The Golden State Warriors just defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the 2017 NBA Finals, for their second trophy in three years. Facing a dispiriting sweep last Friday, the Cavs banded together to score nearly 50 points in the first half of the game by playing simultaneously with their feet continuously slammed down on the gas pedal, and also, importantly, perfectly. This year Lebron and co. fell short, but they fell short in interesting ways: they didn't actually lose the game until, arguably, the final two minutes of regulation. At any given moment, the terror that is that Golden State roster seemed like it was a single run away from putting the whole thing to bed--and those moments began to occur as early as five minutes into the entire game. That they managed to hang on gave us the opportunity to see a machine working its best to foresee and contain every possible contingency, to throw yet another shovelful of coals onto the fire.
In one sense, the Mariners did the same thing tonight against the Twins. They didn't know it, but the game was over 16 pitches into the top of the second inning, and yet they continued on like the well-oiled machine they (are supposed to) (usually) (theoretically) be (are???). The entire starting lineup checked in with a hit. Nelson Cruz casually picked up four RBIs, Mike Zunino and Danny Valencia hit big ol' dingers, and Mitch Haniger is back, baby back, with a 4-hit special. I suppose you might say something to the effect that the Mariners had to keep playing "their game" while the Twins flailed against the oddly effective Yovani Gallardo. But the difference between these two sporting events unfolding on my monitors was stark: one featured a machine running at full speed because it had to. The other, because they could. Stakes aside, it was a pretty bizarre experience.
By the time Gallardo settled down after a rough first, the Twins fell into a rut on both ends of the ball. Minnesota starter Adalberto Mejía would repeatedly fall into trouble with men on, and the Mariners made him work for it. Their three-run fourth saw them earning at-bats of five, five, four, and three pitches respectively, with a newfangled intentional "walk" to Nelson Cruz thrown in middle for good measure. Pulled after giving the M's their 7th run on a Kyle Seager forceout, he walked back to the dugout with nine hits and two walks, which means something about him but for the sake of our conversation here, more about the Mariners. A Good Thing, I hope.
By the fourth, the dichotomy between the two games could not have been more apparent. But every good baseball run in in a 162-game season is full of moments like this. Hell, even the bad ones. I'll never forget watching the Mariners tack on 20+ runs against the Texas Rangers back in 2012, and then listening to Buster Olney laugh at their temporarily inflated run differential on my drive to work the next morning and thinking SHUT UP NUMBERS ARE REAL THINGS and also I KNOW, FINE, JUST FINE, WHATEVER YOU'RE RIGHT SHUT UP. I don't need to remind you of the Mariners' record in 2012. But I suppose my point is that its fun to watch games like the one we had here tonight and think it's indicative of what's to come down the stretch--and this one could be!!--but to also remember that sometimes baseball decides to tap you on the shoulder and be like, hey, I got a finals game to watch, let's just do the thing.
So there we have it. Two wildly different sporting events, both of which perhaps tell us something interesting about their respective games. As for us? What happens when the Mariners score 14 runs? Mike Zunino raises his batting average to above .230 and the Mariners put a W on the board, which could come in very handy towards the end of September. What happens when the Mariners score 12 runs at 10PM in the top of the ninth in a game in which they lead by 9? Nelson Cruz hits a ball very far and the umpires are like it's a uh...double, no wait a home run wait...what's the best way to just get this over with man I gotta be up at 7 tomorrow...Greg be real with me my man, what did you see
...Greg don't fuck me on this, just tell me you got it right the first time are we going to have to, no no, seriously?...
Greg I swear to god if room service is over by the time we get back its what? It's a double great fine, what? you're checking again? ok..a double fine, yes, I don't care just, it's a double. Perfect.
Just great. Glad we all had this fun little exercise. The Mariners leave it at 13, we get this over with ASAP and go home to oh my god are you absolutely kidding me
So my friends, this is what happens when the Mariners score 14 runs. It's a lot different than when the Warriors do the basketball equivalent, let alone when you compare a mid-June, inter-division baseball game against the decisive game of the NBA Finals. But it is a Thing nonetheless and I suppose we're all better off for it.