It could be when your kid is having yet another outburst, or when your significant other is bringing up that thing from two years ago, or when you wake up an hour late because you forgot to set your alarm. That feeling. It’s the dread of having to deal with this unpleasant situation that you know so well. It’s the anticipation of a whole host of negative emotions, not the least of which is boredom. It’s going through the motions.
Here we go again.
It can also happen, as it did tonight, when Mike Leake gives up three runs to the Oakland Athletics in the top of the first inning.
I don’t want to do this again. I don’t want to deal with this again.
And yet, we’ll go through them. Whether it’s because we love the kid, or the significant other, or the job to which we’re late, or the stupid Mariners. Just when we think Why?, the kid says something so brilliant that we do a double-take. Or the significant other gives a shy kiss on the cheek, as if to say I’m sorry. Or the boss is painfully understanding when we finally make it in.
Or Nelson Cruz hits a three run dinger.
Sometimes we might be tempted to express the sentiment as bluntly as Kurt Vonnegut once did: “Being alive is a crock of shit.” Usually, though, it isn’t.
The A’s score three more runs, and the Mariners score another, and then another. And then the A’s score another, and another. They’re both trying to score more than the other, but the game really doesn’t matter. The Mariners are out, after all. The A’s were almost certainly not going to win the AL West, despite having 95 wins coming into tonight’s game.
The Mariners score another couple of runs, and we look up, and the score is 8-7, Oakland. It’s a bit strange, watching a game and realizing you only have a cursory idea of what the fuck the score is.
Of course, that means that it’s the 9th inning now, and the A’s have Blake Treinen. The A’s, by the way, were 77-0 coming into tonight when leading after eight innings, thanks in no small part to Treinen. They were one of two teams that were undefeated in such situations. The other, of course, was the Mariners.
Nelson Cruz singled with two outs. We really don’t deserve him. Ryon Healy hit a weak ground ball to Matt Chapman. Matt Chapman bobbled the ball, and then bobbled the ball again, and at that point it was too late to throw out even Ryon Healy. That’s how badly Matt Chapman fucked up. Fortunately for the A’s, Kyle Seager was up.
One of many goats of the Mariners’ season. One of the few players we have to thank for the early 2010’s not having been completely unbearable.
Thank goodness for Kyle Seager.
Both unfortunately and fortunately, this meant that the game was going into extra innings.
The teams traded blank frames, and Álex Colomé held the A’s in check for another blank frame. Robinson Canó grounded out to lead off the bottom of the 11th, and I settled in, bracing myself to be bleary-eyed as I drag myself into work tomorrow morning after 14 innings of baseball and five hours of sleep.
Ben Gamel took a four pitch walk, which brought up Chris Herrmann.
This situation isn’t exactly what we draw up when we’re kids. Did you ever do that? Wave a baseball bat behind your head when you were six years old, and stare down your friend, or your dad, or your coach? “Well folks, here it is,” you might have whispered. “Game seven of the World Series. Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Down by three. Bases loaded. The pitcher stares him down. Here it comes. Swung on and...”
Maybe Chris Herrmann did that when he was a kid. I kind of think that every kid that’s loved baseball has done that, so I’d guess that Chris Herrmann probably did too.
No kid says “Well folks, here it is. They’ve been eliminated from playoff contention for a few days, and there are about 12,000 fans in attendance. Safeco sure looks empty. It’s the bottom of the 11th in a game that has no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of the season for either team. The pitcher stares him down. Here it comes. Swung on and...”
And yet, that was the situation. Emilio Pagan stared down Chris Herrmann. He reached back and threw a fastball.
Swung on and...
Chris Herrmann swung and immediately cracked a grin as large as any I’ve had in one of those fantasies. On a team going nowhere, Chris Herrmann hit a walkoff dinger and showed more joy than I would have thought possible from someone on the 2018 Seattle Mariners.
It wasn’t as big a celebration as it could have been. I don’t blame the Mariners for celebrating a bit mutedly. I’ve always thought that it might feel weird to be an MLB player celebrating a win that you know for certain is meaningless.
Is it weird though? We have enough things that tell us that life is meaningless. If we listened to all of them, we might never be happy again. It’s what we make of it.
Tonight, the game was about what happened after the game was over. It was about what Chris Herrmann made of a meaningless game on September 25th, nearly a week after the Mariners were officially eliminated from the postseason.
It was about this smile. It was a reminder, maybe, that this doesn’t have to be so serious.
So, thanks for that, Chris Herrmann.