Picture two teams entering a stadium. Maybe it’s a movie. One team is the Goliath, the Globo Gym, the 1980 Soviet hockey team. The other team is the David, the Average Joe’s, the plucky American team.
The latter is significantly outmatched, and it shows. They’re getting pulverized in every aspect of the game. They can’t score, they can’t stop getting scored on, and hope is fast dying. The win probability dies down below five percent, and that win probability assumes the teams are equally matched. They certainly are not.
It’s always the same. Just when things are at their darkest, the lowliest member of the weak team makes an unlikely play. Only the slightest shift in momentum has occurred, but suddenly jubilant trumpet music is playing. The underdogs, who just minutes ago looked like toddlers, are suddenly playing out of their minds. The imposing favorites have completely forgotten how to play. Though the favorites may still be far ahead, their defeat is, at this point, guaranteed.
Real life, of course, is not the same. In real life, the 47-65 Mariners trudge into Minute Maid Park with their tails between their legs. It’s August, and they’ve long since been playing for pride. They face the 72-40 Astros, who just a few years ago were supposed to replace the Mariners as the laughingstock of the AL West.
The Astros, kings of player development, of analytics, of international signings, of everything that the Mariners are not.
Like how a movie would be written, the Astros try to make a point. They trade for a pitcher. They trade for the worst pitcher. The pitcher with the worst ERA of all qualified pitchers. “We can fix even this guy,” they say. “And you can’t even fix your King or your $56 million consolation prize.”
The Mariners bite their lip, because they know it’s true, and they can’t say anything. Like in a movie, the worst pitcher, now sporting an orange and blue “H” on his cap, blows the Mariners away. He doesn’t just pitch passably, which would have been a win for him three weeks ago. No, he completely dominates the Mariners. Having joined the Astros, he has instantly become fixed, and he shows no mercy to the true laughingstock of the division.
Meanwhile, the de-facto best Mariner starter gets shelled on the other side. Nothing is going right, because seemingly nothing can go right. The Mariners’ hope for their future is being incinerated before their eyes. The Astros’ 987th hope is proving to be their 987th diamond in the rough.
Six innings later, Aaron Sanchez still hasn’t allowed a hit. Lesser organizations might leave him in, but the Astros, yet again, prove to be the smart ones. “We don’t need this, and we know what’s best for our guy.” Up 6-0, they bring in a reliever with a 1.73 ERA. Will Harris dominates the three batters he sees. No mercy.
Daniel Vogelbach, the fan favorite, does not catalyze a comeback with a solo dinger. Ryan Court, the unlikely journeyman, does not make a godly catch that inspires the team. Kyle Seager, the dilapidated veteran, does not so much as reach base a single time.
There is no turning point. There is no comeback. The Astros don’t forget how to play. They’re the Astros. The Mariners are the Mariners. The Astros make sure that the Mariners are viscerally aware of the status quo, and of the fact that it’s not going to change any time soon.
It wasn’t even like swatting a fly. That would imply that the Mariners provided some minor irritation, some blip on the Astros’ radar. No, the Mariners are an ant that the Astros, going about their casual playoff run, happened to step on.
The Mariners were squashed, are squashed, will remain squashed. The Astros were contenders, are contenders, will remain contenders.
If, for some unholy reason, we wanted to explain the Mariners and the Astros to some aliens, one would need only include this game in the Voyager record.