One of the most beautiful and painful parts about being a human being is the potentially psyche-shattering range of emotions available for you to experience at any given time. Most of us will go through nearly all of them at some point in our lives. Fortunately, the human brain has developed certain safeguards that prevent us from experiencing too many of them in too short a time-frame. If we could experience joy, terror, despondency, apathy, exuberance, and outright anger all within, say, three hours and nineteen minutes, who knows what the consequences could be for our fragile minds?
Tonight, the Mariners disregarded our collective mental well-being and forced us to experience pretty much every possible emotion in three hours and nineteen minutes. This was certainly not the first time that the team has subjected us to this. Perhaps we’re used to it. Perhaps we are stronger for it. Perhaps, as the Joker would say, we’re stranger for it. In any case, the end result was good, so I’ll just chalk it up as a good thing and ignore the resultant psychological impact.
The lead-up to this game and the first several innings were all fairly hopeful. Hisashi Iwakuma has been underwhelming this year, to say the least. His results have been fine, but he came into this game with an FIP of over 6.00. Fortunately, he was facing Ricky Nolasco, who came into this game with a comparably poor FIP.
Kuma started the game off strong, getting through the first three innings in just 30 pitches while giving up just two hits. He got a little lucky, with a couple hard-hit balls aimed directly at fielders, but it felt like we maybe deserved that just a little. His fourth inning took 21 pitches to get through, but he managed to retire Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Luis Valbuena in order, so I don’t think anybody was really complaining.
Meanwhile, the Mariners struck first with a Robinson Cano rocket to right field in the first. We’ve all seen Cano turn on an inside pitch time after time, so it was somewhat questionable when Martin Maldonado set up for Nolasco to throw right there.
The result was somewhat predictable.
The team wouldn’t score again for about four more innings. I don’t want to take anybody else’s inventory, but I imagine we mostly felt similarly. Slightly optimistic, but dirty about it. Hopeful, but apprehensive. The fifth inning came along, and Mike Zunino hit a double! We’ll take literally anything we can get from him, and 1-for-3 feels pretty good. Jean Segura followed that up with a dinger, and this time, Nolasco just straight up missed his spot.
Here’s where Maldonado wanted him to throw it.
And here’s where it ended up.
As an aside, impressive flexibility from Nolasco here. Slightly less impressive command, and Segura cranked this over the left field wall. After a Ben Gamel double, Mike Scioscia head-scratchingly issued an intentional walk to Robinson Cano in order to face Nelson Cruz. Cruz responded by knocking in Gamel, and it was suddenly 4-0. Maybe there was still some apprehension, but there were mostly positive vibes. Hope, maybe even a dash of happiness.
And then... then it all came crashing down. Iwakuma gave up a double to Kole Calhoun to start off the sixth and Mike Trout followed it up with a dinger, and just like that, it was 4-2. After an Albert Pujols single, Scott Servais had seen enough, and in came one Emilio Pagan to make his MLB debut in a high-leverage situation against a division rival.
In came Emilio Pagan to make his MLB debut in a high-leverage situation against a division rival. Yeah.
Look, it’s easy to crap all over bullpen management when things don’t go well. The bullpen was tired from a long game last night. Pagan had been running a K/9 of over 15.0 in Tacoma this year. But maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t the right place for him to make his MLB debut. Confusion. Bewilderment. We were collectively bamboozled, but the Angels hitters were not. Pagan gave up a run, and it was 4-3. It would have been a 6-4 deficit shortly thereafter had it not been for what might be the catch of the year so far.
I think that those Angels bullpen coaches are a fairly good representation of how we all felt during that inning. Joyful. Then scared. Then shocked. Then despondent. This catch was amazing, and it will be the lasting memory of this inning for many of us. When the dust cleared from Pagan’s debut, the Angels had a 6-4 lead. Fittingly, the Mariners would strike out in order in the bottom of the inning, and not many of us had much hope left.
In came resignation. Wistfulness. Maybe even shame, for being so willingly fooled yet again. Though Nick Vincent did an admirable job in relief, even that felt like the knife was being twisted. “Why couldn’t he have just come in earlier?” I’m sure many of us wondered.
The eighth inning would start off with Nelson Cruz striking out. He didn’t even give one of his token displays of exasperation. He seemed just like us in that moment. Resigned. Kyle Seager and Danny Valencia followed that up with singles, and though the Mariners still had life, it still didn’t really feel like it.
Guillermo Heredia came up to bat. The would-have-been hero of the 6th inning. We willed him to do something. Anything. He grounded to second. A routine double-play.
And then... then Cliff Pennington, the Angels’ second baseman, made one of the most head-scratching mistakes I’ve seen. He basically ignored Valencia running straight into him, and threw out Heredia. A potential inning- (and game-) ending double play, gone, giving the Mariners one last chance. Giving Taylor Motter, pinch hitting for Mike Zunino, one last chance.
Motter worked an impressive 7-pitch walk to load the bases for Jarrod Dyson. Dyson saw two fastballs down and away before seeing a curveball outside and flaring it out to right field. We saw the ball go up, watched it with bated breath. I hoped, but didn’t dare believe that it might fall. And then it did. And then Seager and Valencia scored. It was tied. Segura came up and immediately singled two more runs in, and just like that, the Mariners were ahead. Joy. Disbelief. Maybe a little fear, for the struggles of Edwin Diaz so far this year.
Diaz did give us reason to fear. We were blown away by two straight strikeouts to open the inning, but then Diaz gave up a dinger to Kole Calhoun. Mike Trout came up to bat, and most of us were probably somewhat terrified. Diaz plunked Trout. Albert Pujols, one of the villains of last night’s fiasco, stepped up as the potential winning run. Diaz showed remarkable resiliency, throwing Pujols three straight pitches on the lower-outside corner to strike him out, and leave us sitting there wondering what in the hell just happened.
It was joyful. It was mesmerizing. At some points, it was mesmerizing in the way that it’s mesmerizing watching television coverage of a natural disaster. Is this really happening? What the hell is even happening? At some points, it was mesmerizing in the way that we can only truly experience in the moment. During those events in life that don’t allow us to experience any sort of distraction, and we’re 100% invested. I know that that sounds like a lot for a baseball game, but for maybe 5 seconds, that’s how it felt.
When all of the dust cleared, it felt numb. The Mariners won the baseball game, and they’re now in third place in the AL West, but man, the last two games have sure done a number on the old psyche. It would sure be nice if Ariel Miranda could go out and make tomorrow a bit easier, but I’ll take this win and savor it for the next 19 hours until first pitch.