The Mariners play at least two of these games every year. They’re not always the most fun on the surface, unless you really like pitching duels that feature pitchers you’ve never heard of, but there’s always something thrilling about them. The Mariners played the Astros, and who shut them out? Who did you say pitched? Tommy Milone is a Mariner? The details change, but the the essence of this repeated game is always the same.
The recipe is as follows:
- The Mariners need to be playing a vastly superior team.
- The Mariners are certain to have one left-handed pitcher on the team whose presence makes no sense. Have that guy pitch.
- Have the vastly superior team pitch their weirdest dude. Ideally, he’s also left-handed.
- The Mariners must score one run early. Remember that many of the less-committed fans will have checked out of the team a month or two ago. Whoever scores the run should be someone that those fans have never heard of.
- Whatever lefty pitcher the Mariners ran out there must pitch at least five scoreless innings, striking out some of the best hitters in the league on the way.
That’s just the foundation. The game can then be accented however you please. It doesn’t actually matter who wins. Fans of both teams should be shocked that this was even a game, much less a low-scoring pitching duel. The Mariners are always bad, and the vastly superior team is, by definition, good. Just that the nameless lefty pitched so many scoreless innings should be cause for alarm.
Tonight, we had all the ingredients.
- We had the Mariners, the eighth-worst team in the league by FiveThirtyEight’s ELO ratings, playing the Astros, the third-best team in the league.
- We had a bonus with the pitching. The Mariners opened with Matt Carasiti, a completely unknown right-handed pitcher called up five days ago, and relieved him with Tommy Milone. Milone, of course, is the left-handed pitcher whose presence makes no sense. Previous iterations of this role have been filled by people such as Andrew Albers and Aaron Harang.
- The Astros pitched Wade Miley, who is definitely both their weirdest dude and left-handed.
- The Mariners scored a run early!
5. Tommy Milone did, in fact, throw five scoreless innings.
I obviously cherrypicked this formula from tonight’s game, but tonight’s was a game that I think I’ve seen at least ten times. I’ve seen Mike Montgomery throw complete game shutouts, and I think Andrew Albers threw at least one game with eight shutout innings. Blake Beaven probably did too. Whether it’s Stefen Romero or Gordon Beckham scoring the lone early run, it doesn’t really matter.
It’s the accents, though, that really make the personality of the game. This one had some nice accents. There were touches of bitter:
Unfortunately, for all of Austin Adams’ heroics, Anthony Bass gave up a monumental dinger to Josh Reddick that tied the game and ultimately sent it into extra innings. Despite a season extra innings record of 5-1 going into tonight, the team squandered a lead-off Dee Gordon tenth inning single, setting the table for the heart of the Astros’ lineup.
Ultimately and inevitably, Yuli Gurriel hit a walk off home run, putting a bitter cap on this bizarre sundae of a game.
The Mariners did not win, but Austin Adams reaffirmed his status as an exciting up-and-coming reliever. J.P. Crawford, despite his TOOTBLAN at the plate, had two hits and some slick plays in the field. And Tommy Milone cemented himself as the surly, tattooed Andrew Albers of the 2019 Mariners.
I look forward to watching this same exact game next year, in which Brett Anderson has somehow become a Mariner and throws five scoreless innings, and Gordon Beckham finds his way back to us to hit his dinger for the year.