Seasonal rituals are as deeply embedded in most human cultures as music, dance and food. In agricultural societies, these were/are mostly tied to the major cultivation-centric events of the year. Commonly, you see rites intended to enhance luck or favor from the gods during planting season early in the year and celebrations of grace and bounty in the harvest season. The human brain has evolved to be exceptional at pattern-recognition (it’s supposedly what allowed us to dominate the planet) - what better patterns for us to celebrate than the most reliable, global patterns of all?
It’s easy to think of ceremony and ritual as being activities that belong to the divine, to faith, celebrations that exist on a societal level. But you know what? It can be more than that - it can be smaller than that. You and your friends play a big board game every New Year’s Day? That’s ritual, baby. The big family barbecue you go to every 4th of July, even though you’re going to have to hear your Uncle Kevin tell his motorcycle story for the 20th time? Summer ceremony, my man.
Seasonal recognition can get even smaller than that, too. My drink of choice for the last couple summers has been a gin and lemonade. It’s easy to make, and you can zhuzh it up with fresh berries (or even flavored syrups if you want to get real fancy). It’s delicious, and to me, there’s absolutely nothing that feels more like summer than sipping an ice-cold gin and lemonade with my partner and watching a Mariners game. This is a summer ceremony I get to participate in all summer long to pay homage to this wonderful season.
As it turns out, this was the perfect Mariners game to partake in this liturgy. I could wax poetic about why this game felt so good, but I don’t think I could put it better than one of our writer’s dad did...
So, so true.
This game took a while to really hit it’s stride, but boy, I tell you, I let out a cackle when I saw who was taking the mound for Oakland - none other than Seattle’s public enemy #1, Cole Irvin. For those who don’t remember or weren’t around last year, this is the guy who trash-talked the Mariners after getting shelled by them, and proceeded to continue to get shelled by them all year until issuing a pretty embarrassing public retraction. This storyline was easily one of my favorite parts of the 2021 season, and I had a pretty good feeling we were in for a fun game.
As I said, though, it started slow. A Julio bloop, a soft Ty single, and a Winker double-play ball led to the first run for the Mariners. As a commenter in the game thread pointed out, scoring runs on a GIDP always feel a little bit funny but I'll take it. Despite Mitch absolutely scorching a line drive with a 110+ MPH exit velocity and a .710 xBA, Irvin managed to avoid getting stung any further in the first.
On the other hand, a somewhat uneven first inning from Marco had folks calling for his spot in the rotation pretty early tonight. Writing that our one-time No. 1 starter surrendered a HBP, a walk, a single, and a sacrifice fly to give up two runs on four consecutive batters doesn’t sound good. I still contend, though, that he didn’t pitch horribly. He worked ahead in all of those counts, and generally was locating his pitches where wanted them. The walk was a 10-pitch masterpiece of an AB from Sean Murphy, and both the single and the sac fly came on well-located changeups. The run on the single also easily could have been an out at the plate, had Haggerty’s throw not hit Nick Allen in the legs on its way to the plate. It just happens sometimes.
From that point on, Marco performed as well as you could ask for from your fifth starter. He gave up one hit across the next three innings, aided by an incredibly athletic play by Cal Raleigh to turn an off-line throw from
Ham Swaggerty Hag Swammerty Samuel Haggerty into an exciting putout at the plate.
Is there a more exhilarating play in all of baseball than a close play at the plate?
On the other side, coLe Irvin, after a couple of sleepy innings from the Mariners bats, began to lose his grip. After allowing a Mitch Haniger single (another one absolutely scalded by Mitch), he surrendered the lead in the top of the fourth inning on an immaculately-vibed home run:
Want some déjà vu? Allow me to fast-forward to the 6th inning. With the score now 3-2, and Oakland technically still within striking distance, Irvin allowed Eugenio to go full hero-mode for this game.
Winker earned yet-another walk, and, were Oakland a better defensive team, would have been out at second on the next play, a picture-perfect double play ball hit by Haniger. However, shortstop Nick Allen, fumbled the ball, and the throw to first was late. This put two on for Suárez, who absolutely obliterated this ball out to the deepest part of the park. If the two runners weren’t Irvin’s fault, this one certainly was - this pitch was as hung as could be, dead center of the plate.
I remember when we first traded for Suaréz, Reds fans told us that we were going to love him. They were so, so right. I know he strikes out a ton, but when he's hot, he has the kind of bat that can carry a team. More than that, though, he plays the game with the same brand of joy that the Mariners seem to have curated. Guys Julio, JP, Eugenio, Winker, Sewald - they play the game with so much heart, passion, unbridled joy that's simply infectious. This team is so fun to watch.
Anyways, the Mariners, unlike the A’s, have found a permanent home - they appear to have taken up full-time residence in Cole Irvin’s nightmares. Irvin left the game with a line of six innings pitched, giving up five earned runs, actually lowering his career ERA against the Mariners to 8.42. It’s safe to say I got what I wanted out of this game.
Marco ran into a little bit of trouble of his own in the bottom of the sixth. He recorded one out before loading the bases. At just 79 pitches and with a four-run cushion against the Literal Oakland A’s, I figured he was going to get a chance to work out of this one. Manager Scott Servais shut that down, though, calling on young Matt Brash to get out of this jam. Brash has been absolutely phenomenal since his call-up into the pen. In his 14 appearances, he’s running a 38 FIP- (that would be 62% than league-average), a K-rate hovering around 38% and a BB-rate closer to 11%. Brash got a strikeout on a nasty breaker before a soft ground ball to JP took care of things.
Though he surely got an assist from Brash and the defense, Marco has a nice line to claim at the end of his night with 5.1 innings pitched, giving up just one earned run. I think that should do to keep his spot in the rotation for another turn.
From the seventh inning on, we got some delightfully fun and relaxing baseball. The Mariners continued to play add-on, adding a pair of runs in the 7th and 8th inning with some small-ball and good ole’ fashioned chaining hits together. France, Winker and Jake Lamb all recorded RBIs in those innings.
Oakland, presumably saving their bullpen for a less hopeless night, left Norge Ruiz (in his big-league debut, no less!) out to die. The righty gave up six hits in his 1.2 innings, giving up the remaining four runs (only two earned! Bad defense is bad!).
Meanwhile, the Seattle bullpen was as lights-out as they have been all season. Matt Brash, Diego Castillo, Penn Murfee and Chris Flexen ( ) combined for 3.2 perfect innings, lowering their league-best bullpen ERA even further.
In a way, this game felt like looking in the mirror for so many of the terrible games the Mariners have played in August in the last couple decades. We would play against these teams like the 2012 Yankees, full of contributors and depth in all phases of the game, and look at our team and see all of the gaping holes beyond our two good players. It seemed unfathomable that a team could have above replacement-level players past the four-hole in their lineups. It felt like nothing ever broke our way, which itself is a consequence of simply not being a good team.
Today, we got to be on the other side of that. We saw contributions from up and down the lineup - 11 different Mariners had an at-bat, and all 11 recorded a hit! Our fifth starting pitcher went out and only gave up one earned run! Our bullpen locked the game down! Our defense made fun plays!
This game wasn’t horribly exciting - I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, holding my breath to see whether or not the Mariners would be able pull it off. My jaw didn’t hurt at the end of this game from clenching it too tightly during a high-leverage plate appearance. I was lounging in my backyard, sipping a gin and lemonade and enjoying the cool breeze on a warm day. There will be a time for those other types of games, rife with anxiety and electricity, full of that playoff atmosphere that we’re all craving. There will be games where every pitch feels like it could be the difference between life or death, games of jubilation and heartbreak, games that will increase the profanity-count across the Northwest for better and for worse. But today? Today was just for the beautiful ceremony that is low-stakes, easy summer baseball.
Baseball, to me, is inherently associated with summer. Though it’s the blustery, wet spring that heralds the beginning of the season and the brisk, earthy fall that ushers in the tension of the playoffs, the long summer nights are where baseball lives in my head. It’s certainly possible my perspective is skewed by an entire generation of missing out on those baseball games that are framed by changing leaves and morning frost on the grass and end in champagne in the infield. Hopefully, this team will change that.