In the monomyth, or hero’s journey, a concept most famously explained by Joseph Campbell, there is a stage known as “meeting the mentor”—the wise sage who helps the hero after the call to adventure and guides them on their path. Examples of the mentor include Yoda, Mr. Miyagi, Dumbledore, Morpheus, Gandalf, and so on. However, in a true hero’s journey, the mentor disappears before the hero’s biggest test—the mentor’s job is simply to guide the hero and give them the knowledge they need in order to defeat their final test, not fight the battle for them.
Today, Marco Gonzales took the mound as the playoff-bound Mariners’ meeting with the mentor, as the seven innings he pitched today will certainly exclude him from the playoff roster for the Wild Card series. It feels like a cruel fate for someone who has faithfully served the Mariners over years of peaks and valleys, in years where they could sniff—but never taste—the playoffs, and years where they were out of it before the corn was knee-high; someone who has served the Seattle community, as well, who is the Mariners’ Roberto Clemente award nominee for his work raising awareness around MSA, who ran a peanut butter drive to feed families during COVID. Today, Marco offered one last act of service in the regular season, stretching his left arm to 106 pitches as he attempted to fend off the Tigers long enough for the Mariners’ pitching staff to get to the chopper (I’m not sure if there was a mentor figure in the Predator movie).
Marco cruised through his first three innings, disposing of the Tigers on eight pitches in the first. In the second, he allowed just a lone base hit, on a pretty good changeup that Candelario just threw his bat at, but got Schoop to ground out to end the inning and then retired the Tigers 1-2-3 in the third.
It looked like the fourth inning would be another quick one for Marco, but after getting two fast outs on five total pitches, Marco nibbled a little with the Tigers’ power-hitting rookie Torkelson, and wound up walking him. Eric Haase followed with a laser double to the wall, putting runners at second and third (Tork is very slow). Jeimer Candelario then chopped a little changeup to Toro at third base and instead of eating the ball and holding the runner, which Toro probably should have done, Toro pushed the “be a hero” mode button and, well, it did not work out. That tied the game up at two, even though Marco would get out of it next batter, getting Jonathan Schoop to fly out on the first pitch.
The fifth inning started off equally shakily, with a leadoff walk granted to Brandon Davis. Ryan Kreidler then lined a ball deep into left field but Trammell made a strong play at the wall, followed by a little pony hop.
The Tigers would scrape out a run here anyway on a Javier Baéz RBI single, giving them a 3-2 advantage. Meanwhile, Tyler Alexander settled down after his rocky first and held the Mariners off the board through his next four innings; Seattle had something cooking in the third when Haniger and Carlos Santana, Professional Hitters of Baseballs, worked back-to-back singles with two outs, but Luis Torrens got super unlucky, scalding a baseball at 105.2 MPH but right at the left fielder. In the sixth inning, Luis would hit the ball slightly less hard (102 MPH) but this time, the baseball gods would grant him some reprieve, perhaps in recognition of all the hard work he’s put in this series:
This pitch is bad, but Luis? Luis is very good. Carlos Santana was aboard there, making the score 4-3 Mariners.
From here the Mariners entered “save the bullpen” mode, which involved sending Marco back out for the seventh as his pitch count climbed towards the triple digits. Marco got nickel and dimed in the seventh on a bunch of singles from the Tigers, pushing across the tying run, but Marco helped himself out by fielding a weakly-hit chop off the bat of Spencer Torkelson to complete seven, earning him a big hug from Scott Servais, and a big round of applause from the well-read and well-attended (22 thousand on a Wednesday day game!) crowd at T-Mobile, who recognize a good hero’s journey when they see one.
After the Mariners went down scoreless in the bottom of the seventh, Paul Sewald emerged to make his final regular-season appearance and disposed of the Tigers 1-2-3, striking out the side to rack up a few more dollars for Eastside Baby Corner, speaking of Mariners pitchers who serve their community. And after the Mariners were again turned away in the eighth, Erik Swanson took his turn dispatching the Tigers 1-2-3 in his final tune-up (although with only two strikeouts! Sheesh, get it together, Swanny Pops!).
In order to avoid Weird Baseball, the Mariners needed to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth. Unfortunately, that task fell to the bottom of the order, but even more unfortunately for the Tigers, Gregory Soto, who seems to pitch just terribly against the Mariners, was on the mound for the Tigers. Soto got a quick out from Toro, but then walked Casali. He then got a little bad luck when his second baseman bobbled what could have been a double play ball off the bat of J.P. Crawford, but then threw a ball past Jarred Kelenic to both scare the crowd at T-Mobile and advance Casali to third with just one out. After walking Kelenic, that brought up Ty France, who Ty is both good at baseball and also a responsible babysitter, and realized they needed to have Julio on the plane to arrive in Toronto in time for bedtime.
Speaking after the game, wearing his Eugenio “good vibes” tank top, his Perry Hill hat (it has a bone on it), and a plush Mariner-blue robe with the number 23 embroidered on it, France got a little emotional talking about the brotherhood of the 2022 Mariners and what the team means to him. Us too, Ty. Us too.