There’s a certain mystique when it comes to mountain climbing. Summitting a mountain is an involved process, one that requires months of training and culminates in several days during which you could easily die. If an alien were to watch humans climb mountains, they would probably be confused. “Why do they risk their lives just to stand on top of a big hill?” they might ask. If we’re being honest, even the mountain climbers themselves don’t really know. George Mallory, who many people believe to be the first person to climb Everest, famously said that he wanted to climb the tallest mountain on Earth “because it was there.”
Climbing a mountain obviously requires a great deal of technical skill and endurance. It must, if it requires months of training. As much of a physical challenge it must be, the mental challenge is what really stops most climbers from reaching the summit. It’s monotonous, it’s terrifying, and it’s taxing. It can seem like you’ve been walking for miles, and you look back, and you’ve gone about a hundred feet.
For 75 games, the Mariners have been climbing. What’s more, they’ve been climbing without a true porter or guide. Every time it seems like one player has the route or is willing to carry the bags and make the meals, that player goes out of commission for a few weeks and has to rest at base camp. And the whole process is put on hold. And the climb starts over. Again. It’s been an arduous 75 games, and it’s been hard to keep the faith at times. Whether it’s been inclement weather, faulty equipment, or physical ailments, it has seemed as though luck has conspired to keep the Mariners from reaching the summit.
Last night, the Mariners finally reached their auxiliary camp. Just a few hundred feet from the summit, they pitched their tents, ready for the final stretch before making it over that hump. They’d been here before. Maybe a seed of doubt started to spread throughout the camp. “What if we don’t make it, again?” Just as the first player woke to light the gas stove and make breakfast, two figures appeared, climbing up to join the team. Jean Segura peeked his head out of the tent, trying to squint through the heavy accumulation of sleep deprivation. Slowly, through the fog, the likenesses of Andrew Moore and Robinson Cano became clear. What’s more, they were somehow hoisting all of the Mariners’ luggage, as if to say “Let’s go already. We got this.”
It’s been a long 75 games, but thanks to the efforts of Andrew Moore and Robinson Cano, the Mariners finally made it above .500 tonight. For the first time all year, they have more wins than losses. Tonight, their 38th win was made possible mostly by the collective efforts of two players who played porter.
From early in the game, this one felt pretty comfortable. Andrew Moore opened the game strongly, making just one mistake (an Ian Kinsler solo dinger) in his first four innings. The Mariners lineup made their presence known early, jumping out to an early 3-0 lead on a Ben Gamel double and a Guillermo Heredia single.
Shortly thereafter, Robinson Cano made it clear that nothing was going to derail this summit attempt when he took Daniel Norris deep for a two-run dinger. I say it was Robinson Cano, but it should really be noted that Daniel Norris really helped him out here. Alex Avila (bless him, he’s somehow still playing) called for a fastball way down and away.
Daniel Norris did not throw a fastball way down and away.
With a 5-1 lead, it felt like Andrew Moore’s debut was destined to end successfully. It did, of course, but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Moore ran into a bit of trouble in the fifth inning, allowing a string of hits that ended up scoring two runs and making it a 5-3 game. However, the kid buckled down admirably. With the team starting a daunting three game series tomorrow against Houston, Moore threw perfect innings in the sixth and seventh and ended with a final line of 7.0 innings, 3 earned runs, 4 strikeouts, and 0 walks. We’ll see how he manages to do once teams have real scouting reports against him, but this game couldn’t have gone much better.
Of course, there was still some doubt. How couldn’t there be, toward the end of a 2.5 month expedition? With so much invested, and so much to lose, even the smallest slip-up could still result in failure. Andrew Moore did his share of heavy lifting, but the exhausted Mariners needed one final boost to lift them the rest of the way.
It says something, I think, about Robinson Cano that he expressed visual disgust at how this ball left his bat. He clearly thought that he didn’t get quite enough of the ball and was doomed to a flyout, the game still in question. Sometimes, the thing you need to push an expedition to the top is just that lucky gust of wind. The one stroke of good luck that improves morale enough to get everyone to just keep going. Whatever it was, Robinson Cano hit a beautiful grand slam, sealing the game.
Despite a shaky debut from Max Povse, the Mariners finally did what they’d been trying to do ever since a disastrous start to the season. They finally surmounted Mt. .500, and they did it with emphasis. The feeling of elation and exhilaration was just what many of them had imagined it to be. The sense of Finally. We did this.
Except, did they? There’s something in mountaineering called a false summit. It’s what looks like a summit the whole time that you’re climbing. You can see it. It’s the top. Except when you get there, it’s not. There’s still more mountain to climb, sometimes a lot.
Do any of us want this to be the summit? Do any of them? Of course not. Do any of us think this is the summit? Maybe. Do any of them? Probably not. There’s still plenty more mountain to climb, plenty more to be conquered this season. The inclement weather will come. The blizzards will threaten devastation of the entire expedition. The injuries and casualties might rise beyond what any believe can be surmounted. And yet, they still have as good a chance as anyone in the Wild Card race.
Some quick notes:
- After a torrid May, Danny Valencia has come back down to Earth a little bit in June, hitting .264/.304/.417. It was encouraging to see him reach base all four plate appearances tonight. Hopefully he can build on tonight going forward.
- Kyle Seager, on the other hand, continued to struggle tonight. He’s been pretty awful in June, with an OBP of just .292. He went 0-for-4 tonight. I’m not going to start the “What’s wrong with Kyle Seager?” pieces, but hopefully he can pick it up soon.
- Max Povse really did struggle with his command tonight. The bullpen has improved mightily, but it seems like Povse might need some more time down in the minors to figure things out.
- The umpiring was mostly fine tonight, probably because CB Bucknor was stationed at second base, where he could do as little damage as possible.
The Mariners start a really tough three game series against Houston tomorrow. If they can win that series, they’ll be well-positioned to stay over .500, potentially for the rest of the season. One can hope, at least.