Stoicism and baseball fandom go hand in hand, particularly with this particular franchise. The Seattle Mariners have healthy cynicism over their history with underwhelming play on the field, disinterest and negligence in the front office, and their share of scandals and snafus off of it. Through it all, fans and baseball lovers in the Pacific Northwest or simply captured for one reason or another by the spirit of Northwest Green have tuned in to the M’s in search of solace, delight, entertainment, and community. It doesn’t have to perfect baseball, but it would be nice, and tonight was the rare, precious evening Seattle saw nearly everything go their way.
The Roman Stoic Seneca said “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Apologies to the late patrician, but I do not believe his most well-known quote is an accurate turn of phrase for these Seattle Mariners most nights. They are fortunate, and they were the beneficiaries of fortune tonight, but that wasn’t the whole story tonight.
They were fortunate, for instance, that Yusei Kikuchi’s complete lack of command, forcing an early exit after just 4.1 innings and three runs allowed, didn’t bite them harder. Kikuchi departing having run three ball counts far too often, yielding four walks and, shockingly, merely a solo home run to Teoscar Hernández. Seattle further made a bed they’d have been sour to lie in with defensive miscues aplenty. Kyle Seager airmailed a simple grounder that fortunately did not come around to score. J.P. Crawford was handcuffed on a hard chopper that fortunately skipped directly to Abraham Toro at second base to salvage a force out. Jarred Kelenic and Mitch Haniger ran into one another on a deep blast to right center that should have been an out, and not only was Seattle fortunate enough to escape with just one run in the inning, they were mercifully fortunate to see both players stand up uninjured and seemingly without more than bruised pride.
In fact, the Toronto Blue Jays’ boneheadedness and misplays were objects of fortune for Seattle as well. A head-scratching double-steal with the trail runner oversliding the base to drag Kikuchi back onto the ledge of an inning his nails were scraping off the edge of. A dropped pickoff to save what should’ve been an easily tagged out Jake Fraley and give him second base. A wayward dive by left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to give Mitch Haniger a double and an awkward leap by star center fielder George Springer that led to a night-ending ankle injury as well as a triple for Ty France. Misfortune and misplays for the Bluebirds, fortune and opportunity for Seattle’s Sailors.
But this wasn’t a night of pure luck and fortune. For as many one-run games as Seattle has eked out, tonight they trampled through with authority for a 9-3 victory, on the backs of excellent plays in the right moment and in, as has rarely been the case this year, more than just barely enough moments. France’s triple was the catalyst for the 7th inning comeback, yes, but his first inning two-run homer was also vital. They racked up seven runs across the 7th and 8th innings, a number they’ve reached in a full game just 21 times in 117 games this season coming into tonight. In a season of thrilling victories, this was nothing short of exhilarating, and yet they left no doubt.
The 7th inning was the fulcrum, as Seattle finally pressured Blue Jays starter Hyun-Jin Ryu out of the game, Charlie Montoyo hooking him at 89 pitches with France on third and a freshly-walked Abraham Toro on first. The logic was sound, placing righty reliever Trevor Richards on the hill to face Luis Torrens, whose greatest asset is slugging against lefties in a lineup full of lefty hitters. Despite being demoted to Tacoma earlier this season after struggles on both sides of the ball, Torrens did not neglect his preparation, and he reaped his reward. Torrens took a curve for a strike, then laid off another just outside for a ball, turned his nose up at an inside fastball, and spat on a good diving changeup. Hitters count, 3-1. Opportunity.
I have no insight into the relationship between Torrens and the player who followed him in tonight’s lineup. They may be nothing more than amicable coworkers who the camera at their office has captured in particularly heart-warming interactions on a few occasions that have no great meaning in particular. But I would be curious to know what, if anything, Jarred Kelenic hears from Luis Torrens, the 25 year old veteran teaching the 22 year old rookie. Is it commiseration built around their shared demotions following poor early season play? Torrens merely taking extra care to maintain a good relationship with the player known inside and out as one of the most important members of the organization going forward? Is he attempting to impart a unique wisdom or perspective he may have as the only player on the Mariners’ roster to have also been in the major leagues at just 21 years of age, scarcely more than a child by law in many facets yet with the expectations of millions on your shoulders, none greater than those placed there by ones self?
0-1 fastball off the plate. Preparation. Adjustment. Opportunity.
There is more worth knowing from this game - another Torrens double, Ty France’s consistent excellence, a Paul Sewald-less bullpen that strung together 4.2 scoreless innings on the backs of Casey Sadler, Keynan Middleton, Erik Swanson, and Anthony Misiewicz to name a few topics of note. But what is most important is this: the Mariners once again seized their opportunity, and tonight they packed a few extras in for the road just in case.
“The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”