I’ve had a lot of my things broken in my life. Some electronics, a few of those crappy three-ring binders, and a couple of tables. All of those things have something in common: they are tangible. They’re relatively easy to break. It’s not easy to break something that doesn’t have a physical form.
And yet, in classic Mariners fashion, the Mariners are the first ones to break something in me that’s intangible: a dream. Specifically the dream of 162-0. Can you imagine? The sell-out crowd to see the team that’s 161-0 play their last game. The sense of pure joy and disbelief as Dan Vogelbach hits a walk-off home run to steal the last game from Texas’s dirty hands? The unthinkable: a perfect season.
Like so many other things associated with the Mariners, that dream today dissolved into ash in our hands. Same old Mariners.
It was a serious struggle from the beginning. James Paxton got away with allowing an extremely hard-hit ball as lead-off man Francisco Lindor lined out to Kyle Seager. Paxton wasn’t as lucky when Jason Kipnis doubled to right, and he took luck out of the equation entirely when he walked Edwin Encarnacion and Rajai Davis to load the bases for Yonder Alonso.
Nine months after being traded to the Mariners, but three months after leaving them, Yonder Alonso finally decided to show up to Safeco.
The cool thing about winning the first game and then having a day to bask in the glow is that the pink cloud of optimism bled into today’s game. In years past, a first inning grand slam was a death sentence. It would have been a good excuse to turn off the television and go do something. When your winning percentage is 1.000, however, anything feels possible. Well, we probably would have had to score 5 runs any way, and James Paxton could totally turn it around, and the bullpen is well-rested.
The Mariners did end up scoring 5 runs, and James Paxton did almost turn it around, and the bullpen pitched excellently.
Even after Carlos Carrasco retired the first five Mariners, Mitch Haniger put one into Edgar’s cantina to make it 4-1.
Even though James Paxton didn’t quite calm down, the outfield was going to pick up his slack.
It's like he never left. pic.twitter.com/nyfT0UhO4L— Mariners (@Mariners) March 31, 2018
The bottom of that very same inning, we saw why this offense is supposed to be good. When it clicks, it really clicks. An Ichiro single into a Dee Gordon single, into a Jean Segura single, into a Robinson Cano single, and it’s suddenly 4-3. With just one out and runners at first and second, Nelson Cruz came to the plate. Nelson Cruz absolutely destroyed the ball. Just like that, it might have been 5-4 Mariners.
Except that the ball that Nelson Cruz destroyed went directly into the glove of Yonder Alonso, who easily doubled Segura off of second. It stopped the bleeding for Carrasco, and it was that close to putting some real pressure on him. It’s a game of inches, I guess.
Even after Paxton gave up a second dinger to make it a 6-3 game, it felt within reach. It was an uphill battle, but this was a 1.000 team! This was a team that could go 162-0! It especially felt that way after Nelson Cruz took a veritable golf swing at a ball well below the zone and clubbed it into the bullpen.
Nelson Cruz is on pace for 162 home runs. pic.twitter.com/6GcdAOFzA8— Mariners (@Mariners) March 31, 2018
It goes without saying, but not too many other players could take a swing with that angle and make it work.
Even with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen leering down at them from Cleveland’s bullpen, Nelson Cruz and the Mariners were going to make this work. At least, they were.
Cruz slipped behind cages after Home run. X-rays negative, MRI tomorrow.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 31, 2018
Robinson Cano’s eighth inning double was a moment of joy. Wait. They’re actually going to do this. They’re actually good. And then you see Guillermo Heredia coming to bat for Nelson Cruz. Wait, what? What’s going on? Where’s Nelson? And then it’s Andrew Miller versus Guillermo Heredia, and it’s lefty Andrew Miller versus lefty Kyle Seager, and it’s lefty Andrew Miller versus Ryon Healy. With predictable results.
And then it felt just a little less possible. Cody Allen mopped up the bottom of the lineup the very next inning, and it was over.
Still, there’s certainly something to be said for not feeling completely out of it when the team goes down by 4 in the first inning. Casey Lawrence, Marc Rzepczynski, and Dan Altavilla pitched splendidly in relief of James Paxton. Paxton’s command was shaky, but he’s still James Paxton. The Mariners have gone even with a 100-win team running out two of the best pitchers in the league against them, and they’ve done it with some degree of style.
161-1, here we come. Go Mariners.