Immersion (or exposure) therapy is a term for a methodology within psychological and therapeutic treatment. Its professional application is typically measured and calculated, but often successful, utilizing a method called “graded exposure”. This means identifying a fear/phobia or stressor for an individual, then designing a tiered system of opportunities for limited exposures, starting with either brief or mild versions of the exposure, then slowly working up the scale to more significant versions as the individual demonstrates comfort and progression. By breaking down the issue into more manageable chunks, it can be overcome incrementally. This is not universally successful, but it is regarded as a safer method that risks less, inoculating the mind with a lesser version of the stressor as many vaccines bolster the body against illness by building off lesser versions of a virus.
Then there is the concept of “flooding”. The methodology of sink or swim, overwhelming the brain until it has no choice but to grapple with a situation and (hopefully) ultimately overcome it. This is the pathway of a parent chucking their child into a pool to impel them to doggy paddle vs. dipping their toes into the shallow end. It is not without merit - my own father is a child psychologist who has severe reservations against the technique but can acknowledge his lifelong fear of flying was cured after serving as the de facto co-pilot on repeated propeller plane trips to rural Alaska for his work, struggling to make out locations on a map for the pilot in next to zero visibility. But the risk is greater, and the stress can sometimes compound into more dramatic harm. Tonight the Seattle Mariners teetered on that edge, frantically paddling their arms to keep their heads above water as the Oakland Athletics churned the water beneath them. And yet, they survived.
They survived a mixed bag of a start from Marco Gonzales, whose peripherals screamed him up a bit at last from an ERA in the low 3.00s, with an inglorious assist from Penn Murfee that was the stopper equivalent of reinserting a wine cork and watching it disintegrate into 45 pieces. In 5.1 innings, Gonzales was credited with five of the six runs Seattle ultimately was tagged with, split between two ignominious innings in the third and the sixth, but riding on the cache he’s earned from his club with two utterly vital starts the past couple times out in wins against the Mets and Blue Jays, it seems Seattle was content to pick him up for his clunker.
That effort was, at last, aligned in all aspects. The offense made their presence known, clustering production in a glorious crescendo of home runs that made good on scoring threats at a pace prolific enough to bring tears to the eyes. An oasis in a desert of scoring for these Mariners, whose offense has continued to rank among the league’s best yet struggled to cash in enough runs to win. It was a night to remember, a night that hopefully is featured a decade or two from now in montages as not just the first home run at home in the career of Julio Rodríguez, but The First Home Run at Home in the Career of Julio Rodríguez.
Three runs on a (horrible) slider driven the opposite way to what is the most challenging part of the ballpark for a right-handed hitter to scale. Even with the fences moved in, T-Mobile Park née Safeco is a scary beastie for would-be righty sluggers, and Julio simply surmounted it. Sea Us Rise indeed.
Cal Raleigh, hitting from the right side against Oakland Athletics southpaw starter Zach Logue as well, hooked a homer inside the left field pole and poked a line drive single the other way to boot, looking for a night at least like the multi-dimensional backstop Seattle hitched their wagon to this spring. I won’t be looking at what this 2-4 night brought his overall offensive numbers to, no thank you, but great hitters hit great pitchers, while good and average pitchers must at least hit bad pitchers, and when Eugenio Suárez added his own massive two-run shot, that was enough tonight.
Speaking of bad pitchers, Seattle’s bullpen has done its darndest to remind us the lessons of 2015, that even a dominant ‘pen is only as good as its next outing. And yet, despite Murfee’s first clunker of an appearance in 2022, Seattle managed to dam the levees. Sergio Romo got two utterly massive outs, a pop up snagged deftly by Ty France while reclining against the netting of foul play, and a feeble grounder to J.P. Crawford to quell the bases-loaded threat, slamming the barn door shut before every horse could break for freedom and disaster. Diego Castillo swaggered through three strikeouts, well-rested and more precise in his location with slider and heater alike. Paul Sewald barely batted an eye at a two-out threat of his own creation by a single and a wild pitch, simply hitting Raleigh’s target once more for a squibbed groundout.
As the would-be 27th out spun towards Ty France’s glove, it made a last bolt for freedom, sliding from the heel of his mitt to its edge. The Mariners paddled. The ball came to a rest. They breached the surface. France jogged to first. They breathed fresh air in a gasp. He stomped on first base with an extra bit of emphasis. They exhaled, bringing their arms and legs into rhythm now, and took another breath of fresh air.