In my opinion, one of the best things about baseball is that its rules, regulations, and rhythms make each game totally unique. Even if a team runs out the same starting nine every day in the exact same order (something the Mariners certainly have not done this year) the rotating cast of starting pitchers can still put their own stamp on the game every fifth day, and things like late game substitutions or extra innings can always add flavor too.
One night after winning on a walk-off hit, perhaps the most lovable idiosyncrasy of this odd sport, the Mariners played a much more standard game, one of those ones that gets lost to the 162-game crawl toward another losing season. Call it recency bias, call it selective memory, but last year’s home series with the Tigers was much more notable. After taking three straight from the AL Central doormat last May, including one of the most joyous wins from a particularly joyous period, the Mariners improved their 2018 record to 27-19.
Today’s win sets Seattle up for another sweep of the Tigers, but with a much different context of fun. Rather than looking like a team potentially headed for a playoff spot, these Mariners look like a team potentially headed for a top-six draft pick, handling another team definitely headed that way.
Sure, some of baseball’s endearing charm poked its head out of hibernation today. But instead of getting no-hit by Francisco Liriano for 6.1 innings before tying the game on a ninth inning homer and winning in the 11th, Seattle pieced together an 8-1 win with the help of someone’s first Major League hit.
Ryan Court, he of the 3,095 minor league plate appearances, stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning. The television broadcast whipped to a shot of his family watching lovingly. Court’s parents beamed from ear to ear as they witnessed their 31-year-old son get his first start in a Major League Baseball game. His wife looked both proud and thrilled for her husband, and also ate what looked to be a pretty delicious salad. When Court notched his first big-league hit on a sharp single up the middle, not only did it extend the Mariners’ lead and give Court his first RBI, it also served as a great reminder of the small beauties often found in larger ugliness or distress.
No one on Earth will remember this game more than Ryan Court and his loved ones. While July 27, 2019 will fade from our memory banks or blur together with the thousands of other days we’ve experienced, it etches a permanent place in the minds of those who deserve it the most.
Aside from the Ryan Court Show, which progressed in a very “the writers are really leaning into this” way, Austin Nola also showed why he deserves to be one of the 750 people on an MLB active roster. Small sample size, facing a bad team, yadda yadda yadda. Over the past week or so, Nola has started to look like An Actual Thing. Aaron’s brother has already shown an enticing ability to hit the ball to all fields with authority.
The rookie added a red dot on the right side of that chart today and later plopped a blue one in the left center gap. If the Mariners are going to continue to employ a true utility man, something they’ve done consistently in recent years, they could do worse than Nola, whose positional versatility and nuanced hit profile make him ostensibly a great fit. At the very least, if Nola continues at this clip he will help make the Mariners more watchable as most sane people ignore them completely in August and September.
Some of this digital space should probably go to Marco Gonzales, who pitched the Mariners to their fourth consecutive win on the back of a seven-inning, eight-strikeout performance. The lefty relied on his curve ball more than he typically does, either finding a good feeling on the pitch, toying with his strategy given the inept state of the Tigers’ bats, or both. Either way, it was a vintage performance for the Mariners’ de facto ace, whose unassuming effectiveness allowed other storylines to shine.
The Mariners got six RBI from rookies today, including three from a guy who was playing with the Sugar Land Skeeters in May. 108 games into the season, we finally got the first game without a home run for either side. Everyone please pour one out for the dinger streak. Also, the ninth inning alone featured a 9-3 double play, and a batter reaching first on a strikeout.
Baseball, you have a funny way of peppering in these wonderful little moments when you think no one’s watching.