Imagine you’re an author. You’ve been writing your whole life, creating everything from short stories to airport paperback thrillers to lengthy volumes on various cultures and societies. But the one thing you haven’t written about is baseball.
It’s a Wednesday evening. You’ve been relaxing, maybe with a beer, maybe reading a book, maybe just taking a nap and readying yourself for the rest of the week. But suddenly your phone rings, knocking you out of your quasi-slumber. It’s your editor.
“Hey, we really need a new fiction book this quarter,” your editor says, since this is totally a thing that editors say. “Can you maybe write about, oh, the Seattle Mariners?”
Of course, you know nothing about the Seattle Mariners. But you flip on the TV, change the channel to ROOT Sports Northwest, and settle in to watch the Mariners play the Texas Rangers in what looks like the Arlington Costco.
Three hours and nine minutes later, after watching the Mariners lose 7–4 to the Rangers, you’ve completely absorbed what it means to be a Mariners fan, and what the Mariners do to you. Really, it only took one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad inning to figure it out. Let’s dive in.
Mariners fans don’t have high expectations. We quickly get discouraged about our most promising players and find ways to celebrate even the most mundane moments. Taijuan Walker on the mound was perhaps the perfect distillation of that; on number 99’s broad shoulders, we once dreamt bigger and bigger, until those dreams faded and he was traded. Now, of course, we’re just happy to have him back — and back he was.
Across six innings, Tai scattered six hits and a walk, striking out five. He faced the most trouble in the fourth inning, after a Derek Dietrich double to put two guys on with just one out, but Tai finished the frame with two strikeouts to escape unscathed. The one (unearned) run he allowed came on a throwing error by J.P. Crawford in the sixth, but even that couldn’t mar an overall strong outing.
The next thing to know about the Mariners: Right when you don’t expect much, they find a way to reel you back in. In this case, it all happened in the top of the second, when all nine Mariners made their way to the plate.
The party started with an Austin Nola dinger:
...and continued when Daniel Vogelbach, he of the very-slow-start-to-the-season group, decided to launch one to Timbuktu.
This 441-foot moonshot — 108 MPH off the bat! — made it a 3–0 game, and the Mariners tacked on another run thanks to a Kyle Lewis sac fly a few hitters later. But despite Jordan Lyles’ erratic command (he walked four and allowed six hits over five IP), that’s all the Mariners could muster.
Just when you get comfortable...that’s when the M’s get ya. And it’s true to the Mariners that it was the bullpen, yet again, that imploded. Because what else would you expect?
In the bottom of the eighth, with Erik Swanson pitching, it was the bottom of the lineup that again provided some trouble. Dietrich singled, and Elvis Andrus followed that up with a double. Swanson then hit Todd Frazier high and tight to load the bases with just a single out.
Scott Servais elected to keep Swanson in — perhaps because he touched as high as 99 MPH, again giving something to fuel the fire of Mariners fans’ expectations — and the righty failed to deliver. Although, really, it’s hard to blame this on Swanson. You be the judge:
I think my blame goes to Dylan Moore in left field. It looks like he started back on this, and he definitely had a slow jump on the ball. Regardless, destiny conspired with the Texas Rangers to curse the M’s, and things continued to unravel from there. A Shin-Soo Choo sac fly tied the game at 4, but it wasn’t until Swanson hit his second batter of the inning that Servais pulled the plug.
How did the Rangers take the lead? Naturally, the most cursed way possible.
Willie Calhoun’s two-run single was the cherry on top. But every true Mariners fan knew how the game was going to end the moment Taylor Williams’ pitch bounced away from Austin Nola in spectacular fashion.
In the ninth, Lewis-Seager-Nola went down in order, providing little resistance and putting a bow on a dismal loss.
Sure, there were positives. Walker threw six strong innings. JPC reached base three times, boosting his OBP to a stellar .405. And, well, the M’s are another game closer to the top pick in the draft. In a season with high expectations, this game would have stung bitterly; in this Frankenstein’s monster of a season, however, amidst a shortened season and virtually no expectations, this game merely frustrated us. We don’t have the typical distractions this summer — no Zapruder footage of Noelvi Marte excelling in Everett, no stories about George Kirby displaying his dominant command in Arkansas, nada. So instead, we watch games like this. We sigh, maybe we even throw things. And we try to figure out how to change the Mariners’ narrative.
The next chapter in the Book of Mariner might not come this year. But boy, let’s hope it starts next year.