This isn’t how it’s supposed to be going.
We’re supposed to be checking the box scores out of West Virginia, dreaming on the future, and hoping for players like Domingo Santana and Omar Narvaez to show that they’re long-term pieces for the distant next great Mariners team.
Instead, this team continues to play scalding-hot baseball and are two bullpen meltdowns away from being undefeated. They’re doing this to leaderboards:
They’re Homer, gleefully eating donuts in Hell’s “Ironic Punishments division.” They’re a large, unbothered dog crashing through every agility jump. They’re a bowling ball through a plate glass window, a sugared-up kid on Halloween, the final act at a monster truck rally.
Today, though, what they were at first was annoying. Ivan Nova is exactly the kind of unexciting, capable pitcher who could give this squad fits: see Cahill, Trevor. In Jake’s series preview, he notes that while none of Nova’s pitches are exceptional, stuff-wise (with the possible exception of his sinker), he’s mostly fine across the board. And yet by the end of the first inning, the Mariners had pushed Nova to throw 24 pitches while only collecting one hit, a leadoff base hit from Mallex Smith. The Mariners only scratched across one run in the frame but they also executed a double steal, reached via catcher’s interference, had a ten-pitch at-bat, and were generally pests. A quiet 1-2-3 inning in the second portended possible doom, but really the Mariners were just playing the long con before wrecking Nova’s shop in the third with a half-hour, 38-pitch inning in which there were no big blows, but four almost-consecutive singles (darn you Mitch for breaking the streak in the middle) followed by a walk leading to death by 1,000 paper cuts for Nova.
Wait, about that “no big hits” part?
This was inches from being a VogelSalami and forcing us to ask Breaking T to make us a rye bread-and-Vogey-themed shirt. As it was, it cleared the bases, chased Nova out of the game, and forced the White Sox into their bullpen early. The Mariners didn’t add on to their lead in the inning, but they did force replacement Ryan Burr to throw 12 more pitches, with Dee (!) and Ryon (!) each putting up six-pitch at-bats. As a result, Burr was already at 30 pitches when he faced Edwin Encarnacion in the fourth with Domingo Santana aboard:
(Me, 2016, at Safeco: UGH this parrot thing is so annoying, I can’t believe the ballpark allows these inflatable birds in
Me, today: )
But wait, there’s more! Like you, Daniel Vogelbach has been watching the bullpen over the past few weeks, and Daniel Vogelbach loves you and cares about your cardiac health:
No, I mean he really loves you and cares about your cardiac health:
The extra run helped create a little more breathing room as Matt Festa had a rough day at the office in relief of Wade LeBlanc, struggling to locate his pitches and surrendering three runs including a homer. It’s the first time Festa has looked really shaky as a pro, so chuck it in the “growing experience” bucket and on to the next. Chasen Bradford threw another low-stress inning, all hail our bearded overlord, and Anthony Swarzak got another rep of work in and looked just fine as he tidied up the last of the game and sent everyone packing.
As for the starter, Wade LeBlanc didn’t have pinpoint command today, lacking a feel for his changeup and leaving more pitches outside the zone than usual (that zone was also an area of hot contention for both teams). He also had a couple of long layoffs as the Mariners sparked joy among the fanbase in sloppy, overfilling fashion that is decidedly non-Kondo-approved, but much enjoyed by those whose taste in offense runs to the excessive. Even without his Full Neatness, Wade went six innings, gave up just two runs, walked only one batter, and had as many hits against him as he had strikeouts (6). It took him over 100 pitches, but his six innings of work helped conserve the bullpen as the Mariners head to the Royals for a four-game stretch, where they will continue on to play their next fourteen games without an off-day. That’s an incredible grind, so don’t be surprised if the bats get a little worn down by the time they take their second road trip without an off-day to Anaheim. Four hours is a marathon even when you come out on the winning end. But then again, what about this team hasn’t been surprising? Delightful? And, as the poet Mary Oliver reminds us, even joy takes work:
Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.
All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of — indolence, or action.
Be ignited, or be gone.
The Mariners have ignited themselves, and consequently, the fanbase, with radiant delight, and I for one am excited to look into this shining world.