When I was younger I used to spend every Sunday talking on the phone with my grandparents. I wish I’d been able to appreciate it at the time, but eight-year-old me would just spend several minutes dodging questions. A lifelong Cubs fan, my grandpa would ask me about the Mariners, and I would ask him about the Cubs. He would ask me what book I’d been reading, and I’d tell him. He’d ask me the author and, knowing full well who the author was, I’d say: “I don’t know”. It got to the point where he’d call and ask if “I don’t know” had written anything new.
For some reason, there’s one conversation with him that I remember. My grandpa asked me how school was going, and I said “pretty well.” Maybe I felt the need to elaborate and not be an asshole, because I added: “well, except the last couple hours. Then I just stare at the clock until it’s over.”
“Oh,” said my grandpa. I could feel him frowning through the phone, maybe unsure of what to say. “That’s probably not a good thing.”
No, it was not a good thing, and little did I know the clock-watching would follow me through the next decade of school and into the private sector. At the time, the Mariners were in the middle of their 116-win season, so there was certainly no way to know that the clock-watching would creep into my Mariners watching.
And yet, as the Mariners and Royals began their game today, that’s exactly what happened. Tayler Scott, who had had a rough first three Major League outings, was set to open for Tommy Milone. Scott started the game innocently enough. A lead-off single to Whit Merrifield is something that almost any pitcher will give up, and Scott retired the next two batters easily.
Unfortunately, that’s where the wheels came off. Scott lost a seven-pitch battle to Jorge Soler by walking him, and then let a person named Cheslor Cuthbert single in a run. When the Tampa Bay Rays popularized the opener, they probably did not have Tayler Scott in mind. They certainly did not envision the opener allowing Cheslor Cuthbert to record an RBI. Tayler Scott’s open was, at best, not in alignment with founders’ intent.
The real starter, Tommy Milone, came in to avenge his South African opener, but he allowed another run to score before striking out poor Nicky Lopez to end the inning. I mostly felt bad for Lopez, who waved at an unconvincing slider in the dirt to end the rally, and finished the night 0-for-4. But also, Nicky Lopez is lucky to even be in the Majors, so there’s that.
The Mariners did their best to answer in the bottom of the first. Mallex Smith doubled and Domingo Santana singled to put runners at second and third with one out. Unfortunately, Daniel Vogelbach and Tom Murphy each biffed chances to drive the runners in, and they took their time doing so. The Mariners saw a total of 28 pitches in the bottom of the first. When it was all said and done, the first inning took 45 minutes, and that was around where the clock watching began for me.
This game started to drag on, and on, and on. The Royals announcing team compared Tommy Milone to Jamie Moyer early in the game, and yeah. He’s basically a poor man’s Jamie Moyer. He throws slow, he has an effective changeup, and he’s left-handed.
That being said, like Jamie Moyer, he was effective tonight. After that first inning blip, Milone mowed through an unimpressive Royals lineup for six more innings. His changeup had some movement tonight, and it kept the inexperienced Royals off-balance all game. A minor blip in the seventh inning notwithstanding, Milone finished with 6.1 innings pitched and just a single earned run, and needed just 81 pitches to do it.
To their credit, the Mariners managed to put together a few rallies against Danny Duffy. It was Danny Duffy, against whom putting together some rallies ought to be a requirement for MLB membership, but still! A few hits strung together in the bottom of the fourth made it a 2-1 game, and Tom Murphy extended the dinger streak in the bottom of the fifth with this absolute laser into the pen.
It appears that Danny Duffy was reminded at that moment that he is Danny Duffy. Sorry Danny Duffy.
Unfortunately for the Mariners (or fortunately, if you like draft picks), the back of the bullpen is about as much an affront to baseball as the opener was. Tonight, Anthony Bass and Gerson Bautista were called for the nightly “exploding faceless reliever roulette”, and boy, did they explode. They collectively gave up three runs in two innings, putting the Mariners back down 6-4, which ended up being enough to seal it in the end.
The Mariners did have a decent chance to come back in the ninth inning, as Omar Narváez and Mallex Smith each reached base with no outs. Unfortunately, home plate umpire Chris Guccione made a bid to accelerate his being replaced with a robot, and made some abysmal called strikes: strikes two and three against Domingo Santana and strike one against Tim Beckham.
So the game ended, a little later than it needed to, but no earlier than it would have had I not been watching the clock.
As the years went by, those Sunday phone calls with my grandparents became less frequent. The “I don’t know” jokes faded away, and my grandpa’s health started to fail. Still, we did talk sometimes, usually about baseball.
In 2016, he asked me about the new pitcher the Cubs had gotten from the Mariners named Mike Montgomery. I asked him about Daniel Vogelbach. He said he didn’t know much about Vogelbach, but that he’d heard good things.
At 92 years old, he finally saw the Cubs win the World Series. The last time they’d won the World Series had been sixteen years before he’d been born. A few months later, he passed away.
Maybe in 60 or 70 years, if we’re all still here, the Mariners will win the World Series, and I’ll bore my grandchildren to tears by telling them about the Danny Duffy vs. Tommy Milone starts we had to endure to get here. Then I, too, can die in peace.
That’s about how far away it feels right now.