In the foothills of Ancient Greece, gods and goddesses spar. Ares hurls a spear at Athena. The spear passes cleanly through a puny mortal before bouncing harmlessly off of Aegis, Athena’s famous shield. They both hear thunder and look up in panic. A lightning bolt strikes the ground between them, singeing both of their eyebrows clean off. The spectacle of the battle is beyond what any mortals can bear to look out without dying of shock.
Not far away, a smaller battle is being waged. A battle in which godlings also spar, but not with legendary shields of bolts of lightning. No, these warriors use broken-tipped spears, wooden shields, and worn out sandals. They try not to let the frightful sounds of a greater war waged distract them from their own personal battle: not to be the worst in Greece.
As the ur-deities of Major League Baseball fight a raging war, as Fernando Tatís Jr. leers at Trevor Bauer and Shane Bieber tries to strike out Yoán Moncada, the combatants are surrounded by several lesser battles that take place each day. Few are as lesser as those fought between the Tigers and Mariners.
As frustrating as the Mariners’ rebuilding efforts have been, what fans of the Detroit Tigers have had to deal with has been even worse. A full year and a half before the Mariners began their re-building effort, the Tigers sold, among others, J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander, and Justin Upton. In each year since, they’ve finished with a worse record than the Mariners. In fact, since the start of 2019 (when the Mariners began their own rebuild), the Tigers have been a full 28.5 games worse than the Mariners.
Despite that, the Mariners have not been able to enjoy their superiority over the lowly Tigers. Coming into tonight, the team was 0-4 against Detroit on the year. And as desperate as the Mariners have been to join Zeus, Ares, and Athena in immortal combat, it’s kinda hard to get admission to the winners’ club when you keep getting beaten by Hector, legendary wimp of Troy.
It was with the context of repeated humiliation at the hands of the Tigers that the Mariners came into this game on a mission to win, or at least not to lose. Casey Mize, pitching for the Tigers tonight, clearly sensed this. Mize wasted no time in plunking both Mitch Haniger and Ty France, giving the former a brief injury scare after a slider to the wrist.
Thankfully, Mize’s violent incompetence did not last, as he settled into just enough of a groove to keep the Mariners scoreless for five straight innings.
On the other side of the diamond, Chris Flexen had a very Chris Flexen performance. He wasn’t terrible, but also wasn’t that good. A walk and a single set the stage for the Tigers to plate a run with a sacrifice fly in the third inning, and a dinger and a double plated two more in the fifth.
Finally, though, Kyle Seager broke through against Mize in the sixth. He worked seven pitches against Mize before the young Tigers righty finally slipped up, leaving a fastball directly middle-in for Seager. Seager obliterated the ball, tying the game at three.
The teams’ bullpens, both of which are capital-T-Terrible, traded three scoreless innings to send the game to extra innings. The dominance of the bullpens raised some vital questions about the quality of the participating lineups. However, the game appeared set to end in regulation before Jake Fraley made the most impressively unathletic home run robbery since Guillermo Heredia’s from 2017.
With a runner on first, Isaac Paredes sent a well-hit fly ball over Fraley’s head in left field. Fraley backpedaled all the way to the wall, flexed his legs, and betrayed his criminal neglect of leg day by leaping an entire three inches off the ground. It was the perfect number of inches. The ball thwacked into the web of Fraley’s glove, and he hurled the ball back to the infield to double Eric Haase off of the first from nearly 300 feet away.
With the teams now playing Manfred Ball, a recently dominant J.P. Crawford plated a run with a one-out single before a Mitch Haniger double play ended the tenth. Real Pitcher JT Chargois induced a ground ball and a strikeout to set up the quick and easy tenth inning win. Unfortunately, he spiked a pitch, which snuck past Tom Murphy to the backstop. The Manfred Runner scored from third, sending the game to the eleventh inning.
Thankfully, the Tigers had used up all of their non-Daniel Norris pitchers over the course of the first ten innings. This gave Tigers no choice but to use Daniel Norris. Norris looks more like an actual Greek deity than perhaps any other player that appeared in this game, but may also be more impotent than all of them.
The inning started innocuously enough, with Kyle Seager flying out and advancing the Manfred Runner. Norris intentionally walked Ty France to set up a potential inning-ending double play, bringing the athletic Jake Fraley to the plate, who is player who looks second-most like a Greek deity.
Fraley delivered, ripping a single into center that Akil Baddoo almost caught on his shoestrings. Thankfully, he did not, and the Manfred Runner trotted home. Only up by a run, the Mariners would probably at least one more. It took an unlikely hero to break open the flood gates with two outs.
This was a hell of a situation for Dillon Thomas to record his first Major League hit. Thomas easily wins the title of player who is third-most likely to be a Greek deity, but it was the his bolt from the blue that ultimately won the game. The single drove in two more runs to give the Mariners a three-run cushion that sealed the game.
Just as importantly, it gave us all this image of a 28-year-old who had spent ten years toiling away in professional baseball purgatory, only to finally have the debut of his dreams.
Tom Murphy plated two more runs with a double to make it a five-run game, which was more than enough for the Mariners to survive a dinger given up by Keynan Middleton in the bottom of the eleventh. Bloodied, exhausted, and admittedly disoriented, the Mariners emerged victorious from the rubble of a now-destroyed suburban Ancient Greece.
I like to imagine a day that the Mariners are hurling thunderbolts at other contenders. A day when Jarred Kelenic leers at Shane Bieber, when Taylor Trammell has an October at bat against James Karinchak. I have faith that that day will come, and soon. Until then, though, at least we get games like this every so often.