These days, when I see my dad after Mariners losses, the first thing he says, quickly and with just a shade of bitterness, is: “I know, I know. Draft pick.” He’s never been a big follower of the minors, and forget college baseball—he had a momentary interest when UW was in it last year, but even that didn’t translate over to following the draft. I try to put names to what can be done with high draft picks, pointing out how well Isaiah Campbell is doing in the College World Series, or highlighting some players who might be top-ten picks next year. I save up videos on my phone to show him of Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert, but like many other long-term Mariners fans, he remembers too well doomed prospects of the past. All these names are just that: names. He prefers the here and now.
Today the here and now Mariners kindly gave my father, and everyone else like him, a gift: they marshaled their forces and produced a series win on the road over an objectively better Oakland Athletics team (even if that objectively better team somehow still seems to struggle against the Mariners). Mike Leake was on his very best behavior, only disappearing for two or three cigarette breaks over brunch while putting in seven innings of work in which he struck out seven and walked no one. After posting an ERA near 5 in April and 4.5 in May, Leake is down to 2.26 for June coming into today. Leake is a likely trade candidate and from the tenor of some of his comments over this season, it appears he’s all too happy to depart Seattle for sunnier shores, so it’s good to see him rebuild some trade value after a fairly disastrous opening to the season. No one tell my dad, who gets a kick out of watching Leake and appreciates his pace of play. On that we agree.
After the A’s scored two runs in the second, the Mariners jumped right back into the game in the third. First up: career minor-leaguer Austin Nola had a hit in his first at-bat as a big leaguer, sneaking a single deep into the 3-4 hole. At 29 and playing on the road, one doesn’t get quite the same showering as a younger prospect, with oodles of family in the stands and a special graphic and the whole nine yards (especially when your younger brother is already an established major-leaguer, I suppose). Hopefully Nola will hit another milestone back in Seattle so the fans are able to properly fete him at T-Mobile.
The Mariners took a big hit in their offensive production with the departure of Edwin Encarnación, but never fear, that hole is here to be filled by [checks notes] Mallex Smith?
Time to start a new hitting streak. #TrueToTheBlue x Mallex Smith pic.twitter.com/PZWFYaM3uW— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 16, 2019
In all seriousness, Mallex’s turnaround at the plate has been encouraging, to say the least. His hitting streak may have been snapped yesterday, but he made up for it with two hits today, including the above bomb. Mallex’s wRC+ has gone from 42 in April to 92 in May to 108 so far in June.
Also showing signs of life: Kyle Seager. Seager is still well under 100 PAs on the year and has never been known as a fast starter, but he’s raised his wRC+ to 118 in June and while he’s not exactly hitting the ball to all fields with authority, he is peppering in some opposite-field hits (and even an oppo double) along with his traditional RF power.
With the bases juiced and one out against a hard-throwing but poor-commanding Lou Trivino, Seager laced a double (107 mph exit velocity) into the right-field corner, scoring all but the leaden-footed Vogelbach from first. Tom Murphy brought Vogey home on a deep sac fly, and then Dee Gordon tripled but was unfortunately stranded at third. It was Dee’s 50th career triple; he’s sixth among all active major leaguers. Dee’s name continues to come up in trade rumors, which—even being pragmatic regarding the future infield—makes me very sad, because Dee is good, and fun, and good fun.
It’s hard to stand out in the endless bullpen parade, but my father has already quickly become attached to Austin Adams. He enjoys AA’s bulldog spirit on the mound, and the way he chews gum like he might be imagining he’s chewing up batters. There’s a good argument to be made Adams is the best reliever out of the ‘pen, so on a team where saves don’t matter much it was nice to see him come out to face the heart of Oakland’s order in the eighth, with Elías cleaning up the bottom half in the ninth. Adams got into a little hot water right off the bat by giving up a leadoff double to the perpetually annoying Matt Chapman, but rebounded to strike out Matt Olson, Khris Davis, and Robbie Grossman to close the frame without letting a run score despite also surrendering a walk to professional turtleneck enthusiast Mark Canha. The Mariners will take their 6-3 win and head back to Seattle to face the Royals and Orioles in a seven-game homestand that threatens to push them out of a top ten draft choice.
I joke, but the end of the day, I can’t fault my dad for preferring the here and now, even when it’s painful. He is, after all, someone who recently saw his own father pass away without seeing the Mariners contend for baseball’s highest honor in his lifetime. I understand what it must feel like to watch games knowing your own baseball-watching days are numbered. And so I’m grateful for days like this, even when they work against the bigger picture plan of collecting top talent in order to launch a sustained offensive against the Troutani Angels of Anaheim Los Angeles and the MechaAstros. I’m glad my dad got to see all his favorites do well, while they’re still Mariners, here and now, today.