“As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end.”
-This is How You Lose Her, Junot Díaz
To love something is to accept that said love will have a terminus, an expiration date, an ending. We love until we can’t love anymore: until the relationship ends, the lifeforce quiets, the curtain falls. Then those of us who are left behind continue to love, but less actively, a love pressed between the pages of memory books and recounted late at night over drinks. It’s a love held in stasis, an until-we-meet-again love. There’s always, in love, someone who gets left behind.
Once again, the Mariners told us, until we meet again, as they lost to the Cleveland Indians, 4-2, and were officially eliminated from postseason contention. Five games remain, and they will be without meaning in the larger conversation about baseball, a conversation Mariners fans are once again shut out of. It is frustrating, and tiresome, and sad, to not be a part of that conversation, again. It is frustrating and sad to love something so much and feel like it matters so little.
But the games will not be without meaning for the people who play in them, who are looking to establish themselves for next year, and to that end, I offer you these bright spots:
- Mike Leake was fantastic today, again, marking a string of five straight quality starts since he’s been a Mariner. Against a hot-hitting Cleveland team, Leake gave up three earned runs and struck out five over 6.2 innings. He gave up his first home run as a Mariner today, and it was on a mistake pitch to Ramirez after he’d already thrown strike three:
Leake gave up that HR to Ramirez on strike four pic.twitter.com/hBTvUAZWGw— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 24, 2017
Leake’s only real rough spot came in the fourth inning, when he seemed to falter on his command some and surrendered back-to-back RBI doubles. Other than that, however, he was able to work low in the zone, eliciting lots of swinging strikes against an aggressive Cleveland team. It was the same strategy that worked well for Erasmo, Moore and Gonzales, using lots of off-speed and changeups while avoiding putting anything in the middle of the plate for the power-hitting Cleveland lineup. Leake’s mistake pitches were hung curves and changeups, which is usually a sign of fatigue, so now that the Mariners are officially eliminated I hope they’ll shut Leake down and allow him to rest while letting Moore and Gonzales keep working on refining their offerings at the MLB level.
- Ben Gamel provided all of the Mariners’ offense today with a two-run home run. After running a ridiculously bad infield fly ball rate of 18.5% in August, he’s lowered that number to 7.7% for September. His numbers won’t show it because he’s climbing out of such a deep hole for July and August, but he’s definitely made improvements in his approach at the plate and there’s every reason to believe Ben Gamel is closer to the player he was over the first half of the season, sky-high BABIP and all, than second-half Gamel. You don’t hit a home run off the probable AL Cy Young winner by accident.
- Speaking of people playing closer to their true talent level, Mitch Haniger had two hits today. His wRC+ for September is 155.
- Emilio Pagán pitched a clean ninth inning with two strikeouts.
There are pieces here to be excited about, things to look forward to for next year. But for this year, the excitement is officially over. The season is ready to be boxed up, tucked behind the Christmas decorations and snow boots, for yet another year.
I hate endings. There is a list of TV shows that I’ve never watched the final episode of, because watching it means it’s really over, even if just for the season. I recognize that disliking endings is just another way to say I’m afraid, and yet when re-reading a favorite series, I skip the last book anyway. For 156 games, the Mariners indulged me in the belief that it wasn’t really over, even for all the times it felt well and truly over: when they were swept by the Angels over Edgar weekend,; when James Paxton held his hand over his heart, wincing; when Drew Smyly got the weather report predicting soggy conditions in his arm. You already know, you already know how this will end. I did, and I do, and I chose to love this team anyway. The afraid seek opportunities for bravery in love.
There was only this world, this looted, ventriloquized earth. If one was to look for a place to die, mightn’t it be here?—like some old lesson of knowing your kind and returning. She was afraid, and the afraid, she knew finally, sought opportunities for bravery in love. She tucked the flower in her blouse. Life or death. Something or nothing. She stepped forward with a heart she’d someday tear the terror from. Here. But not now.
- Lorrie Moore, “Like Life”
Loving something, knowing it will end, is an act of bravery, and baseball gives us an opportunity to be brave every season. At the very least, it’s good practice for the kind of loving—hard, painful, thankless—the world seems to need from us right now, for “this looted, ventriloquized earth.” And it doesn’t come without its moments of beauty, like a struggling player socking a dinger off one of the game’s best:
Or the continued loyalty, good humor, and warmth that makes this particular community so wonderful to write about, and for:
See you soon.