In the third inning of tonight’s Mariners-Angels game, Shohei Ohtani absolutely obliterated a baseball. Honestly, “obliterated” doesn’t do it justice. This pitch will haunt Marco Gonzales for years to come.
With that dinger, the Angels took a 3–0 lead, with two home runs hit off Mariners “ace” Marco Gonzales in scarcely more than two innings of work. On a night where two former members of the Seattle organization were named All-Stars (Taijuan Walker and Freddy Peralta), such an ignominious moonshot felt like a harbinger of things to come.
Turns out that in 2021, with this team, harbinger is spelled Haniger.
Because in the 8th inning, after three hours and 22 minutes of baseball, Mitchell Evan Haniger — that subject of trade rumors, that down-on-his-injury-luck outfielder, that second piece of Jerry Dipoto’s first major trade who quickly became the main piece — decided that enough was enough. And he hit the Slam heard ‘round the Sound, depositing a Jose Quintana fastball into the Mariners bullpen to break a 3–3 tie and send Mariners fans everywhere into a frenzy.
“Wow, this place is going nuts,” Mike Blowers remarked on live TV. No shit, Mike. No shit.
Haniger’s hit was the culmination of a two-out rally, one that served as an emblem of the 2021 Mariners season. Shed Long Jr. walked with one out, and after a Dylan Moore strikeout, Jake Bauers pulled a single to the right side and J.P. Crawford worked an impressive walk against lefty Jose Quintana. All that set up Mitch and perhaps the timeliest hit of 2021.
Before we got there, however, the M’s needed 6.2 scoreless frames to close the game. The first half of those came from Marco, who rebounded from that legendary Ohtani dinger (and an ignominious David Fletcher longball to lead off the game) to post decent numbers. He wasn’t spectacular. He did allow seven hits and three runs, striking out just three. But he made a couple strong defensive plays — including one that bailed out a poor route and a lackadaisical throw from Shed in left field — and battled back when the Mariners needed it.
Continuing a theme of the season, the bullpen was, yet again, spectacular. Before the season started, this collection of relievers was far from highly regarded. (No offense, J.T. Chargois, Anthony Misiewicz, Drew Steckenrider, and Kendall Graveman.) They came through yet again with 3.1 innings, just two hits, and three Ks. That’s a combination that will keep the M’s in a whole lot of close games — and is a big reason they’re 20–8 in one-run games. Well, that and luck.
The other big highlight was Shed Long’s near-dinger in the fourth inning. With two on and two out, the left fielder went oppo on a hanging breaking ball and came inches (perhaps a single inch, even) from tying the game; instead, he settled for a 2-RBI double.
Before Mitch saved the day and caused a last-minute rewrite, I was already prepared to focus on Shohei Ohtani and his legendary season. He’s been a great pitcher and an otherworldly hitter, one who will enter the All-Star Break on pace to hit more than 60 homers this season. Today’s moonshot quickly transcended Mariners media and moved on to national media, and even non-baseball writers. Shoot, even the camera operators weren’t prepared for somebody to hit the ball up there.
But fortunately, my favorite tweet of all time remained extra true today:
every time I see an Angels highlight it's like "Mike Trout hit three homes runs and raised his average to .528 while Shohei Ohtani did something that hasn't been done since 'Tungsten Arm' O'Doyle of the 1921 Akron Groomsmen, as the Tigers defeated the Angels 8-3"— ℳatt (@matttomic) May 18, 2021
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to respond to my dad’s texts about “MITCH!” that he sent me about an hour ago. Go M’s.