Every step of the way, the universe offered the M’s a chance. An opportunity to opt-out, to Lollablueza, to Deadgar, to Court the Supreme. With attendance availability at full for the first time in a year and a half, a less-than-sellout-but-more-than-hyped crowd was treated to the 2021 Seattle Mariners. Their starter gave them a shot. Their bullpen kept them in it. And somehow, some way, their ramshackle assortment of rare-do-wells did just enough to make them champions of the night.
It wouldn’t be too tough to list off a series of “clutch” wins the Seattle Mariners have had at various moments to dissuade the well-constructed narrative of the M’s crumbling in the clutch, but the ultimate failure to reach the playoffs from this club in the past 20 years renders most efforts at nuance understandably uninspiring. This club has fewer expectations laden on its shoulders than any from 2014-18, or even 2002-2010, yet their dogged determination to win games keeps them in the playoff race in spite of a run differential that suggests they pack up and head home and a typical route to victory that Magellan would be envious of. Tonight’s 5-4 walk-off win was a victory the club had reason to expect of themselves, yet their inherent flaws rendered it a barn-burner over a ho-humer.
It started with Logan Gilbert, who once again was something not quite effervescent, yet every bit the pitcher Seattle hoped he would be upon call-up, giving them a shot at victory. Gilbert wasn’t his best, but he is a pitcher already who gives his team a chance at victory with some of his stuff, leaning mightily on his fastball for the whole outing, yet missing bats and stifling rallies outside of the first for a night that finished with 5.2 innings and just 2 earned runs, with Keynan Middleton amiably picking up the next inning and a third.
Gilbert’s cromulence gave the M’s time to awaken, as Texas Rangers starter Kyle Gibson did his best to remind the trade market of his capacity for Kinda Goodness™. Nice try, Kyle, but this is Seattle you’re facing, and even if you have some solid numbers, Jake Fraley will get you.
What Fraley is doing is scarcely short of extraordinary, as he manages to Dylan Moore himself with even more impressive plate discipline and delivers pop from the left hand side while making every case to be an at least decent defender. And yet, this blast merely drew it to 3-1, with errors, well-placed liners, and absolutely staggering calls ensuring a narrow Texas-tilted line through six.
It took until late for Seattle’s bats to wake up, but thanks to the scoreless work of Keynan Middleton and Hector Santiago, they had a chance. Santiago, who is of course appealing a suspension from MLB due to using rosin on the wrong hand (you can use it on the hand you pitch with, but not the one you catch with, lest you use it where you pitch), made the savvy move out the gate, snatching the rosin bag up immediately upon entry, trotting back toward his dugout, and hurling it well out of play towards his own dugout to ensure no possible impurity within his play. He allowed a single hit, but struck out the side, eliciting uproarious applause from the Seattle faithful and a few extra checks from the umpiring crew, to no avail.
With a Luis Torrens solo shot in the 8th on the heels of a Kyle Seager fielder’s choice in the 7th, Seattle tied things 3-3, and seemed set with a lead following J.P. Crawford’s single to left, with the crowd chanting his name, driving home Jake Fraley.
Despite a Ty France throwing error in the bottom of the 9th to allow a tying run to score I cannot help but spoil it here; the hero of tonight’s game in the most direct sense is Jake Fraley. Mountain Gamel’s single in the bottom of the 10th was the walk-off winner, and between his dinger, his diving catch, and his seeing-eye single, he is unequivocally laudable as a core component of this shockingly vital Mariners team beyond the season’s midpoint. But John Paul Crawford, the hero Dave Sims extolls in the clip above (or linked here for you Apple Newsers), and Fraley knew to speak of the same.
"JP is an all-star, it's as simple as that." -- Jake Fraley— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) July 3, 2021
J.P. Crawford, indeed, is at last the star, the Top-10 prospect made good, the West Coast Kid made good, with a 3-for-5 night featuring a double and a vital run and RBI Seattle could not have won without. With Anthony Misiewicz providing another encouraging outing, putting his poor stretch of play further in the rear-view, Fraley’s chopped single was enough for a 5-4 10th inning victory. Seattle won’t have a voted All-Star this year, and positionally they won’t have one of the best players at any position. However, J.P. Crawford has been simply vital to the M’s all year, and if anything has established how valuable he can be even in the absence of fellow Gold Glover Evan White.
"When you have the whole stadium chanting your name, you have to come through ..." -- JP Crawford.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) July 3, 2021
What more can you ask of a star then to come through when you need them most?