Perhaps more than any other sport, baseball has a cute little way of bending and molding itself into a new shape with every game. Other sports, beholden to time constraints and untethered from a new starting pitcher each day, are much more predictable on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes individual teams even have a unique style of play that they bring with them for each battle. Take our local NFL team, who, every Sunday, plays on the razor’s edge of thrilling their fans and infuriating them into medical emergencies.
Baseball is not quite the same. The overwhelming volume of games statistically means that variance is bound to happen. The limitations of a human arm and the resulting need for different pitchers also spices things up in a way that a constant starting quarterback or point guard do not. As such, sometimes baseball gives you manic lead changes and down-to-the-wire elation, crowded base paths and runs crossing the plate as pitchers scuffle in and out of jams.
Other times you get…well you get a game like today.
In classic 2020 fashion, most of today’s excitement was based in hypotheticals. We wondered who the Mariners would trade and what kind of returns they’d get rather than focusing on the actual game, much like how this year has been shrouded in questions about when we can feel safe doing our favorite things again rather than trying to adapt to sanctioned isolation. The players seemed to feel this well. Competitive at-bats were rare today as weak contact stole the show.
Pitching duels, to be clear, can be gripping, thought-provoking television. But without live fans hanging on every pitch, rising and erupting on two-strike counts, the entirety of Monday’s game felt flat and listless. Combine that with the already sleepy nature of weekday afternoon games, and the Mariners and Angels had all the makings of a forgettable romp in the Orange County heat.
About that, by the way. This is all the Angels’ fault, and it’s hard to blame production crews and non-California entities who discuss the team, but the ANGELS DO NOT PLAY IN LOS ANGELES! Do not be fooled by their stupid ass name, which is blatant clout chasing as the organization tries to distance itself from the scuzzy tank tops, barbed wire tattoos, and sunglasses on the back of the head-types who comprise their city, offspring of dirt bikes and thong flip flops. In calling themselves the lOs AnGeLeS aNgElS, the team is bamboozling the rest of society into thinking they’re more glamorous and desirable than they actually are. Los Angeles proper is glitzy entertainment and excess and a diverse tapestry of life, housing some of the most beautiful people and culture in the world. Orange County is like three million people living in a yellow Mustang.
In the interest of transparency, I should probably mention that the game’s aforementioned sleep-like conditions actually caused me to doze off. Missed most of the fourth and fifth innings. Doesn’t matter, nothing really happened. This is sort of the nature of a spellbinding pitching performance. The enormity of it doesn’t become clear until the final innings, when the realness of a complete game takes shape and a glance at the box score tells you how surgical a pitcher has been. For instance, today Marco Gonzales retired 21 straight Angels from the second to eighth inning. After Justin Upton chest pressed an early home run, Marco took turns humiliating his teammates in order.
The streak only came to an end when Shohei Ohtani pinch hit to start the ninth and looped a broken bat grass finder into shallow right field. A bit of an issue in a one-run game, sure, but not quite hot water. Andrelton Simmons followed suit with a single of his own to turn the temperature up, and things began to boil when Mike Trout swaggered his way to the plate. In his first three at-bats, Trout struck out three times, twice swinging and once looking. As the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, Trout now had vengeance in his eyes, which I’ve always been told means he’s not fresh. You’re supposed to look for the fish with the clearest eyes to determine which one will taste best. Surely that was the problem when Trout lined into a double play, leaving a nasty taste in Orange County’s collective mouth, as if they’d just pulled up to the beach to find a lack of tasty barrels. Gonzales popped Albert Pujols up for the final out to cement his second career complete game, allowing the Mariners to escape Anaheim for the rest of the year like so many seasonal lifeguards before them.
Gonzales’ offense did just enough to support him after Upton’s home run. The unlikely duo of Jake Fraley and Joseph Odom, Seattle’s own version of Lauren Conrad and Kristin Cavallari, teamed up for back-to-back hits to deliver the Mariners’ first run. Fraley reached base on his first MLB triple and Odom collected his second MLB hit and RBI with a clutch single. In the sixth, José Marmolejos continued to surprise the locals with his unforeseen triumphs, much like when an Anaheim clothing store stays in business without carrying camo shorts or penny boards.
This was Marmolejos’ second dinger of the year in Angel Stadium, which tickles me and leaves several Fullerton residents “not stoked on it at all, dude”. Oh well.
Maybe things will become more rad when the Angels land their top-five draft pick, something which would make AL West fans more nervous had the Angels not been actively undermining their best natural resource for years by destroying themselves from the inside.
That, my friends, is the Orange County way.