It was in the middle of the seventh inning when the horror began to turn into acceptance. The Félix Hernández that had looked so dominant as to be reminiscent of 2014 had turned back into a pumpkin, and Marc Rzepczynski had been just wild enough to allow an inherited runner to score.
There was resistance at first, because there always is. A leadoff double is easily rationalized. It was an unlucky hit, and a grounder and two fly outs get you out of the inning. Oh, Nomar Mazara hit an RBI single. That’s fine, too. It’s only a tie game. A double play gets you out of the inning. Oh, Félix hit Beltré. Well, Rzepczynski should be able to get two guys out. He’s only getting paid $5.5 million.
Well, maybe the lineup can make something happen against whoever Alex Claudio is.
After five straight games of having scored two runs or fewer, it was hard to have any faith in this offense. After scoring a single run in the first, the next five innings were underscored by the tense-ness of watching Félix pitch with the expectation that any two runs allowed might be fatal. So when two runs were allowed, they felt fatal.
Nick Vincent striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh was nice, but it didn’t feel like it mattered. The Mariners were going to score one run, again. This was a 2012 Félix start, again. And just like always, they were going to lose... again.
But as easy as it is for our minds to jump to these conclusions, it’s important to remember that this isn’t 2012. That four games against the 2017 World Champions aren’t representative of the season as a whole. And that Mitch Haniger is a Seattle Mariner, and we get to watch him every day.
Before the bats blew it open, @M_Hanny17 tied it up.— Mariners (@Mariners) April 21, 2018
His big 2018 rolls on. #TrueToTheBlue pic.twitter.com/RrqTOFojWx
It wasn’t as easy as that, unfortunately. Juan Nicasio seemed determined to make this game as difficult as possible, as he started out the eighth inning by throwing what MLB Gameday says were nine straight sliders. As determined as Nicasio seemed to lose the Mariners the game, Robinson Canó was equally determined not to lose it.
I think there’s a possibility that Canó might be a smidge healthier than he was last year.
Mitch’s home run and Canó’s diving double play seemed to awaken something in the Mariners. It was almost like they remembered that they were supposed to be a decent baseball team, and didn’t need to play down to the team’s macabre history. Daniel Vogelbach singled and was quickly pinch-run for by Andrew Romine. A Guillermo Heredia sacrifice bunt signaled that Scott Servais was desperate to get even one run. Who could really blame him?
Perhaps the team took offense at Servais’ message.
Dee Gordon singled to left, and then stole second without so much as a throw from Texas. Up came Jean Segura, and it seemed a Jean Segura that was determined to show that yes, the Mariners won that trade, and they won it hard.
Canó struck out after that, but Kyle Seager singled, and then Haniger singled. It resulted in a four-run inning, and it felt that easy. The Mariners had been 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position at one point. The narrative was ready to write itself. Suddenly they were 6-for-17. In just one inning, their stats went from those of a terrible team to those of a spectacular team.
It’s hard to know how to feel about a team that seems eminently capable of doing anything on any given night, but seems so selective about when it does it. But at least for tonight, the Mariners were good. They certainly weren’t good for all nine innings, but in the end, they were good.
Here are a few closing thoughts.
- Felix looked really good tonight. He was hitting his spots, and had more command than what we’ve seen so far this season.
@RealKingFelix busting out the Royal Curve. #TrueToTheBlue pic.twitter.com/uW9Qz8ZjyK— Mariners (@Mariners) April 21, 2018
- Mike Zunino made his 2018 debut, and struggled immensely. He went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts, completing a golden sombrero. He clearly needs a little bit of time to settle in and work on his timing. Hopefully it doesn’t take too long.
- Guillermo Heredia looked good again tonight. He reached base on two of his four plate appearances, and one of the others was that sacrifice bunt. He seems to be making a serious case for a platoon with Ben Gamel going forward.
- Juan Nicasio’s wildness might be partially to blame on shoulder stiffness. On one hand, it’s comforting. On the other hand, has he had shoulder stiffness during every appearance this year?
Servais said that Juan Nicasio's shoulder felt a little stiff. But said he could make it through the inning. So he trusted the veteran reliever.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) April 21, 2018
- Marc Rzepczynski struggled again, and I think the collective patience of the fanbase is wearing thin.
All in all, it was a whole lot harder than it needed to be, but they got the job done. We’ll see you tomorrow at the same time.