“Same ol’ Mariners.”
It’s a common refrain, and a well-deserved one at that. When you have the longest current playoffs drought across all North American professional teams, when your team has struggled to put together competent seasons in consecutive years, it’s unfortunately apt. For a decade and a half, the Seattle Mariners have been a never-ending Shakespearean tragedy, with betrayals and failures galore.
This year, however? This year has felt different. Things have broken right this year. So going into today’s game against the Angels, hoping to come away with a sweep and a 7.5 game lead over our Southern California rivals, I felt perhaps unreasonably confident. And in the second inning, when Denard Span, Ryon Healy, Ben “Toomgis” Gamel, and Mike Zunino delivered back-to-back-to-back-to-back hits to put the M’s up 2-0, I felt even better.
Mike Trout did Mike Trout things in the third inning, hitting a line drive single the opposite way to bring the Halos back within a run. (Side note: wow, is he good, and wow, I’m so glad we don’t have to face him for a while.) But even that didn’t phase me — especially since, in yet another break for the Seattle nine, Garrett Richards left the game after the second with a strained hamstring. And right on cue, Nelson Cruz delivered with a monster dinger so impressive that the LL Slack was, well, slack-jawed.
In case you prefer the motion-picture version:
Marco Gonzales didn’t have his best stuff today, with slightly shaky control and more than a few missed spots. But every young starter needs to learn how to make it through five or six innings even when they’re not pitching their A-game, and Marco found a way to do that this time.
Once he left after the fifth, however, Gamel and Mitch Haniger decided to return to their Little League selves by allowing a ball to drop right between them in the right-center gap. One batter and one sacrifice fly later, the Angels tied things up at four.
Even with a tied game, it was easy to envision a Mariners comeback, and it was the 5-6-7 combination coming through yet again. A looper from Span, a hard liner up the middle from Healy, and a nice bunt from Heredia (combined with a not-so-good throw from David Fletcher, who was making his MLB debut) gave the M’s three runners on with nobody out. But after Zunino fouled off a 2-0 pitch that should have landed in Edgar’s Cantina, he struck out, and Andrew Romine did the most Andrew Romine thing possible by grounding into a double play.
A year ago, three years ago, and for most of the last decade-plus, I would’ve sighed and said “Same ol’ Mariners.”
And then, to make matters worse, Nolan Fontana hit a homer off the top of the wall in left field to take a 5-4 lead in the 7th. And a solo shot from Chris Young, also off Chasen Bradford, upped the deficit to 6-4.
In previous years, THIS would certainly have been met with a sigh and a “Same old Mariners” refrain. Even after the magic we’ve witnessed thus far, I wouldn’t blame you if you had that feeling going into the bottom of the 7th.
Dee Gordon, however, isn’t here for your negativity. And neither is Jean Segura. After a single from Gordon, and a pre-pitch plea from yours truly for an RBI double, your favorite should-be All-Star came through:
The roller coaster continued, unfortunately, with a bizarre pop fly to left field where Segura tried to tag up because Justin Upton’s throw was remarkably offline, but catcher Martín Maldonado made a sensational play to catch the ball and get it back to Fletcher covering the plate.
In previous years, again, this would elicit a shrug and a sigh and a “I have better things to do with a Wednesday afternoon.”
But Ryon Healy wasn’t here in previous years. Remember that book “If you give a mouse a cookie?” I think the sequel was “If you throw a 90 mile-per-hour fastball over the middle of the plate to Ryon Healy...?” Just in case you aren’t sure of what happens next:
This, this, this was the surest sign that 2018 isn’t like 2017, or like 2016, or 2015 or any of the other dreary years that have surrounded this franchise for far too long. This crowd, all 28,236 of them, wasn’t going anywhere. This team, with excitement and jubilation galore, wasn’t giving up. This city is ready for a winner and by gosh, they might just have one.
The ninth inning belonged to Mitch Haniger. Who else? He represents this team beautifully. He’s an imperfect star; he strikes out too much, his defense can be shoddy at times (especially when he’s put out of position in center field), and he can have some poor at-bats.
But he’s also broken out this year, soaking up all the love that the Pacific Northwest can provide. Behold, a nice running catch and strong throw to double up Jabari Blash and escape the 9th unscathed:
Once the inning turned over, it was time for one more Mitch Mash, this one of the walk-off variety.
Now that’s the story of how your Seattle Mariners moved to TWENTY games above .500, at 44-24. That’s the story of how, in a series that produced a record number of home runs, the Mariners’ power was a little bit better each and every night.
But it’s also the story of how a franchise shed a tired refrain and took on a new one. Whether it’s Dee Gordon yelling and high-fiving everyone in the vicinity, or Jean Segura beaming on first base after yet another hit, or a million other players who make you smile time after time, there is abundant joy at the corner of Edgar and Dave.
Previous campaigns have seen the M’s blow it in these types of series. And, sure, it’s only mid-June, so maybe it’s too early to call this a critical three-game set. But when given a chance, this team runs with it; when they fall behind, these guys don’t quit. And all of that has led to one pretty exciting thing: sweeping the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in heart-pumping fashion, replete with exultation and celebration.
How about that. “Same ol’ Mariners” no more.
SWEEEEEEEPIN IN THE RAIN— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) June 13, 2018
WE'RE SWEEEEEEEEPIN IN THE RAIN
WHAT A GLOOOOORIOUS FEEEELING
SEATTLE BASEBALL IS GOOD AGAIN