I went to two games this weekend. On Friday night, my uncle and I sat and watched as the Mariners apparently lost to the Yankees 4-0. I say “apparently” because it was unclear the M’s ever actually showed up to that game; the offense was more lifeless than I can remember seeing in the last few years. It was disheartening.
Yesterday, however, I also attended the Mariners game, and that game was the exact opposite thanks to an electric final two innings. It was all due to Mitchell Evan Haniger.
First came the steal.
With nobody out and Jean Segura up, Haniger took a huge risk by running on the 0-1 pitch from Dellin Betances. The Yankees reliever delivered a high fastball at 98 MPH — or, in other words, perhaps the worst pitch to steal on. Gary Sanchez was already up and ready to deliver a strike to second to get Haniger.
But Mitch had other ideas, pulling his left hand and holding onto second with his right. It was an excellent play from a strong baserunner who lacks elite speed but makes up for it with veteran-level savvy.
Next came the slide.
we don't deserve mitch haniger dot gif pic.twitter.com/HtlE6xmzRB— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 9, 2018
Again, this was just beautiful. For most players, this trip around the bases would count as a game highlight, nearly impossible to top.
But then, finally, came the dive.
Here’s the thing about diving catches. As a former outfielder, when you see a ball hang up like this, you lose track of everything else. All that matters is that baseball and how you’re going to get there.
Most of the time, however, when you dive to make a play, you catch the ball at the beginning of your dive, or perhaps in the middle when you’re fully extended, and then you have just enough time to brace for impact. The dive allows you to reach to get the ball at a low level.
On this play, watch where Haniger is when the ball hits his glove. His right arm has already hit the ground, and his chest is milliseconds away from full-on, unprotected impact. This is remarkable extension from a player but it takes even more strength to make the grab and hold on.
The Statcast catch probability wasn’t all that low — 72%, according to MLB.com’s Mike Petriello — but that shouldn’t take away from the all-out play from the M’s right fielder.
Take a listen to the various broadcasts of the game and how they called this, too. (I mean, what else are you going to do on Monday morning?)
Aaron Goldsmith gets pumped for this play, and hearing his trademark growl is music to my tired ears. My favorite part of these calls, though, is how excited the Yankees announcers get. This is a catch that ends the game, but even they have to stand up and applaud the grab. They can’t even hide their respect. (Re17pect?)
There’s no denying this season has taken a dramatic turn for the worse over the last two months. And, yes, the Mariners appear almost certain to miss the playoffs for the 17th consecutive year.
Regardless, we’re just three short weeks from the end of the regular season, a month and a half from endlessly debating which #4 starter we want the M’s to sign, and probably about two months from lamenting the lack of everyday baseball. So I’m going to cherish moments like this, cherish players like this, and toast to a member of the Mariners’ core for years to come.
Thanks for a great play, Mitch. Thanks for your great play all season. Thanks for brightening my Sunday afternoon and for giving me reason to high-five strangers in the stands.