When we think about summer, there are a lot of things that come to mind. Warm nights, long days, spending time at the beach, and baseball games. It’s really easy to romanticize it, to tell ourselves that summer is perfect, especially during the cold winter. And then summer comes around, and of course we still have problems, and it’s not perfect. It’s just normal life.
Today, though. Today was perfect. Everything about today was perfect. It was like a dream. It was so unbelievable that if someone made a movie about the 2017 Mariners and today was in it, it would have felt corny and overproduced. It would have felt unrealistic and contrived. And yet, it happened.
As James Paxton toed the rubber and got ready to throw his first pitch to Michael Conforto, fans around the ballpark settled into their seats. The atmosphere was cheerful and light. The sun was shining, Paxton was pitching, Leonys Martin was back up with the club. It was hard not to feel optimistic, even before a single pitch had been thrown.
Paxton’s first inning went by smoothly and without incident, except for Jose Reyes singling and promptly getting thrown out at second trying to advance. After a Ben Gamel ground out (why is he hitting lead off?), Jean Segura stepped up to bat. Chants of “Jean, Jean, hit machine” rang down from the Maple Grove. After working a 3-2 count, he tapped a grounder to the left side of the infield and lo and behold, it snuck through. Up came Robinson Cano, and he followed it up with a single of his own.
And then up came Nelson Cruz, and we all found out for sure exactly what kind of day it was going to be.
Bah gawd, Nellie! That ball had a family! pic.twitter.com/3rNJvjgrdX— Mariners (@Mariners) July 30, 2017
To the second inning we went, and the game already felt close to over. But then Wilmer Flores singled, and Paxton plunked Neil Walker. But then Curtis Granderson hit a line drive down the first base line. Flores was going to score easily. Walker too, probably. Granderson would end up at second, and just like that, it was going to be a 3-2 ballgame.
This catch was bonkers. First of all, his route was almost perfect and he still barely got there. Secondly, the sun was definitely making it hard to see. And thirdly, Leonys hasn’t played right field in years, and the spin on the ball was making it cut away from him dramatically.
Leonys was back, and our hearts melted.
It would have been enough. I’m not greedy! That smile was enough to make me actually feel something, which, wow. But Leonys wasn’t done. The bottom of the very same inning came, and hey look.
It was like the director of the movie got lazy and said “You know what, fuck it. Leonys is just gonna hit a dinger and everyone will love and him and let’s just give the fans what they want.” Kyle Seager with both arms in the air was all of us. It didn’t feel real. It couldn’t have been real. And yet, when was the last time something felt so real? It was such a bizarre juxtaposition between “no way” and “of course” that we had no choice but to just laugh and try not to cry.
After that, the game was just plain fun and relaxing. Ben Gamel, king of BABIP, skied a ball to left, and of course Yoenis Cespedes lost it in the sun and Gamel ended up on third base with a “triple.” Of course Robinson Cano doubled him in.
It was 5-0 Mariners, and with Paxton on the mound, the game actually was over. All that remained was to see in what random ways the Mariners would tack on a few more inevitable runs. Turns out, there was a Danny Espinosa RBI single sprinkled in there later! Neat.
As for Paxton, he wasn’t perfect. His velocity was a little down, though he did manage to touch 98 MPH a couple times throughout the game. His stuff didn’t have a ton of bite, at least compared to the last couple dominant outings that he’s had. And yet, he’s James Paxton. Even when he’s off, he can still go out and put up 6 scoreless frames, 8 strikeouts, and 0 walks. On his “off day,” he still won player of the game and got the Swelmet.
It would’ve been impossible to script a more perfect day. James Paxton dominating in the Sunday cream jerseys. Leonys Martin coming back and absolutely stunning us with the glove and with the bat. Nelson Cruz pulverizing a ball to center field to start off the scoring. The Maple Grove cheering and screaming, now quintupled in size seemingly overnight. And all of it immersed in a perfect Seattle summer day. The sun shining down on us, the breeze on everyone’s faces.
Today was the reason we romanticize summer. Today was the reason we are nostalgic for July’s. I’ve always heard that you don’t know you’re in the “good old days” until they’re gone. Today, that wasn’t true. Today was the good old days.
Today was perfect.
Here are some extraneous notes and thoughts.
- Emilio Pagan was dominant in his 2 innings of work. He struck out four guys and didn’t allow a baserunner. He looks to be capable of being another lights-out reliever in the bullpen.
- James Pazos allowed a run in his inning of work, but it was the result of a few bad-luck singles. With 2 strikeouts and 0 walks, he was still pretty darn good.
- Ben Gamel now has a 17-game hitting streak, which is pretty hilarious and also astounding.
See you all tomorrow at 5-o-clock, they’re .500 again!