Do you ever wonder when you get solidified into being a person? It’s obviously a process that takes a long time, and it’s different for everyone. Some people are who they’re going to be by the time they’re 20. Others have volatile twenties and don’t self-actualize until they’re 30 or more. Sometimes I wonder if most people never really become solidified, and if they just change constantly through their entire lives.
I think that for the most part, those people aren’t Mariners fans. For better or for worse (for worse), the Mariners of the early 90’s and the mid-to-late 2000’s defined aspects of my personality that are readily apparent to this day. If the 2010 Mariners went down 3-0, that was that. They lost. If the 2010 Mariners went up 3-0, that probably wasn’t that, but the pitching was so good that they probably had a really good shot at the game. It just didn’t happen that often.
Lo and behold, to this day, if a situation seems a certain way, or if I’m feeling a certain way, that’s that. It’s how I’m going to feel forever. Sad? Sad forever. Happy? How was I ever sad? It’s almost certainly not healthy to have your personal development defined and augmented by a baseball team, but it also almost certainly wasn’t healthy to have cared that much about the Mariners.
This team is different. Going down 3-0 feels bad, sure, but not insurmountable. Almost every game is truly winnable, and it’s hard to get used to. Unfortunately, there are two sides to the coin. For as alright as going down early feels, going up early feels a little shaky.
Okay, that felt good. There’s the J.A. Happ I remember. That’s not the J.A. Happ that inexplicably turned into a Cy Young candidate as soon as the Mariners traded him to the Pirates. That’s the J.A. Happ that misses his spots this badly.
Unfortunately, Mike Leake, while not being quite as bad as J.A. Happ, Seattle Mariner/Toronto Blue Jay this year, hasn’t exactly been Cliff Lee. The bullpen has been more Marlins than Indians this year, and it felt like the Mariners were going to need more than four runs to put this game away. It’s not a super fun feeling, but I guess it’s more interesting than being virtually assured of the game’s outcome after the second inning.
Fortunately and to his credit, Mike Leake pitched a hell of a game tonight. He hit his spots all night, and had this particularly juicy strikeout against Josh Donaldson on his third time through the order, after already having given up two hits to Donaldson.
Leake started the count off with this (perhaps a little lucky) foul ball inside. He froze Donaldson on a sinker inside, and then got him chasing with another sinker out of the zone. Donaldson hasn’t been amazing this year, but he’s clearly the Blue Jays’ best hitter. This was a textbook at bat for Leake, and it was representative of the game that he managed to piece together to support the strong bats tonight.
Dingers from Ryon Healy, Kyle Seager (again), and Mike Zunino would all go on to add to the Mariners’ eventual nine runs. Relying on the long ball can be volatile, but it’s definitely a fun way to win a baseball game.
For as weirdly insecure as the early 4-0 lead felt, it was almost like this game took every latent fear that I had about the Mariners and attempted to assuage it. Jean Segura was in a little bit of a slump, and he went 4-for-6. Mitch Haniger has cooled off, and he was 2-for-6. Kyle has had his usual semi-slow start, and he socked two dingers. Ryon Healy seems like he just might be for real, which sure would be neat for a first baseman. And Mike Zunino really is good!
It’s really weird to feel so confident in a team and simultaneously be so worried, but here we are. I believe that the Mariners will win games, but just don’t trust them at all. Maybe this is all part of the transition from not believing to believing? Maybe it won’t start feeling real until it’s July, and this is still happening?
For now, it doesn’t matter. It’s nice to be able to turn on a game at the end of a Thursday in May and be able to watch Mike Zunino hit a dinger in the ninth to seal a game instead of watching Brandon League desperately cling to a 3-2 lead. It’s weird, but I could get used to it.