The evening Seattle sun was somehow both vibrant and dusky, right in the pocket between overbearing and soothing. It was the kind of night Death Cab for Cutie would write a song about: fun and illuminating but not in a way that leaves you exhausted. A real Mike Leake of a night.
At the actual game, T-Mobile Park’s seating sections remained mostly untouched in their deeper rows. The stadium’s massive scoreboard was out of order too. Dave Sims reported that an “underground cable” was to blame for the noise-reducing quirk. It was almost like this entire game was sunbathing with a drink in hand, trying its damnedest to exude as much chill as possible. A real Mike Leake of a game.
Mallex Smith thwapped a leadoff single to ensure that Taylor Cole would not open another no-hitter. Then the next seven Mariners went down in order. Their loyal spectators watched with tepid smatterings of conversation and general apathy. Still, with sandals weather in the air and Mike Leake—the indica of pitchers—throwing for Seattle, that all made perfect sense. Nobody could be bothered to exert themselves at this game, and certainly not in the early goings.
These conditions harmonized perfectly with the din of a lazy game and the menial things I did around my apartment. While 75% paying attention to the TV, I also did some laundry and drank red wine and lied on my couch with the mellow sound of Queen Anne streets slinking through the open window.
Watching the Mariners is like laundry in that I just realized I’ll be doing both for the rest of my life.
Watching the Mariners is like red wine because sometimes it makes me sleepy and usually I’m not consuming a very good product.
Watching the Mariners is like lying on a couch; sometimes that’s all you want to do. Even when it’s a beautiful weekend evening and other people are out having much more active versions of fun, the Mariners and couches are always a reliable kind of comfort.
The Mariners are like Queen Anne in that there once was a fun team here, and surely there will be one again, but right now we’re in a weird void of hopeful anticipation.
Then, as if all simultaneously realizing that the bums never win, the Mariners came to life. Vogey, or Daniel Vogelbach if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, turned a 1-2 pitch into a three-run home run off Jaime Barría. Tom Murphy followed that up with a ringing single off the right field wall, and the Mariners had a five spot in their back pocket after sleepwalking through the first three innings. It was like they’d received a weirdly upsetting pep talk.
A quick and explosive 5-0 lead allowed for a necessary attention shift to Mike Leake. Utterly unfazed by a lengthy scoreboard-related delay, Leake got out of the fifth inning without allowing a baserunner. This made the human drug rug perfect through five time warped innings, an excellent sight for Mariner fans tired of losing streaks and marathon games. A carbon copy of the walk-walk-bomb sequence from the fourth showed up again in the fifth and Seattle took a resounding 8-0 lead.
The dreariness of the game’s first third had given way to…excitement? Pizzazz? Unbridled joy, even. What a welcome sight.
Typically being up by eight with a pitcher cruising through his opponent is a recipe for relaxation. Except for instead of being a low-stress 8-0 lead, things were complicated a bit by Leake’s potential perfect game, which was complicated even more by Mallex Smith’s sore thumb and subsequent removal. Scott Servais began the sixth by heating up Dylan Moore’s outfield glove again and sticking the rookie in left field. The move gave Seattle a Dylan Moore-Kristopher Negrón-Domingo Santana outfield alignment, which is something I’d love to remember laughingly when these outfield prospects eventually take front stage. Even with two of the “outfielders” having to make running attempts at semi-challenging plays, the Angels went down consecutively again in the sixth. Leake had somehow retired every single batter he’d faced and needed just 55 pitches to do so.
In the seventh, he stared down the top of the Angels’ lineup for the third time. If this is where the perfect game had to die, at least it made baseball sense. Third time through the order, actual good hitters, natural fatigue, etc. Those reasons for doubt don’t even mention the wobbly-handed fielders behind Leake, a point which immediately entered the conversation.
Domingo Santana mercifully caught that ball to secure an adventurous 19th out. Leake went on to escape the hard part of the frame when Mike Trout shot a harpoon into J.P. Crawford’s waiting glove and Shohei Ohtani rolled over on an 88 MPH cutter down the scary part of the plate. At this point, the once utterly unthinkable became hysterically real. This is MIKE LEAKE. He of the emergency brake arsenal and 4.60 ERA, which famously includes a firm shellacking on the wrong side of a no-hitter one week ago. There’s no way he could actually do this, right? Not like this at least, with a hodgepodge defense and a checkered history with the Halos. With just six outs between him and immortality, Leake rose from the dugout and back to the mound.
Santana snared the first out of the eighth as well. Leake then calmly fielded a grounder and tagged Kole Calhoun for the second out, and just when we needed a steadying adult presence, the ball found Kyle Seager’s professional glove. 25 outs in a row for a guy who recorded two in his last start. If it seemed too good to be true, reader, it’s because it was.
Mike Leake threw 88 percent of a perfect game tonight. The fever dream ended with Luis Rengifo rudely waking us on a weakling single with no outs in the ninth. Rather than needing two more outs for the 24th perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball, Leake needed two more outs to lock down, ostensibly, just another of MLB’s hundreds of complete game shutouts.
Of course, for those of us who have monitored the 2019 Mariners, this was the sparkling diamond in a season of rubble.
Sometimes the baseball gods reward you for staying in and drinking wine on a Friday when the weather is the best it’s been in months.
Sometimes that’s where you find the most excitement anyway.
If that was the last we see of Mike Leake in a Mariner jersey, I’m thrilled that the quiet righty took us on that ride from underwhelming to relatively impressive to downright magical, as only Mike Leake can do.