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The Great Pumpkin does not come, Mariners lose to White Sox 9-7

No magic for the Mariners on Friday the 13th

ABC’s “Charlie Brown”
pictured: two relievers in the Mariners over-full bullpen fighting over the last snack from the snack bag
Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

We know you don’t come to Lookout Landing to read a blow-by-blow account of the game, which you can get mostly anywhere. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is read about the actual game, while still getting a vague idea of what happened in the game, with some sort of numbing agent in place so you don’t actually have to relive, say, a 21-1 loss to the Astros. The worse the games are and the more irrelevant the team, the harder we tend to work to come up with a clever motif in which to attractively package the heap of garbage we’ve been offered that particular evening. Seeing that it was both Friday the 13th and a full moon, I fully expected some weirdness to go down in tonight’s game—as my experience working retail and service industry jobs has led me to expect—and rubbed my hands together with glee at the prospect of writing up a SPOOKY recap, since the Mariners are never playing around Halloween. But like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, the weirdness would never arrive.

(I’m sorry if I just spoiled the ending of a fifty-year-old holiday special for you. Consider reading fewer books.)

Instead, tonight’s game was sadly the same cafeteria food games the Mariners have been serving up all season, save a few dimly bright moments glimmering through the ever-more-swiftly falling night. Yusei Kikuchi struggled, unable to clear the third inning. He started off getting two quick outs, including a strikeout of Tim Anderson, and then things quickly devolved from there. After getting Jose Abreu into a two-strike count, Kikuchi threw what can only objectively be called a Very Bad Pitch, a location mistake fastball that ended up right in Abreu’s cesta de pan. He then gave up two more singles before getting out of the inning without further damage, for three of the total ten hits he’d give up on the day. In Kikuchi’s defense, he got BABIP’ed pretty hard in this one; of the ten hits he gave up, seven were singles, and four of those seven were ground ball singles that found holes. But it was still a lot of contact, and Kikuchi’s slider wasn’t fooling anyone tonight, as that first strikeout would be the only one he would record. Wade LeBlanc, who does not seem to be enjoying the bullpen, followed, and gave up three more runs of his own, and then the remainder of the reliever pile handled things okay, with the lone blemish Austin Adams giving up a solo dinger to Yoan Moncada. Good news: Brandon Brennan looked sharp, giving up no hits and striking out one in 1.2 innings.

On the offensive side, the Mariners could have beat up more on starter Dylan Covey, who himself only made it 3.2 innings, walking three and striking out just two en route to giving up five runs. They put up three runs on Covey in the first, although with no real offensive highlights (wild pitch, sacrifice fly from Kyle Lewis, two-run single from Omar Narvaez), and another two in the fourth on a two-run single from Shed Long, the first of two hits on the night for him. The other bright spot came from Daniel Vogelbach, who has been having a tough second half but came through tonight with an opposite-field double that brought the Mariners to within a run:

Unfortunately, that would be about it for bright spots for the day. Oh, wait, there was this:

Mallex also had a nice little day, with a hit and two stolen bases in addition to that catch. Mallex has 43 stolen bases on the season! It probably won’t happen but I would really love for him to somehow get to 61 to break Harold Reynolds’ 30-year-old record.

The Mariners ultimately fell short, though, opening up a little breathing room in TANKATHON2020 between them and the cratering Rockies, who managed a win tonight. They also gained a game on the Blue Jays, who inexplicably won against the Yankees and yes I will ask NASA about that as soon as they get back to me on my question about Dylan Moore’s weight vs. his ISO. The only part of this game that really roused much strong feeling in me was its length; at nine o’clock this game was still in the fourth inning, and yes I did write my congressperson about that. I am long past caring about wins and losses, mostly, but at three hours and forty-seven minutes of game time, thanks to a leisurely pace of the two starting pitchers, I could have watched “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” no fewer than eight times back-to-back.

The worst part about this game for me, honestly, was nothing weird happened. No odd plays, no streakers on the field, no werewolf bar mitzvah in the stands. Nothing to hang a narrative around. If you’re not familiar with the plot of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” Linus believes that the Great Pumpkin, who gets short shrift because of Santa Claus, will come to visit the pumpkin patch that is the most sincere, which just so happens to be the pumpkin patch in his own backyard.

“I don’t see how there could be a pumpkin patch more sincere than this one,” Linus tells Sally.

Linus, the Mariners fan

Linus waits all night for the Great Pumpkin, eventually falling asleep in the patch and having to be carried home by his worried older sister. If you aren’t familiar with Charlie Brown and the Peanuts universe, it’s a surprisingly adult and melancholy one, shot through with hope but also disappointments, cruelty and care in equal measure. What I have appreciated about Peanuts all my life is it doesn’t talk down to children; it does not provide the easy answer, the deus ex machina, the happy ending. In the end, the Great Pumpkin does not come, because the Great Pumpkin is not real (and, the movie would seem to suggest, neither is Santa Claus, given Linus’s earlier letter to the Great Pumpkin); because magic is not real. That is a hard truth to ask children to learn.

But love is real, the love that takes Lucy to the pumpkin patch to carry home her sleeping brother, and it’s that love that allows Linus to keep hoping.

“Another Halloween has come and gone,” sighs Charlie Brown, “I went trick-or-treating and all I got was a bag of rocks.” (This is another painfully adult lesson taught by Peanuts: sometimes you go trick-or-treating, and all you get are rocks.) He looks to commiserate with Linus, who admits he waited all night for a Great Pumpkin who never arrived, by telling him he used to do stupid things too.

Linus is incensed. Stupid? No, he just didn’t find the right pumpkin patch. Next year he will show Charlie Brown, he’ll show everyone. The Great Pumpkin will appear, and he’ll be there, and he will wait, and he will see the Great Pumpkin in all his glory. The special ends on a fade-out of Linus haranguing Charlie Brown, firm in his conviction, outraged at Charlie Brown’s lack of belief. His faith isn’t shaken, not one iota.

fight me, William Butler Yeats

(Linus declaiming the Great Pumpkin, or me talking about the Mariners farm system to my friends and family? Who can tell the difference?)

I appreciate what “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” has taught me about magic and about faith. It has served me well countless times as a Mariner fan, including while watching a boring loss to the White Sox on a cold and blustery mid-September night. Maybe there’s a little bit of Linus in all of us who keep on keeping on with this team; and hopefully all of us have a Lucy somewhere too, someone who will come out when we’re shivering in the pumpkin patch, take our shoes off and put us to bed.