It isn’t until you finally relax that you realize just how much tension you were holding. It’s when you realize just how many parts of the human body are capable of being clenched. Sometimes, when you finally reach that point of relaxation, you find yourself feeling better than before. It’s as if you’ve wrung yourself out like a dirty dish towel, and you’ve been somehow cleansed.
In that sense, maybe Zac Rosscup and Dylan Moore did the Pacific Northwest a favor when they combined to double-handedly almost gift the Red Sox their second straight ninth inning comeback. Thanks to them, the ninth inning almost resulted in a mass aneurysm, yes. But Nick Rumbelow came in to save the day, and possibly Moore’s nightmares, and the tension was relieved, the Mariners born again out of the ashes of so, so, so many errors.
It’s somewhat surprising that the Mariners were even in position to win in the first place. Today was the first game of the season that the team was forced to hand the ball to someone other than Marco Gonzales or Yusei Kikuchi. Mike Leake is fine, but his last exhibition outing left a lot to be desired, and the Boston Red Sox lineup is about as formidable as it gets.
Leake, though, came out ready from the get-go. After getting Andrew Benintendi to ground out, Leake put Mookie Betts in a 0-2 count and threw one of the more perfectly placed sliders so far this year.
If the Mariners were going to have a chance, Leake was going to have to have a good game. After that strikeout, it seemed plenty possible. Now all the Mariners needed was for the offense to continue their nonsensical “We Are Somehow Better Now Without Robinson Canó and Nelson Cruz” tour.
It only took five minutes before they did, in fact, continue the tour, which might be more aptly named the “Tim Beckham and Ryon Healy Remembered How To Hit” tour. Beckham continued his torrid March with a line drive RBI single, and then Healy hit a double to drive him in. Offense is so fun!
Leake did struggle a bit over the next couple of innings, walking a couple of guys and allowing a few instances of hard contact that resulted in two runs, leaving the score tied again at 2-2.
It didn’t take long for this (weirdly good?) Mariners offense to find another run, as Ryon Healy doubled to put himself in scoring position for Dee Gordon, who managed to saw off a fastball into left field to score Healy.
It was refreshing, and honestly relieving, to see the Mariners score runs via something other than the home run. The home runs of the first few games have been plenty fun, but there’s something to be said for being able to string together hits and not living and dying by the long ball.
Jay Bruce, though, apparently didn’t get the memo.
Suddenly, the Mariners were looking at the very real possibility of starting the season 4-1. Leake finished his outing with another scoreless inning, and handed the baton to Rule 5 pick Brandon Brennan, who might be the most capable reliever on this team.
Brennan started his outing by throwing three straight fastballs at the bottom of the zone to Andrew Benintendi, and then caught Benintendi off-balance with a nasty changeup to strike him out. Brennan then threw Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers the same changeup, and got each of them to ground out.
The eighth inning went pretty much the same. J.D. Martinez managed an infield single off the changeup, but Bogaerts struck out hacking at it. To illustrate just how well Brennan was locating these pitches, here’s the pitch chart from Bogaerts’ at bat.
Finally, Brennan got Mitch Moreland to hit into an inning-ending double play, and the Mariners got to go home, proud owners of a shiny 4-1 record.
Oh. Wait. There’s one more inning?
Yeah, there was one more inning. Maybe Scott Servais forgot how badly Zac Rosscup struggled in last night’s debacle, or maybe Scott Servais thought that even Zac Rosscup wouldn’t blow a 4-run game in the ninth inning with the Red Sox 7, 8, and 9 hitters due up. Whatever the justification, Scott Servais handed the ball to Zac Rosscup for the ninth inning.
Zac Rosscup promptly allowed a line drive single to Christian Vasquez, which is when the clenching began.
Breathe in, and clench those back muscles!
Zac Rosscup then managed to strike out Jackie Bradley Jr. on three pitches!
And exhale with an “H-A”, HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
Up came Eduardo Núñez. He saw strike one. Rosscup threw him a slider in the dirt. OK, justifiable. Rosscup threw another slider in the dirt.
Breathe in, and clench the leg muscles this time!
Núñez bounced a slow roller at Tim Beckham, who went straight to first base for the second out.
And exhale with an “H-M” this time, HMMMMMMMMMMM.
Here’s where the truly excruciating part happened. You wouldn’t have been blamed for looking away, or at least covering your eyes. Fresh off of a heartbreaking defeat last night, the Mariners did seemingly everything in their power to repeat the tragedy.
An agonizing, six-pitch walk of Andrew Benintendi.
On the third pitch, Betts hit a ground ball straight at Dylan Moore. Dylan Moore, who was making his first Major League Baseball start tonight. Dylan Moore, who probably wasn’t expecting to face quite so high-pressure a situation as this one. It was a hard-hit ball, but it was fieldable. Moore bobbled the ball, trapped it in front of him, and promptly airmailed the throw over Ryon Healy’s head. Vasquez scored, and it was 6-3.
Okay, it happens. Rosscup reset, and prepared to face Rafael Devers. J.D. Martinez was in the on-deck circle, and I don’t think anyone wanted to see what would happen if J.D. Martinez got a plate appearance.
On the third pitch, Devers hit a ground ball, again straight at Dylan Moore. Dylan Moore, who was making his first Major League Baseball start tonight, and who had just committed an horrible, potentially game-blowing error. It was a hard-hit ball, but it was field-able, and Moore couldn’t handle it. Benintendi scored, and it was 6-4.
Finally, and blessedly, Scott Servais had seen enough. Though Moore was the goat, Zac Rosscup was allowing some extremely hard contact. It was time to bring in the real closer. The one who you could turn to when you needed to get out of the game.
It was time to bring in... wait, is that Nick Rumbelow? Scott, why is Nick Rumbelow coming into the game? I guess that’s who we have! Quick, Scott, tell your newly-acquired catcher what kind of pitches Nick Rumbelow throws.
It was like something out of the twilight zone.
On the third pitch, Martinez hit a ground ball, again straight at Dylan Moore. Dylan Moore, who was making his first Major League Baseball start tonight, and who had just committed a horrible, potentially game-blowing error, which had directly followed another horrible, potentially game-blowing error. It was a hard-hit ball, but it was field-able. Moore bobbled it, and sent the throw straight into the dirt. Healy couldn’t pick it. Betts scored, and it was 6-5.
I don’t know what happened, but something clicked in Nick Rumbelow’s brain. Maybe it just rejected the stupidity of the situation, or maybe this really is what Nick Rumbelow is made for. In any case, Nick Rumbelow chose this exact moment to bear down. It was as good a moment as any.
He threw Xander Bogaerts a fastball low in the zone for strike one.
He threw him a slider in the middle of the zone for strike two.
He took a deep breath, set, and threw him a low slider. Tom Murphy, who just learned that Nick Rumbelow existed, did a perfect job of framing a Nick Rumbelow slider.
It was laughable. It was so, so, stupid, but the Mariners won. Dylan Moore will not have nightmares about tonight for the rest of his life. Mike Leake somehow got the win, Jay Bruce (?!) carried the offense, and the Mariners are 4-1.
The Mariners have been a feel-good team for the first 5 games of the season. They might not be good. But, then again, they might.