Today was my grandfather’s memorial service, and as I walked out from his retirement home, carrying a stack of pictures and objects we’d put on display, I realized I was taking the last part of him away from the place he’d spent the last decade-plus. I was overcome by the desire to leave a picture on a wall down some hallway, to leave a little bit of him behind. It reminded me of when I was packing up my college dorm room and looking around at the campus for the last time, wondering what part of me I could leave behind so people would know I was here, in this place that I loved and that mattered to me, so people could know I mattered to it.
The word nostalgia comes from the Greek, nostos, “return home,” plus algos, “pain.” It is the pain of knowing you can never go back to a place and time again; that you can, in effect, never go home again. The Mariners organization takes some licks for being overly-invested in nostalgia; for trotting out the memories of the great teams of the past, as few and as far in-between as they have been. When Edgar was first hired as hitting coach, the move was panned by some as a way to capitalize on a franchise great in uniform again, a scenario that would repeat itself when the 44-year-old Ichiro was signed to play for a team that’s theoretically contending for a wild card. And such criticism is fair for a team with the longest playoff drought in pro sports, that circles around and around its own recent history like a dizzy ouroboros.
Tonight was ‘90s night and a “fanny Pax” giveaway and lots of vintage goofiness, because the ‘90s are vintage now, and if you need me I’ll just be on this ice floe with the other Olds. It was also Cinco de Mayo, so there were a lot of people in the ‘pen wearing both sombreros and fanny packs, leading to a real thrift store Fodor’s guide aesthetic. For the first six innings, Marco did his best 90’s Jamie Moyer, allowing contact but crafty-leftying his way around nine hits against an aggressive Angels lineup. Marco was especially effective with his curveball today, busting it out early in counts for swinging strikes and weak contact, including a nice GIDP off the bat of Andrelton Simmons to get out of some trouble in the third. Gonzales ran a K/9 of over 10 for the game while surrendering just one walk, and had only given up one run until he made a poor pitch to Jefry Marte (WHY), who knocked a three-run homer to stake the Angels to a 4-0 lead. Meanwhile, the Mariners failed to get anything going against Tyler Skaggs, as the scoreless innings streak grew and grew. Same old Mariners. Laying an egg during an important homestand. Nostalgia in the bad way: Deadgar Weekend redux; the reminder that sandwiching the mid-90s and early 2000s teams we celebrate is a whole lot of bad baseball. Some nostos, a lot of algos.
You know who doesn’t like bad baseball? Robinson Canó. The Segura-Haniger-Canó train got going in the sixth, and the Mariners were able to snatch two runs back. With this lineup it’s hard to ever count the Mariners out, no matter how limp they may look early in the game. In the 8th, Ryon Healy got to flamethrower Justin Anderson with an RBI single on a 98.7 mph fastball that was well-located on the outside edge but belt-high. Anderson then tried to sneak a slider past Mike Zunino. It went...poorly.
#Angels @ #Mariners— Ballpark Videos (@BallparkVids) May 6, 2018
Mike Zunino clubs a towering go-ahead two-run home run to left field, giving the Mariners a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning (00:49)
MLB Gameday: https://t.co/o7QNAZS7U7 pic.twitter.com/GVdq2q3TYJ
But because it can’t be easy, the Angels would tie the game back on a Justin Upton home run off a poorly-located Edwin Díaz slider. The player who rejected the Mariners snuffing out the hope of a rally on a weekend where the Mariners have been overshadowed by the visiting team? What poetic injustice. The Mariners are so often the background players in someone else’s highlight reel; it felt familiar, and bad, and so effortless to slide into that pool of bad M’s fandom feels. Badstalgia? That’s maybe the word to describe the feeling in the 10th when Juan Nicasio surrendered the go-ahead run with the bottom of the order due up. What’s so powerful about nostalgia is it’s not just the time itself, it’s the accrual of years spent looking back at the thing, imbuing it with a power that becomes otherworldly. No time was, or ever could be, happier; no time can ever be as happy again.
It would be easy to overlook Ben Gamel’s at-bat tonight against the other offensive outbursts, but listen: this is a good at-bat.
Down in the count after chasing Jim Johnson’s curveball, Gamel lays off the next two pitches to push the count full. Pitch seven is probably a ball, and Graterol maybe isn’t quite the frame artist Rivera is, but it’s too close to take the risk of having it called strike three when your team only has three outs left. Gamel punched the pitch into left field, Andrew Romine sacrificed him to second (Romine is another quiet hero of this game, with two strong defensive plays, this successful sacrifice, and his first hit as a Mariner), and Segura singled him home to tie the game up again.
But because it really, really can never be easy, Erik Goeddel struggled with his command and walked the first two batters he faced, Trout and Upton. Things felt like they might be okay when he got Albert Pujols to ground into his 3,000th double play, but then Andrelton Simmons did an incredibly annoying thing—which, okay, I guess I should specify that this particular annoying thing was a swinging bunt that was just soft enough to score the go-ahead run. It all felt so familiar. It all felt so cruel. Suddenly the Paxton fanny packs seemed not fun but garish and silly, embarrassing. It has been, at times, so embarrassing to be a Mariners fan.
You know who’s not embarrassing? Robinson Canó. He started off the 11th by taking a walk after falling behind 1-2 in an eight-pitch battle, and then Kyle Seager checked the calendar before walking out of the dugout and realized, oh dip, it’s been May for a few days now, and creamed a ball to the gap that missed being a home run by about the length of the triple-rolled socks I was convinced were fashionable in the ‘90s, and then Robi showed us how much fun he is when he’s healthy by scoring all the way from first, although he needed some recovery time:
Scioscia made a pitching change, bringing in Eduardo Paredes for...reasons? to face Ryon Healy.
Ryon Healy didn’t have a Spring Training, and then he didn’t have much of a start to the season, either. We’ve seen flashes of him having a Good Personality, and he seems to be well-liked both among his ex-teammates and his current ones. We’ve seen him hit some monster bombs, and he does a pretty good narwhal from Elf impression, but mostly we don’t know a lot about Ryon Healy. The first base position has been a revolving door in recent memory, and Ryon Healy is the newest face in a sea of faces. Tonight, Ryon Healy decided to make an impression:
#Angels @ #Mariners— Ballpark Videos (@BallparkVids) May 6, 2018
Ryon Healy rips a base hit down the left-field line, scoring Kyle Seager to lift the Mariners to a 9-8 win in 11 innings (01:20)
MLB Gameday: https://t.co/o7QNAZS7U7 pic.twitter.com/uZntI0WGfj
Nostalgia, while tantalizing, is also largely useless—a wish for a time and place that is no longer. And yet we can’t help but be nostalgic at times, for moments like this, times that seem too good to be true. Tonight the 2018 Mariners made a memory, something we will watch next year in the cold dark of winter on Mariners Mondays, something we will look back on fondly at the conclusion of this season, however it ends. Tonight nostalgia was our friend.
This game was so fun. I wish my grandpa had been able to see it.