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Mariners emerge victorious from eight hour fever dream

Seattle uses every single reliever as they win their seventh straight

Aaron Josefczyk-USA TODAY Sports

I sit down to watch the Mariners game at 11:45 AM, five minutes late. As always seems to be the case, I miss a vintage Julio Rodríguez play: a grounder to short that prompts a rushed and errant throw from Cleveland shortstop Amed Rosario, allowing Julio to take second base. Not one minute after I settle in, Ty France ropes a double down the third base line to score Julio.

The late morning sun casts its rays through my window, cheering my apartment. I’ve got to savor this, I think to myself. Later tonight, as the sun drops below the horizon and plunges me into darkness, and I lament the fact that I haven’t yet purchased a floor lamp, I will be praying for respite, for release from the prison of this game. With Ty France standing on second base and grinning at the dugout, I can’t fathom what the next eight hours might hold.

Unfortunately, the Mariners didn’t end up scoring France from second. In the bottom of the frame, George Kirby allowed Cleveland to score a run via an unlucky José Ramírez infield single and a well-struck Josh Naylor double. As the score became tied, the light-gray clouds darkened over Progressive Field, and a slight mist began to fall upon the players. The Mariners, who went into today having won six straight games, would have their work cut out for them.

Cal Quantrill and Kirby traded scoreless frames in the second, with Kirby being helped out by a slick around-the-horn double play. The lineups turned back over in the third, and the mist began to thicken into a drizzle. Based on the chatter from the beat reporters, neither team wanted to have to make this game up were it to be suspended. The most convenient shared day off would have been on August 26th — a re-schedule which would have forced the Guardians to close the season by playing 28 games in 27 days.

Determined to spare Cleveland from such an exhausting fate, Julio the Merciful obliterated a home run in the third inning to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead.

Another scoreless Kirby frame brought the game into the fourth, and the PNW-style misting drizzle turned into rain. Not just rain — great, East Coast-style drops of rain, each of which might have been a refreshing sip of water on its own.

With water coalescing and dripping off of Mitch Haniger’s helmet, he slammed a line drive off of the left field fence. So hard was the ball hit that Mitch was forced to stay at first base. Eugenio Suárez slipped a ground ball between the shift to put runners on first and second. Ever the cheeky one, Adam Frazier tried to bunt the first pitch he saw down the third base line. It was a beautiful bunt, and it caught Cleveland third baseman Tyler Freeman completely off-guard. Freeman charged, and then lost traction, falling to the soaking grass. The ball skipped by him and spun two inches foul.

With that, the writing was on the wall. The Mariners had clearly been hoping to make it to the five-inning mark required to call a baseball game, but it was obvious that conditions were unsafe. What wasn’t obvious was when, or if, the teams would be able to resume. So, sometime around 12:35 PM, locked into sticking around to watch this game, I settled in.

I get up and make myself a light lunch. It requires minimal time and effort to spread Kirkland Signature brand peanut butter and jelly on Dave’s Killer Bread, so within five minutes I’m back on the couch, sandwich in hand. I flip on Our Planet, one of the thirty Netflix-exclusive nature docuseries that David Attenborough has narrated since turning 90. This episode is about jungles.

A gorilla appears on screen. It chews a leaf like a cow chews cud, its jaw masticating from side to side, its eyes gazing into the distance. Attenborough talks about how poachers threaten the gorilla. In the distance, the leaves rustle. The gorilla and I each stare intently for a few horrible seconds before an Asian elephant finally reveals itself. The gorilla and I relax.

When the episode ends, I open Twitter. There’s only an ominous update from Shannon Drayer, with still no word as to when the game might resume.

I sigh and look back at the TV. A new episode has begun playing, this one about coastal seas. Dolphins herd tiny fish called mullets, engineering what appears to be an aquatic agricultural revolution. I find myself getting very tired. As tiny cleaner wrasses help clean detritus off a shark, I close my eyes.

When I open them, another new episode has begun. I look at my phone, and there’s another update, as cryptic as the last.

As I stare at my phone, I hear David Attenborough softly murmuring through the TV. This, he says, is Progressive Field. Home to the largest inland wetland in America, thousands of different species make their home here. Some, like this friendly Quantrill, can be seen enjoying the heavy rains. Others... David Attenborough pauses for a moment. Aren’t so friendly.

Alarmed, I look up at the screen. A horrifying-looking fish is baring its teeth and staring into the camera. Or, it would be, were it to have eyes. Behold, says David Attenborough, his voice now sharp and menacing. The Ángel Hernández fish. With mere flesh above its mouth and nose, the eyeless fish lunges at the camera. I scream.

I abruptly awake from the nightmare. After resolving to buy a different brand of peanut butter next time, I check Twitter again.

Determined to leave the house and forget about the umpire-fish nightmare fuel, I put the harness on my dog and set out on a walk. The fresh air clears my head, though each cloud in the sky looks somehow unfriendly. I refuse to allow myself to be intimidated back into the house, and continue to walk. Finally, after another hour, an update pings my phone.

I set off home, settling back into my couch just in time to watch the second pitch of Adam Frazier’s nearly 5-hour plate appearance. Cal Quantrill had been replaced by reliever Sam Hentges after the delay. On his first pitch to Frazier, Hentges plunks him.

Unfortunately, J.P. Crawford swung over the top of a sinker from Hentges and grounded into a double-play. A run did score to make it 3-1 (though J.P. didn’t earn an RBI in the scorebook), but what had been a fantastic opportunity was spoiled — Curt Casali struck out to end the inning.

Andres Muñoz came in to replace Kirby, and despite some wildness, managed to get out of the bottom of the fourth without allowing a run. So began an impromptu bullpen day. Thankfully, solid outings the past two games by Luis Castillo and Robbie Ray had allowed the Mariners to come into this game with a relatively rested ‘pen.

The teams traded two more scoreless frames, with lovely performances on the Mariners’ side from both Penn Murfee and Matt Brash. At the time with a 3-1 lead in hand, it was hard to see a way in which the Mariners could fail to complete the sweep of Cleveland. That is, until the seventh.

Facing something named “Konnor Pilkington”, the Mariners managed to put runners on first and second with one out for Julio. Julio chopped a ball to short. It was the type of ball that he might normally have been able to beat out, but it was trivial for Amed Rosario to flip the ball to third base to force out Casali. A Jesse Winker walk loaded the bases, but Ty France topped a grounder to second base to spoil the inning.

In came the ever-terrifying Diego Castillo. Castillo allowed a leadoff walk to Andrés Giménez, who promptly stole second. A Tyler Freeman groundout advanced Giménez to third, and a tough infield grounder that J.P. Crawford bobbled scored him. To his credit, Castillo induced yet another groundout. Still, Scott Servais saw fit to put the Mariners and their fans out of their misery by bringing in Erik Swanson, who easily struck out Steven Kwan to end the inning with the score at 3-2.

After another lackluster frame from the M’s batters, Swanson ran into some trouble of his own in the bottom of the eighth. A single and a stolen base by Rosario put him into scoring position. To make matters worse, Suárez (who was shifted to shortstop) missed the catch and allowed Rosario to make it to third. Servais brought in Paul Sewald to try to end the inning, but an Oscar Gonzalez line drive single scored Rosario to tie it up at 3.

It’s difficult to know how to describe the next two innings. To paint them in a positive light, you could call them “gutsy”. To paint them in a... less-positive light, you could call them “absolutely fucking miserable”. It’s really a matter of personal perspective — a glass-half-full or half-empty kind of thing.

The next two innings were absolutely fucking miserable.

Having failed to score off of the Konnor Pilkingtons and Bryan Shaws and Sam Hentges of the Cleveland bullpen, the Mariners were now forced to face the good players. J.P. Crawford did manage a walk against Emmanuel Clase, but a Cal Raleigh pinch hit strikeout and an Abraham Toro double play made short work of the M’s in the ninth.

Matthew Festa came very close to allowing Cleveland to walk off the game, but managed to strand two runners to send the game to extras. It was, at this point, already 7.5 hours after first pitch, and the thousand-or-so fans that remained at the ballpark sounded as delirious as I felt. That the game was going to extras felt cosmically cruel.

With Abraham Toro playing the part of Manfred Runner in the top of the tenth, Julio led off the inning with a sharp single off of noted Decent Person James Karinchak. Now, I’m not normally one to cast aspersions, but what I do have is more than one brain cell. James Karinchak used to be one of the best relievers in baseball — until Spider Tack was banned. As Karinchak ran his hand through his hair, and then through the rosin bag, and then back through his hair, and then into his glove, and then back through his hair, I couldn’t help feeling as if... I don’t know...

In any case, Julio cracked a single to center field, but it was sadly right at center fielder Myles Straw, and Toro wasn’t able to score. Jesse Winker popped a ball to third, and as Tyler Freeman gloved it, one of the remaining fans screamed an extremely audible “WINKER, YOU SUCK!”. Bummer. Ty France popped up another ball that wasn’t quite deep enough to score Toro, and after a Haniger walk, Eugenio Suárez did the same thing.

With that, the Mariners found themselves desperately needing a miracle from Matthew Boyd in just his second appearance with the team. They got it.

After intentionally walking José Ramírez, Boyd induced a Josh Naylor grounder to Abraham Toro. Toro went to tag Ramírez, who stopped in the basepath. That hesitation was enough — Toro fired the ball to first to nab Naylor, and Ty France threw it back to J.P. Crawford to get Ramírez at second bases. Now with two outs, Boyd managed to escape the jam and send the game to the 11th.

Having already faced Emmanuel Clase and Karinchak, the Mariners found themselves facing a much lower caliber of reliever in Trevor Stephen. The difference in quality was immediately apparent — J.P. Crawford snuck an RBI single up the middle to score Manfred Runner Eugenio Suárez, and Cal Raleigh found himself with a rather flat-looking splitter down the pipe at 87 MPH.

He did this to it.

As if my body had been a compressed spring, I shot out of my chair, released from a stupor I hadn’t realized I was in. Startled, my dog sprang up and started barking. A cacophonous jubilee filled my apartment — Dave Sims’ screaming, my dog’s barking, my soft sobs of relief, the imagined sound of Cleveland’s lamentations and gnashing of teeth.

The game was all but assured to be over with the bottom of the Cleveland lineup coming up. Chris Flexen made short work of the Guardians to earn his second save of the year and release us all from this self-imposed prison.

Somehow, some way, more than eight hours after Cal Quantrill threw the first pitch, the Mariners won their seventh straight game. With Tampa Bay’s loss earlier today, the Mariners now hold sole possession of the top Wild Card spot. ESPN pegs their playoff odds at 99.3%.

As the Mariners prepare to coast into the playoffs for the first time in twenty-one years, it feels appropriate that they play games that feel like fever dreams. This whole season feels like unreality. It’s hard to believe that just four months ago, Cal Raleigh was figuring it out in Triple-A. It’s hard to believe that in just over a month, we might see something we’ve been missing for two decades.

I imagine the catharsis will feel something like Cal Raleigh barreling an 87 MPH splitter down the middle to win an eight-hour baseball game.