You begged for weeks, you made rational arguments that teenagers stay home alone all the time, and when all that failed you threw an old-fashioned tantrum, and still, still it didn’t work. The Mariners packed you into the family station wagon, a 2020 Ford Patience with a rebuilt engine, wrote “Disneyland or Bust” in colored sunscreen on the back window, and drove off towards the California sunset. And what was the first thing you saw when you pulled into the parking lot? All your cool friends from ESPN.
Oh my god kill me now you hissed, and no one listened, and instead shoved you through the gates to Main Street.
Main Street is where it all starts at Disneyland, so think of Justin Dunn as the host of the Electric Parade—except at times the electricity blinked in and out. Dunn started out pretty well, getting the ever-pesky David Fletcher to roll one over and a flyout from Trout before walking Anthony Rendon on six pitches, a couple of which were lamentably not competitive pitches. Dunn would be bailed out of any potential trouble in that inning, however, by Starting Right Fielder, Tim Lopes:
Dunn would also have scoreless second and third innings, striking out Justin Upton and Jason Castro, and getting some help from his defense featuring Evan White, who functioned like a Disney security guard tonight, catching everything and letting the opposition get away with nothing.
Unfortunately, things unraveled in the fourth for Dunn, who was making his first start but was very inconsistent in the zone all night, missing spots and going to full counts on at least six of the 14 batters he faced. Dunn’s final line was 65 pitches, 37 strikes, which isn’t terrible on paper, but working on that putaway pitch will be key for Dunn so batters can’t just outlast him. He also had three walks in three innings of work, which is less than ideal.
To be fair, Dunn should have started the fourth by retiring Trout on a ground ball, but JP’s throw went wildly over the head of Evan White. Incredibly, White almost pulled the throw down off Space Mountain, showing off the balletic grace that’s a hallmark of his defense and even causing Trout to Look Back At It:
Evan White almost made a spectacular play at first: pic.twitter.com/Fd6sHqt6zZ— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 30, 2020
From there, Dunn seemed a little shaken, walking Rendon on five not particularly competitive pitches. He seemingly had Ohtani on the ropes, down 0-2, and then threw him a backfoot slider that honestly wasn’t a bad pitch, Ohtani just went down and got it and golfed it out for a three-run homer. I wasn’t watching the ESPN feed at the time, but I cringed nonetheless to think of what was being said. When I was a sulky teenager dragged to Disneyland by my parents, my dad, a Big Jazz Fan, climbed up on a table at New Orleans Square so he could see the faux-Dixieland band playing there better and commenced to hoot and holler along with the band, so yeah, embarrassing family territory is definitely my home stadium.
After walking Justin Upton, Dunn was lifted for Nick Margevicius, who immediately got a double play (and made an athletic play to boot!) and struck out Rendon looking to end the inning. Margevicius gave up a homer to Goodwin in the fifth to extend the Angels’ lead to 4-1, but otherwise limited damage, but then got lifted almost immediately in the sixth when he inadvisably chased an Ohtani popout into foul territory, fell over, and ate warning track.
I’d still take it over my own dad standing atop a table and playing an invisible clarinet while tourists snapped pictures of him.
Prior to the Disaster Inning, which has been an unfortunate theme early here in the games, the Mariners had been guarding a tenuous lead in the fourth thanks to some good old-fashioned small-ball: a J.P. Crawford base hit, Evan White legging out a fielder’s choice and then going to third on a beautiful sinking liner off the bat of Kyle Lewis, who continues to show an ability to hit for both average and power, and a base hit from Simply Seager to drive in what was at the time the first run of the game. As a side note, the top four batters in the lineup tonight were a combined 8-for-16 with three walks and two strikeouts. J.P. Crawford got his first career start at leadoff and made the most out of it, going 2-for-3 with two walks and two RBI, and ZERO strikeouts. Heck yeah, J.P. I might even pretend to know who you are at the Country Bear Jamboree, if that was a thing that still existed.
Not pleased with the Mariners falling behind after all his hard work, J.P. kicked off the rally in the sixth by taking a walk, spurring Joe Maddon to pull Angels starter Andrew Heaney, who looked sharp in his second start of the year, matching his stirkeout total from his first outing with six, although giving up quite a few more hits than he did against the A’s (five vs. just two hits for the A’s). The Mariners then proceeded to feast upon Angels offseason waiver claim Mike Mayers, who got Evan White to fly out but then fell behind Kyle Lewis 3-0. Lewis then watched two strikes pass by, causing some small degree of panic in these parts, before smoking a base hit off a breaking ball low in the zone into right field to push J.P. to third. Kyle Lewis hitting oppo, more delicious than a pineapple whip (no I’m not calling it by its sponsored name, LL is not for sale unless you have an offer for us?). Seager then singled to score Crawford, and Timmy “Two Bags” Lopes doubled, scoring Lewis and bringing the Mariners within a run. Then it was Dylan Moore time, baby:
If Dylan Moore was a Disneyland ride, he’d be California Screamin’ because he bends the space-time cotinuum and I am SCREAMING about it. I still do not understand the physics of how such a tiny man creates such immense power! I am so happy to be confused about the physics of Dylan Moore again!
That put the Mariners up 6-4, but remember that earlier footage of Nicky Marge getting a faceful of warning track in the sixth before being able to record an out? Well, he was replaced by Bryan Shaw, who, to his credit, did strike out Ohtani:
But who also surrendered a home run to Upton (gross!), and a two-RBI double to Brian Goodwin (ew!), who spells his name the right way, ugh why can’t you be more like the other Brian, I’m going to ride the teacups by myself no one follow me.
However, like the chorus of It’s A Small World, the Mariners just would not go away. Shed Long, strong-arming his way into the lineup as an offensive replacement for catcher Joe Odom, greeted new Angels reliever Jacob Barnes (?? Not even the Barnes I thought it was? The Mariners might have a stable of no-name relievers but they’ve got nothing on the Angels) rudely, slapping a single into right. Then your coolest cousin J.P. Crawford worked a four-pitch walk, as did Evan White, loading the bases for Kyle Lewis to hit into a game-tying fielder’s choice off ascendant Angels closer Ty Buttrey, who had come in to replace the battered Barnes. If this was Tomorrowland, seeing all these young players being patient and taking their walks was an excellent sign. Kyle Seager followed with a sac fly, proving that even your old dad can be pretty cool sometimes by just leaning into it, like wearing a tropical-print shirt specifically to go into the Enchanted Tiki Room. Sometimes kitsch is just right.
Speaking of just right, the Mariners would extend their lead in the eighth, again led by J.P. Crawford, who put up maybe the finest at-bat by a Mariners player all year, driving home Shed Long and Dee Gordon, who had both walked (!!!)—but John is going to have a full breakdown of that for you tomorrow (later today), so we won’t spoil the fun just yet.
Then it was off to Adventureland to watch the back end of the Mariners bullpen try to protect a lead using a combination of [pulls three cards from deck] Taylor Williams, Anthony Misiewicz, and Dan Altavilla? Okay. Misiewicz handled the eighth inning capably, retiring the bottom-ish third of the Angels order (although giving up a walk). Williams and Altavilla, on the other hand, were given the toothier parts of the Angels lineup. In the seventh, Williams gave up a base hit to Trout, and allowed him an extra base on a balk, but got Upton to ground out and, critically, struck out Rendon on 96 on the black at the bottom of the zone:
Rendon was big mad about it, too, so extra points for that, TWilly. Churros on me.
Altavilla, bearing a Frontierland-appropriate beard, got a similar slate to TWilly, and despite giving up a double to Mike Trout, because Mike Trout, struck out David Fletcher and got flyouts from Rendon and Ohtani to post a clean inning. Alt was an easy 97-99 with his fastball and 90-92 with the slider, which he located better as the inning went on, and looks like he has somehow packed even more muscle onto his frame during quarantine. And by “frame”, I mean “butt.”
The thing about Disney is it works. Even as a sullen teen, dragged in on a family vacation and armed with cultural criticism about the history of the company and a heaping helping of snark, I will never forget how beautiful the lights looked at night, the faint scent of citrus in the warm air, the carefully curated and yet pervasive feel of magic. In a season where many of us are questioning the ethical implications of watching baseball, weighed out against the embarrassing legacy of belonging to this Mariners family, perhaps a little curated magic is acceptable. I am reminded of the great essayist E.B. White writing in “What Do Our Hearts Treasure?” about manufacturing a Maine Christmas in Florida, where he and his wife are miserably attempting to re-create their old traditions against an infuriatingly tropical setting. The couple receives a package from their children and grandchildren and are able, finally, to recreate the feeling of the season, armed with remembrances of the ones they love the most, to the point where White looks out the window at the scrubby Australian pines and sees them as Christmas trees:
They were spruce! They were birch! They were fir! Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas.
It’s love that does that, that lets us see an Australian pine as a Christmas tree, magic in the manufacture, hope in a largely lost season. A love that is embarrassing, cheesy, cliche, but a love that is love nonetheless.