Here’s everything I knew about A’s starter Frankie Montas entering tonight:
· His name is Frankie Montas.
· He plays for the Oakland Athletics.
· Thursday night marked his 13th career MLB start.
Here’s what I know about Frankie Montas after watching him give up seven runs to the Mariners:
· He is now my husband.
From the very first batter he faced, Montas showed all the signs of a pitcher Seattle could feast on. His arsenal seemed to feature two pitches, fastball grooved straight down the middle and fastball that ends up in a neighboring county. Knowing this, the Mariners turned on their tunnel vision and fattened up on Montas’ meatballs, while mostly laying off the bad stuff.
Eight of the first nine Mariner hitters reached base to lead off the game, plating five runs before the A’s fans could even decide not to attend the game. Even the grim parts of the first inning (Denard Span’s patient strikeout and Nelson Cruz’s 112 MPH fielder’s choice) carried some positive signs. Sitting on two outs with runners on first and second, scoreboard still flashing zeroes, the Mariners pieced together a walk, an RBI single, and an RBI walk to poach two runs quicker than most A’s fans will remind you that they’ve backed the Warriors for their whole life, bro.
With two runs already in tow, the top of the first looked over when Mike Zunino fisted a grounder to Matt Chapman. Perhaps distracted by the incessant drumming echoing off the coliseum’s empty seats, Chapman threw a circle change to first base, skipping past Matt Olson and allowing two runs to score on the error. Dee Gordon followed up by drag racing to first on a grounder at Chapman, whose double-clutch cost Oakland another run. After one trip through the order, the Mariners led 5-0. Those plucky M’s.
With the Mariners’ recent run of play shading toward the queasy side, the first inning felt like the best kind of fever dream. If you’re going to be sick, might as well get some absurd enjoyment out of it. Getting five runs off a fringe-starter was some incredibly necessary catharsis that signaled a step toward full health. Supplementing it with another run in the second and a Mitch Haniger yard job in the fourth washed away much of the frustration of the past two months. No more struggling against baby pitchers, no more scoring in the first inning then packing the bats in a faraway igloo, no more sucking, at least for one night.
While the offense did more than enough, Wade LeBlanc matched their heroic efforts. The swingin’ A’s were shackled by the southpaw’s softness, logging weak contact every chance they could get and squandering the few base runners they managed. If not for the smattering of new faces, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was April all over again. Luck was firmly in the Mariners’ dugout tonight, from the unusual Chapman error to Jed Lowrie’s line drive up the middle not injuring Seattle’s pitcher.
LeBlanc sailed through the rest of the night, exhibiting the calmness needed to ease the team to victory. Staying in line with the “early-season Mariners are back” narrative, LeBlanc posted a line reminiscent of the team’s glory days.
Wade LeBlanc is through 7 IP. 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 Ks on 98 pitches. First time he's pitched at least seven innings since July 20 against the White Sox. Mariners up 7-0.— TJ Cotterill (@TJCotterill) August 31, 2018
It’s hard to articulate how good this win felt. Relief doesn’t quite capture the feeling, although that is part of it. But relief is typically best reserved for situations where you fear the worst, and that fear was erased tonight within nine plate appearances. The easy-going nature of a 7-1 win allowed me to do some laundry, scroll through Twitter, and roast my roommate for his unsanitary habits, all without worrying about an impending collapse. Not even Adam Warren’s shaky inning could harsh my vibe, as hard as Warren tried.
Thursday’s triumph was about as perfect a start as you’d want from a team with its back against the wall, playing its direct competition for a long-awaited playoff spot. It had been so long that I’d almost forgotten about the downsides to a comfortable win. For instance, I didn’t even have a chance to get these Mark Canha jokes off or find a way to see the light in a dark performance. Tonight was all Mariners, all the time. I’d be okay with them running it back tomorrow for another breezy win, and then maybe doing it two more times before leaving the East Bay.