Low expectations always have a way of delivering fun returns. With truly dominant teams, or repeat playoff participants, wins often elicit relief more than genuine happiness. When your team has a completely new roster stuffed with projects and castoffs, though, it’s easier to approach calmly.
“I’ll be thrilled with a win/good season, but I’m fully prepared for a loss/bad season.”
Surely none of the actual players on the team think they suck. Few professional athletes will start the season with the logical negativity fans and media toss at rebuilding teams. But they have internet access. These guys are familiar with television. They make thousands of dollars a year, after all. Nobody, rightfully, was pressuring the Mariners to do much of anything, and the Mariners understood that.
That’s what made a 13-4 start to the year so compelling. We’re living in a perfect blend of bewildered elation and legitimately impressive performances. These Mariners have the appeal of a young artist that has no business making heat this early in their career, and the skeptic trepidation fades with each new hit they put out.
If this series was serving as the first test of Seattle’s realness, they passed several areas of the rubric. While each April game carries the qualifier of extreme earliness, getting swept by a division rival could have certainly taken the winds out of the Mariners’ sails. The team started the day with pride and a defiant mindset, as the Mariners showed determined effort in the game’s first third.
Mitch Haniger wasted absolutely no time righting the course to victory, knocking his third career leadoff home run and steering both win probability, dinger streaks, and team confidence in the right direction.
After three innings Seattle guarded a 2-0 lead, with a Domingo Santana RBI double notching the second tally. In striking out six times through three frames and clustering hits on patient at-bats, the Mariners did push Gerrit Cole’s pitch count north of 50, even if looking helpless in some of the K’s.
Cole’s counterpart, meanwhile, exercised excellent efficiency. During the game’s primary stage, Marco Gonzales got several outs in the first two pitches of plate appearances. Most if not all of the Astros’ hitters are some form of terrifying, and Marco was able to neutralize their beast of a lineup by using its aggressiveness against it. His knee-hugging locations and low-velocity repertoire dulled the Astros into weak contact and frustrated returns to the dugout. Gonzales’ cutter and changeup moved late and discreetly, like a tardy high school student trying to avoid their teacher’s watchful eye. The diminutive lefty even breezed through eight straight hitters at one point, a stretch that ended in the sixth inning.
Gonzales ran into his first trouble of the afternoon by issuing Tony Kemp a leadoff walk begin the sixth. The free pass sent Brandon Brennan beelining for the bullpen rubber in preparation for a potentially messy cleanup. The Astros would immediately get three runners aboard, just as a ROOT Sports graphic flashed Michael Brantley’s gargantuan success with the bases loaded. Right on cue, the Bellevue-born baby barreled a single into right field, scoring Kemp and José Altuve. Two filibustering motions disguised as pickoff attempts followed, and Marco then gave way for Brennan.
Seattle’s Rule 5 pick turned maybe best reliever (?) got Carlos Correa looking on a two-strike changeup, briefly defanging the Astros’ rally. He slayed the entire rally one hitter later, earning a massive swing and miss with his deft off-speed stuff. Yuli Gurriel’s twirling swing silenced the threat, and the Mariners entered the game’s final third tied at two, Euro-stepping danger on their way.
As it is, Houston defended our Euro-step well and sent things the other way. Brennan re-emerged for the top of the seventh where he bumped into Aledmys Díaz. I will let the power of motion pictures and Jack Dorsey show you what happened next, because I am lazy.
On Saturday evening my roommate came back from a day of skiing and told me, as only an unshackled 24-year-old can, that we’d have a stranger staying with us tonight. My roommate explained that he met her at the mountain, and she’s road tripping from Tahoe to Canada and back. As he is also pet-sitting for a co-worker, my roommate offered up his bed (which will be unused as he tends to the cat), leading her to jump at the opportunity to sleep somewhere other than a Toyota Corolla. She also had a dog and some PBR.
She is, and I say this as endearingly as possible, what you might call a ski bum.
No later than 30 minutes after hearing this information for the first time, the drifter was in my apartment, sharing beers, smiling, and plopping a dog bed in our living room. After some brief interactions to assure she wasn’t murderous or thieving, we went out to Ballard, linked with some friends, and had ourselves a Saturday. This morning her and the dog—who was purity on four legs—woke up around 10:30. We pieced the puzzles of our night together through internet search histories and food delivery receipts, and then we met up with my roommate for an overpriced brunch, because millennials are nothing if not on-brand.
In roughly 18 hours we learned of each other’s existence, snuggled her dog, danced, praised Cardi B, found the bottom of several cans, laughed, dined, suggested a route to Whistler, and said goodbye. The drifter packed up her car and left town with the swiftness, precision, and nonchalance of someone who has done that before, and will likely do it again tomorrow.
It was the type of experience that helps you learn about yourself. Peering into a life you think you’d like to live, but are unsure because it would be so new and drastic. Maybe if you valued money differently, maybe if you took more risks or tried new things, mayyybe then you could do it. But for now, you’re admiring it as they continue the tour, getting better at it with every stop and new leaf turned over.
That’s what watching the Mariners play the Astros feels like.
You’re doing well, and you like the current vibe. Then someone shows up and injects a new energy, reminding you that things can be done differently. They come through, they do their thing, they leave. The drifters—whether it’s a skier and her bulldog or the Houston Astros—have their own unique paths that led them to where they are today. Even if it looks, feels, and smells differently than your life, it’s their version of fun. And sometimes, admittedly, it comes at your expense (RIP to the $30 I spent on Domino’s at one in the morning).