Last week while on vacation, my partner and I found ourselves in a restaurant in search of a whole fried fish - pescado frito, in a restaurant that specialized in it. We tried our best to order in our unconfident Spanish. But, when we were asked a clarifying question that we could not make out over the wonderful (but very loud) sound of a corrido being blasted from the bluetooth speaker in the corner, we decided to simply answer, “Yes,” to avoid any sort of exposure of our basic grasp of the Spanish language. This seemed to be an acceptable answer.
It was when we were delivered a gargantuan burrito that we realized what that clarifying question was (“burrito de pescado?”). Being the people we are (afraid of causing others even mild inconvenience in any way), we thanked her profusely despite a mild feeling of disappointment, and proceeded to have what I can confidently tell you is one of the best burritos I have ever had, and probably one of the best fish meals as well.
This is all to say, you don’t always get what you order, but if you keep an open mind, the universe (or random chance, if you prefer) has a way of rewarding you for your flexibility. This lesson was learned again today, as I sat down for a healthy serving of Marco Gonzales, but due to the birth of his second child (congrats, Marco and Monica!), but instead was delivered a big ol plate of Tommy Milone.
I’ll be honest - I felt a little pessimistic going into this game, especially after seeing the lineup. Seeing this part of the lineup and being told “This is what will happen two weeks into the season,” would likely be enough for most Mariners fans to have a mild aneurysm.
My concerns were not alleviated by the fourth pitch of the game, a middle-middle 87 mph fastball to the winner of the “Guy Everyone Wanted To Be A Mariner But Everyone Is Now Super Glad He Is Not, In Fact, A Mariner Award”, 2021-22 edition, aka the only good baseball player in the state of Colorado, that put the Mariners in a 1-0 hole to start the game.
I was worried that I had unwittingly been given reservations to the Milone Family Pasta and Fine Meatballs Establishment, and they seemed to be fresh out of pasta.
Luckily, two things saved me from that fate.
First, Milone actually pitched quite well! He delivered about what you’d optimistically hope for from a pitcher like Milone, in the tough situation of unexpectedly making your first big league start of the season. He essentially was told “Hey, at some point this week Marco is out and you’re in,” without knowing the exact date, and he came in with the poise you love to see from a veteran depth pitcher. He, as Dave Sims and Dan Wilson said multiple times, mixed speeds well, and was able to attack all parts of the zone en route to 4.2 innings of one-run ball, giving up just four hits after the Bryant dinger. He also managed to, improbably, strike out the side in the third, and earned an impressive 20% whiff rate for the night.
Second, as it turns out, I was indeed not at the Meatballs Establishment, but merely waiting in line at JFK’s Spicy Smoked Barbeque Emporium: Julio, France and Kelenic (please laugh at my bad joke) put in some serious work in the box today.
I’ll try hard to not let this recap become the, like, 4th Lookout Landing JK hype article in the last few days, but it’s so damn hard not to. The dude has clearly figured some things out. His stance is so much more comfortable, his bat speed now looks effortless, he’s making better swing decisions, and the results look a lot like this:
Jarred Kelenic:— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) April 15, 2023
Tonight --------------> home run
Game before that ---> home run
Game before that ---> home run
Game before that ---> home run pic.twitter.com/V3vL4dnOEP
Four games in a row!
Even more than the results at the plate, look at this body language and demeanor! Last season, even after a big hit, Kelenic did not look and act like this. He’s finally comfortable. He’s having fun!
Did I mention that this dinger came off of a leftie?! Suck it, Oxford Dictionary definition of a platoon. This second-inning home run (that came off the bat at 108 mph!!) off of Colorado starter Austin Gomber put the Mariners up 2-1, and was the beginning of a fun night of baseball.
Julio and Ty combined in the fourth inning to add some more sizzle to the Mariners offense. After JP walked, we were treated to back-to-back doubles by the pitmasters, of two very different varieties - first, a pure hustle effort from Julio to steal a double from what should likely have been a single if the Rockies did not inexplicably leave him a huge gap to his pull side.
This allowed Kelenic, who reached base on a scorched 107 mph double into the corner, to score, putting the Mariners up 3-1.
Then, we got a classic Sims non-homer call on this Ty France double that just missed being his second home run of the season that cleared the bases and capped the Mariners scoring for the night, giving them a 5-1 lead.
From there, we got the tour of all of the new relievers who make my girlfriend (who, it should be noted, is a Mariners fan) say “Uh, who is that again?”
That’s right, we got outings from Speier, Topa(z), and Gott, all in one game! Chills.
Gott got himself into his first bit of trouble, coming in to finish of the fifth inning for Milone without much effort but giving up three singles and a walk to leave the bases loaded and the M’s lead cut to 5-2. In came Matt Brash, who has had an admittedly rough start to the season, leading some people (also known as doubters, haters and losers) to lose a little faith in the Pride of Canada.
Brash threw his usual absurd pitches, en route to two strikeouts and a walk, which is a pretty Brash-ian outing. On his walk, he definitely had some misses, most notably on ball four, but also had two really quality pitches called balls. On his strikeouts, he hit spots that are truly unfair. This pitch may potentially lead Moustakas to retire.
This was, honestly, the last bit of spice in this game. From there, we were in mid-season cruising form. The teams combined for two more hits, but other than that, the pitchers shut things down. Speier accomplished the rare feat of getting credit for a full inning of work while throwing just two pitches with a fielder’s choice on pitch one on the inherited runner, followed by a double play on the next pitch.
Sewald came in to close out the game with Muñoz still on the IL resting his deltoid, delivering in classic Sewald fashion - deceptively tricky fastballs and frisbee-sweepers leaving batters looking generally helpless.
This game had no special advance billing - a Milone v Gomber matchup is no must-buy ticket for most baseball fans (and neither would Gonzales v Gomber). Maybe I’m a bit spoiled by great matchups we’ve had thus far - of course it’s fun to tune into games like Castillo v Bieber, Ohtani v Gilbert, Kirby v Plesac.
But this game was no less joyful and fun to watch. These types of games (two veteran soft-tossing lefties on the mound) are baseball at its simplest and most comfy - this game had absolute dead-of-summer vibes, before the playoff race starts in earnest. This is the kind of game that forms part of the tapestry and warm background hum of baseball fans’ Julys and Augusts.
Games like this remind you to love baseball for what it is - constant. For at least 162 days a year, there’s ever-steady baseball to join you, whether it’s a relaxing Friday night in on the couch after a stressful week of work, a companion on the AM station as you make a long drive to the airport, or even just checking in on Gameday as you’re out enjoying your life in a non-baseball centric way (??? please confirm this exists before publication).
In that way, this was a very beautiful baseball game. I’m so glad baseball is back.