There’s a species of jellyfish that never dies. Known as T. dohrnii, and colloquially as the immortal jellyfish, the species can indefinitely revert between its mature and larval forms. It’s not immortal, per se — it can still be eaten, be killed, or succumb to disease. But if left unchecked, it could live forever.
It’s one of the only things that can. There are some plants and bacteria that seem immortal, and some animals that live for a very long time, but most everything else ages. Especially animals. Over time, our bodies accumulate damage. Being alive takes a lot of energy, and there’s bound to be some collateral damage. Every bit of energy we intake and put back out into the world increases the impact. The more energy, the greater the impact. It’s just how it goes. It’s just fate.
Catch up on the game thread here:
For the better part of the thirteen years that Félix Hernández has pitched for the Seattle Mariners, he’s put almost every ounce of energy that he’s had into his starts. How many countless times has he screamed himself hoarse while walking off the mound, having just escaped a bases loaded jam with a strikeout? How many towels has he put over his head, having just poured himself into 7 grueling innings, unable to watch the end of another 3-1 loss?
Say what you want about his offseasons, or his off days. After how much pure energy Félix has put into this stupid team, it makes sense that he hit the aging curve a little early. The body starts declining around 29 years of age. Félix’s decline has just gone a little quicker than usual.
There’s been story upon story about trying to find immortality, from well before Ponce de León wanted to find the Fountain of Youth. Gilgamesh and Qin Shi Huang desperately searched for the secret that doesn’t exist. And while they all wanted immortality for themselves, and to thumb their noses at The Fates, it seems like every Mariner fan has been wanting the secret too, but for Félix.
Now, in the final year of his contract, is Félix’s last chance to stave off the inevitable. Tonight was the first chance of that last chance.
He started it by coming out and beaning Mike Trout in the hand. Aging 1, Félix 0.
It was a bad start for Félix, and I think a lot of people thought then that this would go south. Félix, to his credit, settled down, and used his curveball to great effect in getting Justin Bour and Andrelton Simmons to initiate weak contact.
On the other side, the offense didn’t miss a beat in picking up where they’d left off yesterday. After a hit and a walk from Mallex Smith and Mitch Haniger, Domingo Santana made it look easy with an RBI line drive single to left field field. Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnación were retired quietly. Most other Mariners team of the 2010’s would have folded here and left two men on base.
Not, uh, Omar Narvaez and Tim Beckham!
Narvaez singled Haniger in, and then Beckham continued his redemption tour with a bases-clearing double, complete with one hell of a bat flip (aging may be a biological imperative, but I would like for Tim Beckham to remain exactly as he is for all of eternity, thank you).
Of course, to appease the ever-demanding Fates, this team has to pay for its offense somehow. It will seemingly be paying with the bad bullpen that we’ve seen, and also with errors. Lots and lots of errors.
The first was assigned perhaps unfairly in the second inning, as Domingo Santana slipped on a rough patch of sod and allowed Albert Pujols to take second base. Pujols would later advance on a grounder, and then score as Angels outfielder Brian Goodwin beat Félix to the bag on a grounder to first.
The next error... oh wow, there were three more? Okay, the second and third errors came in the third inning. Pujols doubled, and came roaring around third on a single to center field. Mallex Smith’s throw was... bad.
Two batters later, another line drive to Mallex produced a similarly weak throw, Narvaez was assigned his second error of the inning, and the Angels were within one run at 4-3.
It was at this point that anyone who has been paying attention to the Mariners this season started getting nervous. Sure, Félix was looking fine, but one run is not a sufficient lead for this bullpen.
Chasen Bradford seems like one of the better options (yikes), and pitched a good scoreless inning before Scott Servais seemed to completely lose his mind in the seventh inning. Seemingly not having watched any of the entire season that he’s managed, Servais decided to flip off The Fates by putting in Zac Rosscup. To face Kole Calhoun. And then Mike Trout.
Scott Servais willingly put in Zac Rosscup to face Mike Trout.
Whatever. Rosscup pitched around Trout, eventually walking him before retiring the substantially less intimidating Justin Bour. Goodness gracious, the non-Mike Trout Angels are horrible. Still, this one did not feel at all secure.
Fortunately, Jay Bruce (yeah, really!) hit another home run, his third in three games. It also made tonight the seventh straight game in which the Mariners hit a home run. Mallex Smith couldn’t help but dance.
Thankfully, the Mariners decided to preserve the aging bodies of their fans from any more oxidative damage, and made the last two innings less terrifying than they’ve been. Brandon Brennan, whose changeup continues to make him look like the Mariners’ best reliever, pitched a clean eighth. Roenis Elías closed the door, and Mike Trout didn’t get a plate appearance after the Rosscup walk. Sucks to be Mike Trout, but it feels about this good to be the Mariners right now.
Félix hasn’t reversed his aging, because that’s impossible. But maybe he’s done something. Maybe it’s a mechanical change; his curveball seemed to have a good deal more bite on it than in years past. Maybe it’s a strategic change; he leaned less on his decreasingly effective changeup. In any case, tonight’s outing provided a glimmer of hope for our King going forward.
He looked like he was having fun, and baseball hasn’t looked fun for Félix for a long time.
Long Live Félix. May he continue to produce nights like this that make us wonder if, just maybe, he might take a year off of aging.