This one could’ve been easy, and early on it was. With runs in both the 2nd and 3rd innings, Seattle had a 2-0 lead through five innings that felt far more luxurious. Guillermo Heredia had a brilliant day, with an RBI single in the second that Mitch Haniger matched an inning later. But the Mariners didn’t put the game away, and for what felt like the story of this entire week, Seattle was unable to adjust.
Both Mike Zunino and his counterpart James McCann played home plate umpire Tim Timmons like a fiddle, seemingly daring one another to see how many inches away they could extract a strike. Early on this favored Marco Gonzales, who wiggled his way out of a few jams like the slippery eel he has often been. I’ve been encouraged by Gonzales more than discouraged this year, but tonight was another night where a single moment slipped away from him. Unlike last Saturday, where José Iglesias took him deep for a homer, it was a mostly innocuous four-pitch walk with two outs in the top of the 6th to John Hicks. It would not remain innocuous.
A grounder up the middle from Mikie (how is that the actual spelling) Mahtook (somehow this looks normal by comparison) pushed Hicks to third and a legitimately shocking throwing error by Kyle Seager allowed Detroit to steal a run. What followed was, bar none, the high point of the game, as Ryan Cook entered. Though many of you are familiar with his context, it is this Ryan Cook:
Strikeout of Iglesias was Ryan Cook's first K since he struck out Jesus Montero in the Mariners 22-10 loss to the Red Sox Aug. 15 2015. Jesus Sucre finished that game on the mound for the M's.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) May 18, 2018
Cook, you may be forgiven for missing, signed with the Mariners all the way back in January of 2016, in the midst of Jerry Dipoto’s first offseason. He missed that season, and the following season, with a strained right lat that eventually lead to Tommy John surgery. Cook was an all-star back in 2012 with Oakland and has dominated Tacoma. Tonight he was equally brilliant.
But unlike Cook, the rest of the Mariners hadn’t spent most of this season in Tacoma or on the West Coast. Whether through confirmation bias or not, the team lost steam, and even against an inferior opponent like the Tigers, a few well-placed grounders can do you in. I emphasize the grounders because, of the nine hits Detroit accrued, there were just two doubles, neither of which came around to score. No, a flurry of singles undid Nick Vincent and Seattle in the snake-bitten 8th inning. Looking every bit as beaten down as their fans the Mariners failed to muster a comeback.
Tomorrow Nelson Cruz is likely to return, and Dee Gordon makes his debut at second base, and the transition period will be complete. A Mariners team with a different everyday 2B will try to sustain their hot start, a different way. Hopefully, with a different level of energy and offensive play than tonight.