A few years ago, I had the one of the best days of my life, so far. I had just gotten a great job, rescuing me from a job I hated. It was the early days of summer in Philadelphia, warm but not muggy and oppressively hot yet, and I was out of school and able to spend my days reading and taking long runs through historic Old City and along the Delaware River, past the replica tall-masted ships and Cold War era-submarine and groups of tourists lining up for the ferry to New Jersey. I had a great group of friends, and we all went dancing that night to celebrate. It was 60s night, and I had a cute retro dress on, and there was a dance contest. I am no dancer, but I got tapped on the shoulder to enter, anyway, and I went up on stage and did moves I’ve learned from hundreds of rewatches of Dirty Dancing, and I won that sucker, and I remember thinking, sweaty and grinning idiotically under the stage lights, that life couldn’t possibly be this good, and yet here it was.
For five innings, the Mariners had a great day. No, really:
It could have been even better, to be honest. Astros starter Lance McCullers struggled early with both control and command. In the first inning, he gave up a single on the first pitch of the game to Jean Segura, had a base stolen on him, made a throwing error allowing a run to score, hit a batter, and needed 23 pitches to get through the inning. The Mariners could have gotten to him for more, but weren’t able to, and I had a tight feeling in my stomach. You have to take advantage of the Astros’ mistakes; they’re too good a team not to. Sure enough, McCullers would come back in the second and third innings to set down the side in order, needing less pitches in those two innings combined than he needed in the first. Meanwhile, the Astros had tied it up in the bottom of the first, and gone ahead on a Jake Marisnick solo shot in the third.
But in the fourth, Kyle Seager got on base on a BUNT HIT because bunting is stupid except when you do it to beat the shift and can put something down perfectly. Danny Valencia then would crank a double and Kyle Seager turned on jets we didn’t know he had:
Dyson worked a walk, and then Mike “Not Dead Yet” Zunino did this:
It was a good piece of hitting from Mike Z, who was able to lay off an outside fastball and force McCullers, who was having trouble with his command, back into the zone. In the fifth, Seager would knock another RBI single to give the Mariners a 5-2 lead, and things felt pretty, pretty good.
Ariel Miranda was able to hold the Astros to just two runs over five innings of work, rebounding from his shaky first inning—aside from one solo home run and one double, he faced the minimum over his next four innings of work. Miranda had great control over all his pitches today and was able to throw his fastball, splitter, and slider for strikes; he mixed in the change every so often with mixed results. The wheels fell off in the sixth, though; with two outs, Miranda fell behind Marwin Gonzalez (playing in place of an injured Carlos Correa) 2-0 before surrendering a double. He then allowed an RBI single to Yuli Gurriel, and fell behind Carlos Beltran 1-0 before serving him a meatball for a two-run home run and a tied game. James Pazos came in to relieve Miranda and allowed all three of the batters he faced to reach, and then Tony Zych came in with the bases loaded and issued a walk to George Springer, and things veered very quickly from “great day” territory into “lol same old Mariners blowing a lead” territory. Zych would battle back to strike out Altuve, who the Mariners were able to keep a lid on all day, but the damage was done: the Astros took a 6-5 lead, and with super-reliever Chris Devenski coming in, things felt decidedly slump-y. Oh well, at least they gave it a good try against the best team in baseball, I thought glumly. No perfect day lasts forever, after all.
Except. Nelson Cruz cares not for your relievers of...uh...Polish extraction? 0 for 9 with 3 K against Devenski, you say? 1-2 count, you say? Nelson Cruz cares not:
And now things get fun. By which I mean, at first they’re kind of terrible, and then they get fun, because how can you appreciate a perfect day without having some crummy ones first? So remember how Mike Zunino isn’t fixed and blah blah blah his K rate is still way up there and he hasn’t exactly been on fire in July and whatever? And also Luke Gregerson is yet another god-level closer coming out of the Astros pen, where they have closers like we have center fielders? Well.
If you hang a breaking ball to Mike Zunino, that’s going to happen.
But. The course of true love never did run smooth. The Mariners bullpen, already a little taxed after the White Sox series, stumbled a little, again when Nick Vincent allowed three straight singles to load the bases before getting a key strikeout from Jake Marisnick. Vincent was able to limit the damage to just a sac fly from Springer tying the game, but once again the Mariners let the Astros back into the game.
In the bottom of the ninth, Yovani Gallardo came in to try to preserve the tie and promptly allowed a leadoff double to Grease Bro Josh Reddick. But Jean Segura BELIEVES in not letting people wreck your day:
Segura made all three outs in the inning: two were sparkling defensive plays; one was a heads-up play; all were of crucial importance. But it was probably the first one that was the most breathtaking. With a runner on second, this should have been the game winner. This should have been it.
Narrator voice: it was not, in fact, It.
The Mariners would come back in the tenth and Kyle Seager and Danny Valencia decided enough with the see-sawing, and hit back-to-back home runs off Tony Sipp:
Then Edwin Diaz came in and emphatically slammed the door, on his fourth day of work in a row, earning his fourth save in a row. He collected two Ks and a groundout and needed just ten pitches. My aunt gave me some pearls once and told me I should wear them often. “Pearls like to be worn,” she said. “They look prettier with wearing; they glow more.” Edwin Díaz is a pearl, and he is ours:
I feel like I haven’t even covered everyone’s contributions, and this is already a thousand words long and so late. Gallardo pitched well, around some serious trouble. Danny Valencia had a great grab. Gamel and Heredia each had stellar catchers. It was a perfect day. I’m so glad I spent it with you.