One of the more frustrating things to me over the past couple years has been the Mariners, twice in the past three years, have completely faceplanted on weekends where the chief directive was Appreciating Edgar Martinez. [Letterkenny hockey coach voice: #$%*& EMBARRASSING!] In 2017, it was the infamous Deadgar Weekend (copyright John Trupin), when the Mariners—who were somehow at that time in position for a playoff spot?—were swept by the Angels in a four-game series, suffering a near 20% hit to their postseason chances in one fell swoop. It was awful. It was gut-wrenching. They couldn’t possibly do it again, could they?
But wait, said the 2019 Mariners. We aren’t even trying to be good. They lost all three games of a series against Tampa Bay—which might have been understandable, as the Rays are legitimate playoff contenders, except 1) the recent historical dominance of the Mariners of the Rays, like hey, read the LL archives once in a while, guys; and 2) they would turn around and almost sweep that same team at their house not even ten days later. Make it make sense! Edgar Martinez deserves better. If the Mariners ever want to do anything honoring him again let’s make it a luncheon in winter and bar all current players from attending.
So it was with a sense of wonder and a good dose of jealousy with which I watched the Rangers pull out a thrilling walkoff victory against the Mariners on the weekend where they retired Michael Young’s number.
Like Ichiro, Michael Young holds the somewhat-BS-y title of “special assistant to the General Manager” for the Rangers; he played for the Rangers with a decade and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2016, and tonight they retired his #10.
Wearing #10 for the Mariners tonight was Tim Lopes. Tim Lopes had a hit tonight, a first-inning single that Delino DeShields made a bobble on, and Lopes alertly took second base. Remember that a few people on this team can run the bases well. It will be important, later.
(It won’t be important. Tonight the game thread got, in the first time I can remember during my tenure as site manager, less than 30 comments during the game. Labor Day weekend + college football + PAX West + a lousy team = not a great combination.)
Tim Lopes, two-hole hitter, was stranded in that inning, but Dylan Moore was not when he doubled in the second inning. Dee Gordon singled to drive home Moore. When half your offense on the night is being powered by two guys who would each fill one of Joey Gallo’s pant legs and wear it like a tube dress, that is a night where offense is thin on the ground.
I give Moore a lot of grief for being very smol, but here, witness this wild fact I discovered in the course of writing this recap:
Dylan Moore's double was actually his weakest-hit ball of the day (82 mph EV). 102 EV on his single, 103 EV on his lineout. He has a .184 ISO on the season, one point less than his listed weight. How does all that power come out of that tiny little frame?!— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 1, 2019
EXPLAIN YOURSELF, SCIENCE.
Tommy Milone held things together pretty well, though. giving up just one run on two doubles (Jose Trivino and Elvis Andrus) in the third. He made it through five innings, which seemed like a nice, safe amount of baseball from Tommy Milone. The Mariners even had the lead when he departed in favor of Matt Wisler, thanks to a double from Tom Murphy and a rare Vogelbach single to bring home the Tom-Tom club.
Matt Wisler was good, again, with a scoreless inning, as was Taylor Guilbeau, who at one point I will stop referring to as Austin Gilbeau. I’m sorry, Taylor, my brain has reached saturation point with trying to remember Mariner reliever names. Anthony Bass worked a scoreless inning in the eighth, and it looked like the Mariners were headed to another sleepy victory in Texas, with Matt Magill, who has been solid in the closer role lately, headed to the mound for the ninth.
At that point, however, the Rangers summoned whatever magic that seemingly eludes the Mariners whenever they have a big night at home. In front of 33,668 people on one of the last nights of Globe Life Park—a ballpark not even a decade older than our own T-Mobile/Safeco Park/Field—the Rangers dug deep and produced a spark. It began with an Elvis Andrus double that easily could have been a solo HR with maybe a little more wind, or a little less of Keon Broxton’s glove. Willie Calhoun would move him to third, and then Andrus was ruled safe at home on a close play at the plate.
If Dylan Moore’s throw had been a little less high. If Austin Nola hadn’t been playing catcher for the first time in months. If Dylan Moore hadn’t been picked off at third or caught stealing twice (stick to power-hitting, Dylan, not everyone can be good at everything.) If if if. It’s those kinds of ifs that sink the Mariners at home in big spots. It would not sink the Rangers.
Game tied, Rougned Odor then smoked a single that ate up Dee Gordon (98 mph EV). Magill walked pinch-hitter Danny Santana to set up a potential double play, and then Isiah Kiner-Falefa—who not a month ago I was watching play with Double-A Frisco on a sort of combination rehab assignment/demotion—walked it off.
I like Isiah Kiner-Falefa as a player and as a person, and I am always happy for players when they work their way back from adversity or ineffectiveness or both and can come up with big moments like these. The game itself is immaterial; if the Mariners lose a game in Texas and less than 30 people watch it, does it really count? Honestly, road losses don’t faze me at this point in the season; I close my eyes and intone draft pick until it’s over, and have found it’s not that hard, once I free myself from the tyranny of wanting to win, to cheer for the people in the stands more than either of the two teams on the field. I’m happy the fans in Texas got to see a thrilling ballgame on a big night for the franchise; I’m glad they had that experience, on what was yet another painful, sad day in the state of Texas. Sometimes the best gift baseball can give us is an immersive experience that lets us set aside our problems momentarily, to shut out anything else other than the drama of each pitch.
The Mariners aren’t in a position to give those experiences to us this season—or, for whatever reason, won’t [frowns in Deadgar], but those experiences are still to be had within the system. You just have to look. Tonight the Modesto Nuts avoided elimination for yet another night, with another extra-innings, walk-off win.
Walk off suicide squeeze. pic.twitter.com/cFt2TxokRC— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) September 1, 2019
They’ve now climbed to just a half-game back of a potential playoff berth. The team plays again tomorrow at 6:05 PT and will continue to fight for their playoff lives. I suggest you tune in.