On days like today, when the sunset is all sorts of magenta and orange and glinting off the water, it’s easy to remember how beautiful this world can be. We can see dogs running around outside, carefree, bounding down the yard chasing after that ever-elusive tennis ball. We can see kids basking in the sunshine, finally liberated from school for the summer. We can quite literally smell the flowers.
So maybe it’s appropriate that today’s Mariners game against the Baltimore Orioles managed to give us some hope for the future, a live daydream from T-Mobile Park wrenching us away from the despair of a 32–46 record and focusing instead on the possibilities floating above us.
The unquestioned lowlight from tonight — the opening appearance from Tayler Scott — reminds us that with any luck, Tayler Scott will not be in the Mariners’ bullpen in 2021. Scott was uninspiring at best, walking three and committing an error on a pickoff before being yanked. Fortunately, he was the only pitcher who disappointed tonight: Wade LeBlanc was stellar in 6.1 shutout innings, Austin Adams struck out the side in the 8th, and Roenis Elias came in and earned his eighth save of the year in a tidy 13 pitches.
Behind the plate, Omar Narváez reminded us that while his defense may remain a bit suspect, his offense leaves very little to be desired. In the second, still trailing by two, the Mariners’ backstop fought off a 2–2 pitch on the fringes of the plate with an aggressive swing, resulting in a towering moonshot landing 15 rows up down the right field line. It would be nice to pair Narv with a stronger defensive catcher down the road, especially for late innings, but given his .291/.369/.481 slash line — striking out just 18.9% of the time — I’m fully backing him as our starting catcher for years to come.
Omar Narvaez with HR #11 on season for @Mariners #RefreshingPlays pic.twitter.com/7nK4EPRwFy— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) June 21, 2019
This game also allowed us to appreciate Domingooooooooo Santana. I’m still not sure if Santana is going to be a major part of the next Mariners team in contention, given his status as a defensive liability, but woo boy is that man STRONK. He muscled this pitch out to right-center to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning:
From there on, this felt kinda like what happens when you play a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Team. Dylan Bundy exited in the sixth allowing four runs on seven hits, but it was Evan Phillips who actually allowed that last runner to cross the plate. Phillips, in case you haven’t heard of him, is a former 17th-round pick who’s sporting a 7.79 ERA on the season in this, his second MLB campaign.
Oh, sure, Paul Fry (former Mariner alert!) and Mychal Givens escaped the next 1.2 innings without allowing a run. But the damage had been done, courtesy of RBI singles by Kyle Seager and Mac Williamson, plus a bases-loaded walk by Seager in the seventh. When you’re a good team, you relish chances like this against a real live dumpster fire. Perhaps it’s schadenfreude to find so much glee in this, but when you’re a Mariners fan, you’re surrounded by so much misfortune anyway that you might as well enjoy moments of levity.
There were other reminders of the future that possibly awaits, with J.P. Crawford recording a hit and showing off his cannon at shortstop and Julio Rodriguez doing some fun things down on the farm (although you’re going to have to take our word for it).
Here’s the Julio Rodriguez HR. You can see the swing but the camera work is peak MiLBTV. pic.twitter.com/guokylI0bI— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) June 21, 2019
Who’s going to become a star? Who’s going to finally bring this team to the playoffs, two-plus decades after our last run? It’s hard to say for sure, and there will absolutely be some surprising names on that roster. The cynics out there will laugh and point out the flaws in Jerry Dipoto’s plan, and there’s certainly been little reason to trust the various Mariners front office regimes from, oh, about 2004 until now.
But the optimists, the optimists, however, will take a look at the rock that’s cracked their windshield and admire how it glints in the sun. No matter how beaten down they might get, they’ll keep showing up to the ballpark, among those 15,217 clinging to hope.
It’s the optimists who will look at a 5–2 win over the ultimate cellar dweller and see something beautiful deep inside. Perhaps, on this gorgeous Thursday evening, with the weekend calling our names and the sunset still fresh in our minds, perhaps today, we too can be optimists.