Oh, man. Oh, MAN.
Where do I even start with this one?
Being without Robinson Canó for seventy-nine more games still stings. The revelation that while he’s allowed to rehab at the ballpark, he can’t even be with the team during games stings even more. The fact that if somehow, some way, the Mariners claw into the playoffs, the man who breathed new life into this downtrodden franchise four-and-a-half years ago, that impossibly smooth, relaxed, confident player, can’t be with them stings the most.
This game was for Robi.
The bats came out of the gate immediately tonight, scoring at least one run in the first four innings. Good Boy Mitch Haniger ripped a triple off of Nomar Mazara’s glove in the first to score Jean Jean the Hit Machine, RyON Healy sneaked a solo home run juuuuuuust into the Pen in the second, BOSS Seager drilled a three-run double in the third, and Mitch smacked a single back up the middle to again score Jean in the fourth. Mike Minor was sent packing after just three-and-a-third, and 34-year-old rookie Brandon Mann was called upon to mop up his mess. Mann is from the Pacific Northwest, and his story of seventeen years in the minors - with a stint in Japan - before finally getting the call to the bigs is inspiring, but any good feelings I had towards him evaporated during the very first batter he faced (please watch at your own risk).
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Cruz could barely walk into the dugout, and it was here morale felt like an all-time low. Losing both Neli and Robi for an extended time within three days? Pure nightmare fuel. Thankfully, X-rays came back negative, and Cruz’s foot is merely bruised rather than shattered. While he’ll have to miss the next couple of days (/bangs fists on table/ VOGEL-BACH! VOGEL-BACH!), the postgame news was a huge relief.
After three straight solid starts, though, Mike Leake struggled through 5.1 innings, although he really only ran into trouble in the second inning and starting the sixth. Thanks to some rough BABIP luck (i mean seriously what the hell is this) and an error on his own part, Leake coughed up three runs in the second, but was able to breeze through the next three innings. He started legitimately unraveling in the sixth - the Rangers started finding barrels, and Joey Gallo hit this absurd home run:
Two doubles and a single later, the game was tied and Leake was out of the game. While he pumped strikes all evening, not issuing a walk and getting a first-pitch strike against 21 out of 25 batters faced, he also missed few bats and caught a lot of the plate on several occasions. The ground balls keep swinging back up to their normal rates, but Leake’s struggles have been an unexpectedly frustrating part of the season so far. Although he might never approach how good he was in the last month of 2017, he has to be better despite still reliably eating innings.
But you don’t want to hear any more about Mike Leake, and I don’t want to write any more about him tonight! Dan Altavilla and James Pazos shut down the Rangers through the seventh, but Juan Nicasio again struggled. After issuing a leadoff walk (somewhere in Hungary, Earl Weaver’s corpse rolls over), a Ronald Guzmán single gave Texas a 7-6 lead. Although Marc Rzepczynski successfully retired the hitter he faced, the air quickly was sucked out of Safeco.
Not so fast! Guillermo Heredia opened the bottom of the frame by smoking a ground-rule double into the left field corner, and in stepped Gordon Beckham.
Beckham was the irreplaceable’s replacement tonight, and tried his very best to replicate a Canó night at the plate, checking in with a single and a double prior to this at-bat. Ever the gritty veteran bench bat, though, he squared around to bunt, dropped a perfect sacrifice, and...
Throwing to first is hard, and Beckham was able to made it to second on the errant throw. Segura promptly followed a Dee Gordon sacrifice with a hard-hit to left, and the M’s were back on top. While Jean stole both second and third - two of his FOUR! steals on the night - and the bases loaded up once more, Healy wasn’t able to get the job done.
Edwin Díaz came on to close as per usual, and although Jurickson Profar poked a leadoff single into left, there felt like nothing to fear. Even with a wild pitch sending Profar to second, a popout against Mazara and a groundout to Gallo followed suit.
Yeah, about that groundout...
if you would please join me in a reprise of NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Scott Servais: Mad Dad was on the loose immediately, arguing interference. Objectively, there really wasn’t much Gallo could do here to get out of the way of Díaz, and credit to Profar - that’s a really, really heads-up play. Servais ended up tossed out of the game after a polite hat throw, and Díaz mowed down Isiah Kiner-Falefa to end the frame.
With the M’s unable to get it done in the ninth or tenth, Erik Goeddel was summoned for two innings of work, and man, did he battle through them. Fighting through wavering fastball command and an inconsistent strike zone, Goeddel walked three tonight, but thankfully gave up no hits. He also struck out two, though, and tussled with Kiner-Falefa for ten pitches until inducing a pop-up to end the top of the eleventh.
And ohhhhhh boy, that bottom of the eleventh. After a Seager lineout, Healy gorked a blooper into shallow right field, David Freitas - coming in the game in the top of the tenth for pinch-ran-for Mike Zunino - legged out an infield hit, and suddenly the winning run was 180 feet away.
In stepped Guillermo.
There are no words to describe the elation we all felt after Healy chugged around to score, so here are some choice pictures.
And best of all...
Remember how Guillermo was singing “DEE AND G” to the time of Ac/DC’s “TNT”? (Extremely Brooklyn 99 voice) BE-CAUSE I DOOOO pic.twitter.com/sGFIpolMur— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 16, 2018
What a night. What a game each and every one of us needed. While no one knows how the next few months are going to shake out, the journey is just beginning, and the first step was on point. It’s only been six or seven weeks, and this team has already overcome so much and shown incredible resolve while being right in the thick of contention. The Mariners square off against the Rangers again in eleven hours from the time of this writing, and I can’t wait.
Go damn M’s.