It’s a common refrain, and one that we’ve heard since we were children: save room for dinner, because dinner will be good. Or save your energy for the game, because you’ll need it. As we become adults, the same refrain has transformed into the type of hyuck-hyuck joke in baseball that everyone makes, nobody thinks is funny, and yet still seems to be ubiquitous: wow, stop scoring, you’ll need those runs tomorrow!
There’s not a limited supply of runs, and it’s certainly true that scoring more today won’t preclude a team for scoring any more tomorrow. There’s no “Conservation of Runs” law, where any runs taken out must be paid back later. Tonight, though, it seemed like there might have been some truth to the old adage. After such a stupid, painful loss the day before, it seemed like most of what went wrong for the Mariners yesterday was reversed tonight.
Yesterday was defined by a combination of unluckily scattered hits, untimely miscues in the field, and hard-hit balls by the Angels that just seemed to find gaps. Tonight was defined by overall good scatter luck, some incredibly clutch fielding, and some terrifying Kole Calhoun fly balls that ended up in Mariner gloves.
It felt like things could fall the Mariners’ way starting from the first inning. Marco Gonzales began the game by walking David Fletcher. He managed to strike Mike Trout out, but gave up a single to Andrelton Simmons and another walk to Justin Upton to load the bases with just one out. Were the Mariners really going to fall behind in just the first inning? Could they really lose the rubber match to the Angels?
Well, Albert Pujols was up. So, no.
It was just the first inning, but it felt like a sign of how the game was going to go. Some games, it feels like all of those weak Albert Pujols ground balls find holes, and it’s 3-0 Angels. Tonight, this one was a double play.
The Mariners ended up striking first in the third inning when Guillermo Heredia barely snuck a liner down the left field line for a double. Dee Gordon looked at the first pitch, felt his eyes grow big, and begun to swing. I’ll be honest, I groaned a little. I love Dee, but these first-pitch swings don’t usually feel like they end well. Well, this one did. Dee ripped a line drive into right field for an RBI single to make it 1-0.
Marco’s slightly-off command finally caught up with him a bit the next inning. He allowed hits to Ian Kinsler and Martin Maldonado before Kole Calhoun barely got under a cutter and hit it about 380 feet to dead center. Fortunately, 380 feet to dead center in Safeco is an easy out. It was enough to score the runner from third base, but it felt like Marco had again gotten away with one.
It wouldn’t be until the fifth that the Mariners would score again. Ben Gamel walked to continue his “I’m actually pretty good, really” 2018 tour before Guillermo Heredia turned on his second ball of the night and hit his second line drive of the night to left field. This one ended up getting over Justin Upton’s head, which was enough to score Gamel from first.
The Mariners continued to trade frames with the Angels. For all of his struggles, Marco seemed to settle down and managed to gut out 6.0 innings of one-run ball before turning it over to James Pazos and Álex Colomé. Pazos and Colomé were helped along by some unlikely support.
Though the Mariners had the lead firmly in hand, the Angels would have one last real gasp. When they came up against Álex Colomé in the eighth, they probably weren’t thinking too hard about Edwin Díaz in the ninth inning, but with the way Díaz has been pitching it felt like their last real chance.
Mike Trout struck out for the third time of the night. Justin Upton walked. Albert Pujols singled. The tying run came to the plate in Luis Valbuena. Colomé reached back and managed to strike out Valbuena. Ian Kinsler came up with two outs. Kinsler worked a 1-1 count before Colomé threw him a slider around the middle of the plate. Kinsler made hard contact and lined the ball up the middle. He’d beaten Colomé.
Or had he?
This was, without a doubt, one of the top five catches I’ve ever seen in my life. Honestly, it might be the best. To try to place it exactly would take away from the moment. Had Dee not caught this ball, the Mariners may still have won. It’s possible only one run would have scored. But it’s also possible they would have lost.
Because of that catch, the Mariners were able to turn a three-run lead over to Edwin Díaz, and you can guess the rest if you don’t know it already. Edwin recorded his MLB-leading 34th save of the year. The next-highest total is 26.
The Mariners got a bit lucky today. Marco Gonzales stranded some runners that he maybe shouldn’t have. Kole Calhoun got robbed with deep fly outs a couple of times. Jean Segura had a very lucky RBI single that he chopped directly downward. But when the game came to its pivotal moment, the Mariners didn’t have to rely on luck. Dee Gordon made their luck for them, and it’s thanks to him that the team scraped out a series win over the Angels to push the gap between the two teams back up to 12 games.
12 games. It feels realer by the night.