosity is more appropriate. In any case, Christian Bergman goes for the team tomorrow. He’ll be facing someone named Joe Biagini, who has made a total of one MLB start, so this should be an exhibition in absurdity. It should be fun, but just because it’s two different players that should absolutely not be starting, don’t start and try to assign any meaning. Because this season is truly absurd.