Wade LeBlanc was not pleased with himself.
The frustration was etched in his body language, as he returned to the dugout at the end of the sixth inning, head ducked low. It hadn’t been his finest outing. Sure, he’d pushed through six and allowed just five hits and no walks, but those hits had been costly - four earned runs, all from home runs.
Ryon Healy was not pleased with the prospect of losing this baseball game.
The Mariners had, thus far, been swept in a series just once, on the road against the powerhouse Yankees. To be swept by the Rockies, a team clinging to a record above .500, at home was unacceptable. With the bases loaded and a tie game in the first, Healy doubled to give the M’s a lead. It was enough to keep them ahead until that sixth inning, when Wade didn’t quite fall apart but he sure did stumble.
No matter. Nelson Cruz walked, Kyle Seager singled, and Healy, not satisfied with the two runs his first inning double had produced, sent a monstrous shot out to left field.
James Pazos took the proverbial baton from LeBlanc and threw a scoreless, hit-less seventh inning, then handed it off to Álex Colomé, who answered with one of his most dominant outings in a Mariners uniform - striking out Raimel Tapía, DJ LeMahieu, and Charlie Blackmon, to pass the baton to Edwin Díaz.
And Díaz, as he has throughout this season, powered the team through to the finish line, mercilessly striking out Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and Ian Desmond to earn his 35th save and secure the team’s 57th victory.
We are all informed by our past experiences and, as Mariners fans, the vast majority of our past tells us to distrust any stretches of “goodness.” Even as we celebrate eight game winning streaks and being 20+ games above .500, history leaches into our minds and spoils the joy. We don’t fear success, we fear the seemingly inevitable failure that our history has conditioned us to expect. Losing Friday and Saturday, scoring just a single run in each game, had what was supposed to be a lighthearted interleague series suddenly feeling like the beginning of the end. “Same old Mariners” echoed across the internet, and on Saturday night I found myself debating with a friend about the futility of success in a “losing culture.” Come Sunday afternoon, though, they efficiently quieted those anxious voices in our minds yet again.
“It’s a different player every night” has been a refrain of this season, as various individuals have stepped up to help the Mariners win day in and day out. But there have also been a number of games, like yesterday’s, when the M’s have reminded us that baseball, for all that we look at individual numbers, approaches, methods, etc., is still a team sport.
Wade LeBlanc may not have been pleased with his start but he still emerged with the win, because his team picked him up. They didn’t do it with a hard-fought walk-off; it wasn’t Kyle Seager hitting a grand slam to abolish an eight game losing streak; it was simply this team pulling together and confidently demonstrating what they seem to have believed all year: they are good.