One of my least favorite things to do with baseball is to play the “what if” game. What if the Mariners had drafted Anthony Rendon instead of Danny Hultzen. What if they hadn’t lost the Night Court game in 2014. What if they had traded for Player X, or not traded Player X, signed Free Agent X or not signed Free Agent X. What if, what if, what if.
Mostly I hate the “what if” game because it introduces a host of possibilities, not all of which will end up favorably. The Mariners could have drafted any number of different players with no guarantee that Anthony Rendon becomes Anthony Rendon going through Seattle’s system. As science fiction has taught us, the alternative reality isn’t necessarily all that much better than this one.
But it’s really hard, with today’s game, not to look at this play and wonder: what if?
Marco Gonzales fought his command today, struggling to locate his fastball, but danced in and out of trouble early, making it all the way to the fourth inning before he surrendered his first run. Meanwhile, the Mariners struggled against Matt Boyd, who showed excellent command of his mean slider early on, but looked more and more hittable as the game went along. They were able to tie the game up in the fourth when Ryon Healy WALKED [pauses for a moment to mail a cookie to Comerica park] and then showed off some wheels motoring home on a Guillermo Heredia single to shallow left field.
In the sixth inning, Marco looked to be in good shape, getting a quick two flyouts to Dee Gordon in center. Jacoby Jones then lined a ball right at the third base line which went off Seager’s knee for a double. Grayson Greiner, whose name I have mixed up with Oregon State shortstop Cadyn Grenier’s no less than ten times trying to write this game up, then singled into right field and the speedy Jones chugged home, where he was ruled safe at the plate.
The Mariners, for some reason, did not challenge this play. I understand replay is a fickle thing, as are MLB umpires, and maybe in the dugout they didn’t see enough evidence to overturn this, but I would file this one squarely under “why the hell not?”
Marco then lost a bit of his composure, going 3-0 against Jose Iglesias, who had a wRC+ of 54 going into today. Marco worked his way back to a full count but then made a mistake in the middle of the plate Iglesias punished to the left field seats, putting the Tigers up 4-1.
The Mariners would battle back when Boyd’s command went haywire in the top of the seventh, as he hit Seager with a pitch and then gave up a well-struck double to Ryon Healy. But the Tigers brought in the imposing bullpen figure of...Buck Farmer? RBI groundouts are good but they are also outs, and the Mariners weren’t able to score again despite pulling within one run. They loaded the bases in the ninth but weren’t able to come up with anything.
And really, this is the problem with what-ifs. The play at the plate might have changed the game, or it might not have. Erik Goeddel provided two innings of scoreless relief, but he might not have. The Mariners loaded the bases and didn’t score, but they were one Ryon Healy soft liner away from a different situation. Close calls and what-ifs are frustrating, because you never know how close things actually were. Sometimes close is just an illusion. But against a team like the Tigers with the Angels and Astros having lost yesterday, it needs to be closer than this.