I think we may have underestimated the importance of Robinson Canó. Despite the occasional talking head spouting the team might be better without him, it was always well-understood that the Hall of Fame-caliber 2B left a significant hole in the center of Seattle’s lineup. But, for a time at least, it appeared once again that Robi had delivered a crucial hit in a situation where the team had been lacking for nearly two months. After Marco Gonzales and Mike Minor matched zeroes for four innings, the Mariners finally generated a threat.
Mitch Haniger doubled with two outs on a line drive down the left field line. It would be the first of two doubles today for him, because Mitch is a giver. This one was anteceded by a Jean Segura walk, bringing up Canó. Every fandom thinks their team is terrible with runners in scoring position, and the Mariners have actually been quite good in those situations over the past few years, but in 2018 they’ve been wretched. Two outs, two on has been a death sentence, with the team mustering just a .225/.311/.356 line and an 86 wRC+ in 628 PAs - roughly a full individual season’s worth of ineptitude and 21st in MLB. Thankfully, Robi has not been so affected.
The blast did not elicit a home run call Dave Sims will put on his personal highlight reel, but it’s worth three runs all the same. If it feels like those types of healthy heapings of runs haven’t been served judiciously this year, your grumbling gut is once again correct! While the Mariners came into tonight about middle-of-the-pack in dingers (168, to be precise, and 18th in the league), just 65 of those taters came with any runners on base whatsoever. That’s awful sequencing, and part of the True to the Blue Apron recipe that produces a run differential well out of wack with the offenses expectations.
Tonight, at least, the offense delivered. Following Robi’s cue in the 5th, the Mariners added runs in the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th innings to run up a 13-0 lead on the lowly Rangers. The zero runs allowed was a result of Marco Gonzales stepping into the Hisashi Iwakuma mantle and reminding us that the Mariners may in fact have a decent 2nd starter who doesn’t need their best stuff to succeed. The rest of Seattle’s runs came in increasingly absurd fashion.
First, there was the “Fly Out If It’s Anyone But Z”:
Then, after another Haniger double and Canó RBI double redux, everyone decided to get in on the party:
And it was indeed a party for everyone:
And so it went, extending seemingly eternally, until the drubbing concluded with a Kristopher Negrón RBI single in the 9th. On the night the Mariners were finally officially eliminated from the playoffs, they played like an entirely foreign team from the one that slipped slowly into oblivion, playing uninspired, feeble baseball for most of July and August.
It’s difficult, after seeing this team perform a mixture of excellent and magical baseball for April-June, and in spurts now in September, to know what to make of them. They aren’t a bad team, yet for the 17th straight year, they weren’t good enough. They’ll likely be the second 90-win team in the two Wild Card era to miss the playoffs, and the first since the 2012 Rays. Their offense was downright unwatchable for weeks at a time, yet the rotation that was expected to collapse kept them propped up for much of the season. Tonight’s win was just the 18th in which Edwin Díaz did not appear.
This team will have the best record (and will arguably BE) the best Mariners team in 17 years. And once again, it won’t be enough. Their 47-33 line against .500 or worse teams pales in comparison to Oakland’s 63-22 domination of the chaff. Being one of only four AL teams with a winning record (joining Boston, Cleveland, and Houston) against >.500 teams wasn’t enough to overcome taking 2-of-3 instead of sweeping too many times, or being swept by the Padres. It will be a strange winter ahead, but tonight, the Mariners had Robinson Canó, and they were brilliant. They missed him dearly.