This is what it’s all about, really. Not the losing — the losing is secondary. Lots of people lose. Lots of teams lose. No, it’s about how they lose.
It isn’t enough to score some runs, give up some runs, and end up having scored fewer runs than you gave up. No, it has to hurt.
The Mariners came into this season with reasonable expectations. They didn’t want the moon. They barely even wanted the playoffs. “This year will be a step back,” they said. No need to be astronauts. Let’s be moderately successful, call it good, and we’ll come back and try again later.
Of course, they began the season by blowing their expectations out of the water en route to a 13-2 start. Suddenly, looking down at the rest of the league with an astronauts’ perspective, being an astronaut didn’t seem so far-fetched.
We all know what happened next. The bad defense, bad bullpen, inconsistent rotation, and unproven offense all were all mixed into a putrid stew of mediocrity, causing the team to spew out a record of 7-18 in their next 25 games, including tonight.
Speaking of putrid stews of mediocrity: tonight.
With Mitch Haniger, Daniel Vogelbach, and Domingo Santana each experiencing seemingly endless slumps, the Mariners have exactly one qualifying player remaining with a batting average over .300: Dee Gordon. I know that batting average isn’t everything. Dee Gordon is nowhere near as valuable a hitter as Mitch Haniger, who’s hitting below .250. Still, it matters to players. And in a game that is as much mental as physical, it matters that it matters to players.
Take Jay Bruce, who just gave an interview with Marc Carig of The Athletic (warning: paywall). Bruce has a wRC+ of 105. By definition, above average. Still, Bruce had this to say of his year so far: “I don’t buy that this production is OK for me,” he said. “I’m not happy with what’s going on.”
After two impotent innings, each of which ended with a Mariner strikeout, the Mariners’ last remaining .300 hitter stepped to the plate. It’s fitting that the honor belongs to Dee Gordon. It’s the number that boosts a player’s morale the most, as they glance up at the scoreboard from time to time. Dee Gordon may be the Mariner that boosts the team’s morale the most, with his constant encouragement and leadership, as he’s shown recently.
On the second pitch of Dee Gordon’s third inning at bat, J.A. Happ couldn’t control his fastball, and he pegged Dee in the wrist.
Dee couldn’t help himself. He grabbed his wrist and jumped up and down a couple of times. Then he caught himself. He couldn’t be hurt. He wouldn’t allow himself to be hurt. He started trotting to first base, trying to make it look as casual as possible.
Scott Servais wasn’t fooled. He walked out with the trainer to check on Dee, and whatever they saw was enough to pull him. Dee walked back to the dugout and, unable to stop himself, screamed in frustration.
I wanted to scream in frustration too. If the Mariners aren’t going to win this season (and it’s becoming increasingly clear that they aren’t), then we at least need the team to be enjoyable to watch. Dee Gordon is one of my favorite players, and one of the most likable players on the team. I want the world for him. I closed my eyes, and started hoping it wasn’t too serious.
Despite being down by only a run, the mood in the clubhouse had noticeably darkened.
Remind you of anything?
The innings went by without incident. The Yankees had already scored a nondescript run, and the Mariners continued to not score runs. Mike Leake and J.A. Happ devoured inning after inning, like two vanilla puddings that had suddenly developed the ability to eat and were attempting to prove it by having an eating contest with one another.
Finally, around the eighth inning, we got news.
Possibly in relation to this, J.P. Crawford is no longer in the Rainiers lineup tonight. https://t.co/mbnYqo2D2o— Lauren Smith (@smithlm12) May 10, 2019
As excited as I am for J.P., yikes.
The rest of the game felt hollow. Connor Sadzeck came in for the bottom of the eighth, which ended up being a disaster.
Dylan Moore, forced into the game by Dee’s injury, was already dealing with a sore wrist. He aggravated it, forcing Edwin Encarnación into playing second base. Encarnación, who is supposed to be the big trade chip this year. Well.
I am not good at reading lips, but I could make out Scott Servais telling Edwin Encarnacion (now playing second for the first time in his career) "Not to dive again" after he rolled over on his wrist.— Angie Mentink (@AngieMentink) May 10, 2019
Meanwhile, Connor Sadzeck had a poor performance that put the game out of reach for the Mariners. He gave up a couple of runs on the back of this egregious missed spot with the bases loaded, two outs, and two strikes.
With that, Domingo Santana’s ninth inning home run didn’t matter. Dee’s injury was for nothing. The Mariners, who just a few weeks ago were riding so high, fell back to .500.
I’ve heard you have a generally good idea of what a team looks like after 40 games. I think we have a generally good idea of what the Mariners look like. 2019 looks like a step back after all.
For now, though, I don’t care. I’m just holding my breath.
Mariners didn’t have a definitive diagnosis on Dee Gordon’s wrist. The x-rays weren’t conclusive. He’s going to have more tests tomorrow.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) May 10, 2019