Each game of this stranger-than-fiction season feels like a gift, as the specter of no season at all looms as a dreary alternative to whatever we get on the field. At the same time, though, each game in front of the dead-eyed cardboard fans is a jarring reminder of how vastly different life has become. When the Mariners end up having to play a home and home split series with the hegemonic Dodgers to accommodate for a global pandemic, things become even weirder! Seattle predictably dropped the first two games of this set in Los Angeles before returning home to try and stop a seven-game losing streak.
Taijuan Walker fed the Dodgers an early diet of meatballs right down the middle and they responded accordingly. Home runs from Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, and Cody Bellinger, each coming off Walker’s fastball, handed the Mariners a deficit before dusk. As Walker’s command abandoned him, leaving every pitch either directly on the barrel or three feet outside the zone, his body language screamed for an escape. When Bellinger’s third inning blast cleared the center field wall, you could almost see Walker longing for a time pre-COVID, begging for the banal tasks that used to make up American life.
In that moment, I’m sure Walker would have happily traded a barrage of home runs off him for a forgettable errand. Instead of a poorly placed pitch, a couple of free hours on a Wednesday afternoon, before social distancing entered the lexicon…
Feeling restless, Taijuan Walker unfolds from the couch and gets in the car, driving to the nearest mall. The task? Nothing in particular, just an excuse to feel the rhythms of society, do some people watching, and sip an Orange Julius.
After navigating a group of gawky teenagers to toss the smoothie in a nearby trash can, Taijuan ducks in to Banana Republic. Again, no real reason, just thought he’d check it out and see what’s going on over there. The person working the floor means well, but also clearly works on commission, and starts spouting facts about their latest shipment of chinos. Taijuan, while deeply uninterested, is a courteous shopper, who listens before deflecting attention to things he’s actually interested in. He’s got a cousin’s graduation coming up, you see, and might need a new pair of shoes. As the eager employee explains what shoes are, Taijuan grabs a pair that catches his eye and asks for his size. The employee retires to the back to fetch them out of storage.
Just then, a text from his wife comes in. There’s been an accident that closed a few lanes on the highway, best he takes an alternate route on the way home. Taijuan sighs and curses his luck as a box of suede Oxfords appear in his hands. The Mariners’ pitcher tries them on and does the perfunctory walk around the store to see how things are feeling. Good, but not great, he thinks. A woman sifting through strappy camisoles gives way so Taijuan can use the mirror.
“They looked better on the shelf than they do on my feet,” he silently muses. “Plus, there’s no one at this graduation I need to impress. I’ll just wear those trusty boots in the back of the closet that get me through every semi-important occasion. But maybe I should buy something anyway just to help out the lady who works here? She seemed nice and this is a tough job. Yeah, I’ll grab a new hoodie I can wear on our plane rides. Those flights from Seattle to Toronto are no joke. I need to be comfy, and my usual plane attire is getting a little musty.” Taijuan selects a rust-colored cotton sweatshirt and even signs up to be a Banana Republic Cardmember on the way out.
“This wasn’t a totally lost day,” Taijuan decides. “Sure, the shoes didn’t work out, but now I have this sweatshirt to keep me cozy on our east coast trips. Hooray!” He crisscrosses families, tourists, and midday loners on his way out, thinking happily about how nice it’ll be to sit on the private Mariners plane in his new threads and study AL East scouting reports, blissfully unaware of what the public health world has in store…
After the trio of homers gave Los Angeles an early 3-1 lead, the Mariners stormed back. Seeing Walker struggle through the early part of the evening, Dodgers’ reliever Dennis Santana lent his solidarity by absolutely making a mess. After taking over for starter Julio Urías, who could only record five outs with his 52 pitches, Santana came out again for the bottom of the third. He issued a single and a walk to the Kyles Lewis and Seager, providing RBI aplenty for Austin Nola. After what happened next, you could understand Santana wanting to drift back into his life before the pandemic, when no one could see him give up monstrous home runs.
Dennis Santana, having just moved to California upon signing with the Dodgers, needs to update his address. This, he figures, means it’s also probably time for a new driver’s license. It’s equal parts the correct, citizenly thing to do, and also an optimistic motivational trick. “I’ll be here for a while,” Santana thinks of his upcoming Dodger career. “Let’s plant some roots.”
Santana is thrilled to learn he can make an appointment online rather than walk in to the Department of Licensing and let them decide how evil they want to be. After strategically picking a weekday morning, he arrives at the DOL to find it pleasantly empty. As he readies for his new license photo, a loudmouth, haggard man barges through the door.
“Which one of you wrote this?!” the man exclaims, holding up a ticket for leaving his car in a Hooters parking lot for six days. Santana glances over and smirks, realizing he’s in one of those special moments where everyone involved gets to see a public idiot in the flesh.
“That’s not even remotely close to what we do here,” the fed up attendant explains. “We don’t give tickets. If anything, we actually try to make sure you have everything you need to avoid tickets.”
“Whatever, man,” our confused hero responds, his breath reeking of Bud Heavy, fried pickles, and rejected advancements. “This place sucks anyway.” Santana and the attendant lock eyes and share a laugh, both ecstatic that one of life’s most uninteresting activities supplied a story they’ll remember for years. If only Santana knew how one of his next boring adventures – a relief appearance at T-Mobile Park – would turn out, he’d surely cherish every trip to the DOL, the bank, or whatever other menial task he took for granted before the coronavirus showed up.
Nola’s home run put the Mariners ahead by one, and a J.P. Crawford sac fly extended the lead to two. Along the way, Evan White pulled back his archer’s bow and shot an arrow directly to the inside of his kneecap. This wildly unlucky foul ball knocked White out of the game, though X-rays indicated that nothing is seriously wrong.
X-rays were negative on Evan White's kneecap. He's considered day to day .... like us all— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) August 20, 2020
The way things have been going for White, I’m sure he’d take a high school chemistry test or a root canal or jury duty over whatever dark malaise is currently beset upon him. In his stead, Dylan Moore shifted over to first base. It was then, and only then, that Dylan Moore put on his MVP cloak.
First, a catch that would make his departed teammate proud.
Then, on the flip side of this same inning, a sight that is becoming oddly familiar from Seattle’s ant-like utility man.
This put the M’s up 6-3 and padded the lead for a rejuvenated Walker. The beleaguered righty recovered beautifully from the Dodgers’ initial attack, finishing his outing with seven innings, eight strikeouts, and just four hits, three being the solo home runs that threatened to derail the whole night. He even notched his 500th MLB strikeout during Wednesday night’s activities. As a reward for yanking the Mariners’ steering wheel back in the right direction, Walker left the game with a lead and handed things over to Anthony Misiewicz, who instantly made things worse. Justin Turner knocked an RBI single and Misiewicz out of the game, forcing Scott Servais to call Taylor Williams. Luckily, Williams wriggled out of the eighth, and then was summoned again for the ninth, his team precariously clinging to a 6-4 advantage. As things teetered on the brink of destruction, Williams was face-to-face with Corey Seager. LA loaded the bases for its star shortstop, leaving no way out but through.
Williams miraculously got ahead 0-2 on a pair of sliders before wasting a fastball out of the zone. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, he reached back for something extra and dusted Seager on a 96 MPH heater. It was then, and only then, that the reality of a loss set in for the youngest Seager brother.
“Man, we just lost to my brother’s team,” Seager is undoubtedly thinking. “This is way worse than when I lose to him in private. I’d give anything for him to beat my ass in cornhole at a family gathering right now, at least then no one can watch or write about it. Shoot, rather than striking out to lose to the Mariners, I’d even tell Kyle that I think his kids are cute, even if I think they’re a little weird looking. Oh well, they’ll grow into their bodies one day, just like I hope these Mariner prospects do. It’d be great to face them in the World Series some day...”