Before we begin, take a few deep breaths. In, out. In, out. In, out.
Fine, let’s just get it over with.
The Mariners are 10 games over .500 for the first time since [redacted], and it ought to feel amazing. In fact, it did, when the win was all but on the books, when the game was cruising into the ninth inning with the M’s on top, 7-2.
It felt so good and so certain, knowing how effective the bullpen has been, that with no shortage of hubris, I put 66-56 in the title of the chart post and began to fill it with WPA numbers that now belong in a second-hand store. I take some responsibility, but in fairness to myself, this collapse was hard to see coming.
It was the kind of lead-blowing tire fire that can dismantle and dishearten a team, shifting momentum entirely to the team on the come-up rather than the one who had dominated for the entire game. The lead was lost and gained again simply because this is a team that laughs in the face of the ordinary, a group of players who call normal “a setting on a washing machine” and flaunt a Sartre volume in middle school just to get on peoples’ nerves.
Instead of cashing in on an RBI double and bases-loaded walk from Seager, a two-run homer from Haniger, and some smaller ball from France and Toro (like any other team might consider doing), Anthony Misiewicz and Diego Castillo joined forces to form the world’s worst tag team duo, inciting riots online and making me, a known Castillo enjoyer, very sad.
The disastrous ninth began with three straight hits off erstwhile elite lefty Tony Sandwiches, including an RBI double from public enemy number one, Jonah Heim, ending Servais’ hopes of saving his bullpen for the Houston series.
Castillo, whose middling (and occasionally disastrous) performance since coming over from Tampa Bay will soon be the subject of a write-up by our very own Michael Ajeto, managed to get DJ Peters swinging for the first out, but a slider fell out of his hands and sent ball four flying to the backstop, giving Nathaniel Lowe ample opportunity to score, and setting up runners on the corners.
After Ibáñez gifted Diego a strikeout, Jason Martin sent a ball into orbit for just his fourth homer of the year (half of which have come against Seattle), tying the game at seven runs apiece. A quiet groundout from Yonny Hernandez set up the Mariners, who went down in order in the 10th, for a Ty France defensive masterclass.
With Joe Smith (today’s WPA leader) intentionally walking Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Adolis Garcia rocketed a ball to Kyle Seager, who threw a strike to Toro for the out at second. Toro, however, threw high to a leaping Ty France, unable to get a speedy Garcia out at first. Luckily for the Mariners, the future gold glover was paying close attention to Yonny Hernandez’ absurd decision to hang out halfway between third and home, and instantly shot the ball back to Crawford, allowing J.P. to tag him out before he could slide back to the base.
If a clutch double play isn’t your thing, Ty France had more to say when the next frame rolled around.
I think it speaks for itself:
Ty France - Seattle Mariners (13) pic.twitter.com/ov8mkS0RD0— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) August 19, 2021
Paul Sewald, whose case for being the Mariners best reliever by a mile grows every day, made it interesting again in the final frame, allowing the Manfred runner to score on a single from Brock Holt, then giving every Mariners fan a heart attack in the seconds before the final out was made:
Andy Ibanez vs Paul Sewald#StraightUpTX— Would it dong? (@would_it_dong) August 19, 2021
Exit velo: 101.8 mph
Launch angle: 23 deg
Proj. distance: 410 ft
This would have been a home run in 10/30 MLB ballparks
SEA (9) @ TEX (8)
We can all say thank you to heroes like Joe Smith and Ty France and seethe at the ones who blew it in the first place. We can all curse this team for their constant refusal to play like a “good team” or give their run differential any slack. We can all blame any number of people, some of whom deserve it, others of whom are nothing more than sacrificial lambs. The fact of the matter is that the team refused to let their blunders lose them a game, in the process propelling their record to an admittedly modest height, albeit one that looks dizzying compared to the ones they’ve summited of late.
Beating bad teams is what good teams do. The real challenges are the ones yet to come, and the future, for once, may rest squarely in the team’s own capabilities. This sweep wasn’t pretty, nor was it particularly enjoyable, but it was exactly what the Mariners needed, what Mariners fans needed.
Wordlessly, J.P. said it best: take it or leave it.