Had a game like this happened back in June, jubilance would be in the air. The Mariners crushed the Angels tonight! Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani did almost no damage! Mike Zunino - yes, Mike Zunino - walked twice, one of them driving in a run. A laugher like this is always a lot of fun when you’re on the winning end of it.
Alas, despite all the runs, I felt little joy watching this game.
The Angels running out a bullpen day certainly didn’t help. As Mike Scioscia conducted an endless parade of September relievers and Trout and Trout and Francisco Arcia each worked ten-pitch at-bats, the game time quickly ballooned. Two hours had passed by the time the fifth inning had concluded, firmly into “this is a long game” territory. Somewhere in upstate New York, Rob Manfred awoke with a jolt.
There’s also the obvious: playoff hopes for this team are finished. While Oakland did lose (!) tonight to the Orioles (!!!), the fact remains that a lead as commanding as theirs this late in the year is pretty untouchable. None of these games - excepting always the chances of Edwin Díaz inching further towards the single-season save record - mean much of anything. The offense strung together good at-bats for the first time in what feels like weeks and jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two innings, and my only response was a shrug. Now that’s how you know a season is over.
Perhaps even more upsetting, even Nelson Cruz annihilating a baseball didn’t do that much for me tonight:
Mike Leake was strong again tonight, spinning seven innings of one-run ball with his usual oodles of weak contact. A solo homer to Justin Upton on a hanging slider was his lone mistake, and Leake emerged from several lengthy at-bats the victor. He will easily finish the season as the team’s innings leader, and has done everything expected of him - and even a bit more - this year. A true unsung hero.
After Neli’s home run, the M’s bats again went silent, as they only mustered one hit off of the cavalcade of Anaheim relievers until the ninth. An error by Andrelton Simmons allowed Robinson Canó to reach to lead off the frame, and Cruz followed with a sharp base hit. A Kyle Seager single somehow scored Robi, and back-to-back walks from Ben Gamel and Zunino forced in a second run. Though a double play ball from Dee Gordon ended the inning, there was mercifully just the bottom of the ninth to get through.
Chasen Bradford decided to get into hot water instead, immediately loading the bases with no outs. He did strike out Simmons looking, but let us all give thanks to Lance Barrett.
The sparse crowd was irate, and Mike Scioscia provided the biggest laugh of the night.
Bradford would allow a run to score on a fielder’s choice, but got Taylor Ward to bounce into one three pitches later to end the game. Boy, could that have gone sideways!
The trudge to the end continues tomorrow, and this time it’ll be the Mariners’ turn to make too many pitching changes. It is unknown who will be starting the bullpen parade, though my money is on Nick Vincent. We’ll see if that prediction comes true. Or we won’t. Either way, for better or for worse, there will be baseball and the opportunity to secure a non-losing season. That, at least, is a guarantee.