Rooting for these Mariners is weird. It doesn’t really feel like rooting for the Mariners. It’s like some bizarre timeline was ripped open sometime in the last year or two and the strong-pitching-zero-hitting team that we all got so used to was replaced with their polar opposites. It’s like the aliens from Space Jam came and sucked the talent out of the pitching staff, but accidentally gave it to the hitters instead. It’s weird.
It feels a bit wistful in some ways. It’s nice to have remotely competent hitting (and the Mariners’ hitting far exceeds competency). Still, it would’ve been fun if the whole “pitching and defense” thing had worked out. If this team had been able to make the playoffs on the back of Cy-Young-caliber-Felix-Herandez-and-literally-nobody-else.
It’s really not that wistful. Wow, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to have decent hitting. It’s a hell of a lot more fun to have this.
Ben Gamel comes up with a big two-run double and the Mariners are right back in this ballgame! It's 6-4 A's in the 6th. pic.twitter.com/34oNEafbS5— Mariners (@Mariners) August 9, 2017
Five years ago, if the Mariners had been down by 2 in the 6th inning, many of us would have put something else on. Now? Do you think there’s a single Mariner that doubted that they’d come back and win this game?
The Mariners came into this game just 1 game behind the Royals for the 2nd wild card spot, and those Royals were losing big by the time the game started. Unfortunately, the game started out pretty poorly. Ariel Miranda gave up a first-pitch double followed by a walk. He struck out Ryon (Ryon?) Healy, but actual-hitter Khris Davis smacked a home run over the right field wall. Just like that, it was 3-0. Unlike our experiences of 5 years ago, however, the game didn’t feel immediately over. So that’s more fun.
Less fun was Kendall Graveman doing a pretty good job of shutting down the Mariners through 5 innings. The Mariners managed to scrape together a couple of runs off of ground balls during that time, but were overall fairly quiet. Coupled with Miranda giving up 3 more runs (one of which was a RyOn Healy home run, shame), they found themselves down 6-2 with just 4 innings to go.
It turns out that Kendall Graveman isn’t really the kind of pitcher who can face Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager 3 times and get away with it. Cano led off the 6th inning with a screaming line drive that unfortunately turned into an out. Cruz and Seager also hit line drives, and were a bit luckier. So there were 2 runners on for Ben Gamel. A Ben Gamel who I’m convinced would have been utter shit had he spawned on this team in 2012. But this is 2017, and 2017 Ben Gamel does this.
They still needed 2 more runs. And they got them. Jean Segura singled and came all the way around just 1 inning later. More amazing still was Danny Valencia coming in with Gamel on 3rd base in the 8th inning. Valencia, pinch hitting for Mike Zunino, against a righty. This is the same Danny Valencia who was essentially told by his organization 2 days ago “You are so bad at hitting right-handed pitching that we’re getting rid of Boog Powell because we see it as one of our biggest weaknesses.” Danny Valencia got a hittable pitch. Did he do much with it? Not really. Did it do enough with it?
Yup. Also Ben Gamel is actually kind of fast.
The other weird thing about the 2017 Mariners, at least the last-2-months version, is that once Ariel Miranda came out of the game, the offense only had to score 4 runs. The bullpen wasn’t going to give anything up. Nick Vincent? Spectacular. Marc Rzepczynski? Phenomenal. Casey Lawrence? Pretty good actually?
So the Mariners made it to the 10th inning. But it was the 10th inning with the bottom third of the order coming up. Jarrod Dyson was leading off. If he could get on base, it felt like it would be a guaranteed run.
But Jarrod popped out. Carlos Ruiz was next, and he did Carlos Ruiz things (recorded an out). And Leonys Martin came up.
We all love Leonys. It’s impossible not to love Leonys. When Leonys hit that Sunday home run a week ago, I lost my shit. The question remained though. Could he produce? After Leonys hit that dinger last week, Scott Servais was bullish. “Everybody loves Leonys’ personality, but you have to do it in-between the lines.”
All that was left was for Edwin Diaz to close it out. Because this game was seemingly destined to be a nail-biter from the start, Diaz didn’t have his best stuff today. He gave up a single. He walked a dude. Just when we started to get nervous, Edwin buckled down. He struck a guy out and forced Matt Chapman into awkward contact, and that was that.
This is a team that really wants to win. This is a team that cares, maybe more than we do. And while they look a lot different than the teams of years past, this a team that is truly a pleasure to follow. Recency bias, but I can’t remember a Mariners team in the last 15 years that’s been more fun than this one.
Oh yeah, and they made it into that second wild card spot. For the first time since the first game of the season, the Mariners are in playoff position.