The first few months of this season were a breath of fresh air, and not just because the team was in a playoff position for most of that time. One thing I love about baseball season is that there’s always something to look forward to. On a plan-less winter Tuesday, you’ll sometimes have nothing to look forward to except for bedtime. In the summer, though, there’s usually at least a baseball game.
How many times over the years have we tuned into a Mariner game at 7:10 PM, only to see them down 2-0 by 7:30? And for how many iterations of the Mariners has a 2-0 deficit seemed like a reason to tune out before the game is halfway over?
Not for the first-few-months-of-2018 Mariners. Those Mariners could be down by five, and it felt like they’d have a way to come back. Short of being down by 10 and seeing Taylor Motter take the mound, there was never any reason to tune out. It was new, it was fresh, and it was easy to get used to.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last. Over the past month or two, a two-run deficit has felt nearly insurmountable. With the way the Mariners found themselves entrenched in tonight’s two-run deficit, I wouldn’t have blamed anyone for sighing and finding something else to do with their Saturday night.
Mitch Haniger started out the game with this bomb to center field.
Mitch is taking well to the leadoff spot, and he’s taking just as well to the opportunity to show the Diamondbacks how much of a mistake they made in trading him away.
The Mariners then proceeded to load the bases with singles by Robinson Canó and Nelson Cruz and a four-pitch walk by Ryon Healy. Up to the plate came Kyle Seager, mired in an 0-for-12 slump. And though Ryon Healy had just watched four straight balls, Kyle ended up striking out on five pitches, all of which were out of the zone. 0-for-13. Mike Zunino also struck out, and the Mariners were stuck on one.
The Diamondbacks would tie the game up in the bottom of the first, and the good feelings from Mitch’s home run were all gone, replaced by the all-too-familiar feeling of what could have been.
The top of the fourth saw Mike Zunino walk, Dee Gordon single, and Mitch Haniger get intentionally walked. Up came Robinson Canó. And four pitches later, down went Robinson Canó. Jean Segura would ground out, and again, the Mariners were wondering what could have been.
Wade LeBlanc pitched a hell of a game, but the Mariners were eventually forced to pull him and replace him with the non-Álex Colomé-non-Edwin Díaz part of the bullpen, and the loss of the lead felt inevitable. Indeed, Nick Vincent would instantly allow a couple of baserunners, who would nearly instantly score.
The Diamondbacks slowly whittled the Mariners down. They whittled them down all the way to the top of the ninth, when the Diamondbacks brought in Brad Boxberger. Boxberger quickly retired Canó, but then walked Jean Segura. Nelson Cruz managed to push a single through the right field hole.
The Mariners had a chance. They sent in Ben Gamel, who’s been as hot as anyone. Gamel ended up waving at a 2-2 changeup out of the zone.
The only one left was Kyle Seager. Kyle Seager, who at this point had increased his slump to 0-for-16. Kyle Seager, who, as good as he’s been defensively, has as much blame as anyone for the team’s recent offensive struggles. Kyle Seager, who, if not for his first inning strikeout, could have already won the game for the Mariners.
Kyle Seager, who only had one more chance tonight to be a hero, and took it.
With the game tied, Colomé easily retired the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the 9th and sent the game into extra innings. And in the top of the 10th, Denard Span stepped up to the plate, and did this.
As impressive as that was by itself...
Get this: Denard Span's home run in the 10th was hit with a broken bat.— Corey Brock (@CoreyBrockMLB) August 26, 2018
A bat he noticed was broken FRIDAY. Asked bat boy to remove it from the rest of his bats. He obviously didn't.
Small crack in handle, apparently. Span didn't know he was using that bat until after homer.
With that, the Mariners had the lead with Edwin Díaz warming up. What could possibly feel more secure? And yet, how could the Mariners do anything comfortably in this, a game in which they went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left a collective 15 men on base?
Díaz gave up a quick bloop single to Paul Goldschmidt. Okay, no problem. One pitch later, though, David Peralta snuck a grounder up the middle. Goldschmidt got to third. It could have been a double play, but instead the Mariners suddenly found themselves looking at a 1-in-3 chance of winning the game.
That is, before Kyle Seager played the hero for the second time in as many innings. Steven Souza hit a grounder right at Seager, who looked to his right and saw Goldschmidt breaking for home. It wasn’t a particularly tough play. But without it, the Mariners might be on the outside looking in right now. Seager threw home, and caught Goldschmidt in a run-down. They got him, and there was suddenly one out with runners on first and second.
A deep fly out to center later, and there were two outs for Ketel Marte. Marte is still just as much of a hacker as he was with the Mariners, albeit with a bit more success. He took a hack at the first pitch he saw, and drove it deep to center field. Everyone watching gasped and stood up a little. They clenched various muscles. They watched Mitch Haniger sprint for the ball. Mitch reached up, and without breaking stride, caught the ball.
We took a moment, and then realized it. The Mariners won. They actually won.
They should have, and then they didn’t. Then they shouldn’t have, and then they did. Nothing about it came easily, and it happened anyway. The Mariners won, and they’re still in it. Maybe a two-run deficit won’t feel so bad next time.