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Mariners defeated by pike-and-shot Angels, lose 4-5

defying expectations (derogatory)

Seattle Mariners v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

It’s a frankly ridiculous misconception that the warring-states era samurai in Japan rejected the use of guns. In fact, there are a lot of terrible misconceptions about medieval Japan, in general, but this one is especially egregious. The samurai were a warrior class that, in the warring states period, briefly expanded from being a caste into being a class. Still exclusive and restrictive but now, semi-permeable. A peasant could become a samurai based purely on luck and fighting ability. The ability to kill was placed in extremely high-regard, as you can imagine during a century of civil war.

So why then do we pretend that they didn’t use guns? The Samurai, especially Oda Nobunaga, were instant adopters of guns, ever since (allegedly) two Portuguese gunsmiths washed ashore on the island of Tanegashima. For example, look at this artwork of the 1575 Battle of Nagashino. In the center? A line of gunmen, assisted by spearmen, shooting down wave after wave of oncoming cavalry. Pike-and-shot was a devastating tactic in medieval Japan, and it was one of the reasons Oda Nobunaga was so successful.

Pike-and-shot, with an open mind, is how we can characterize the Angels in tonight’s loss. While before the game we were looking for a possible pitcher’s duel that could last until the late innings, the Mariners actually turned their recent fortunes around and scored in the first inning, with Jarred sending a mistake sweeper just shy of 400 feet to right field to give the M’s an early 2-0 lead. Ohtani struggled with his command, issuing walks and throwing a lot of non-competitive pitches. Pitching, like a spear, is used to keep the enemy away, and, at least early, it seemed like the Angels may have some trouble with theirs.

But alas, Shohei Ohtani (have you heard?) is good at baseball, and knuckled down for a couple of quick innings, getting the M’s to go quietly in the second and third. In the bottom of the third, J.P. misplayed a ground ball that took a funny hop and would have been the third out, but instead allowed Taylor Ward to reach. That brought Shohei to the dish with two out and one on.

A good thing about combined-arms warfare is that it allows for one element to support their comrades when something goes wrong. In pike-and-shot, nothing keeps the enemy away better than gun. Causes some damage too.

After that, the Angels pikes on pitching and defense managed to get it together, and even turned a nice double play when Cal strayed too far off the bag at first and got doubled up on a hot-shot lineout by Eugenio.

When guns first arrived in Japan they were slow to produce and expensive. Oda Nobunaga’s first order was for just 500 muskets. Eventually, after their effectiveness was proven time and again, Japanese lords became the most enthusiastic purchasers of firearms in the world, with the nation producing more guns than all of Europe combined.

All that to say that Anaheim quickly took a 3-2 lead off of back to back base hits by Anthony Rendon (double) and Luis Rengifo (single). That lead didn’t last forever, though.

Guns, believe it or not, were great for killing, but they came with downsides. Unlike swords and spears, you need to have a constant flow of powder and ammunition to keep firing a musket. When faced with a fortress protected by the skilled marksmen of the Ikko-Ikki monks, Oda Nobunaga changed tactics, and instead of attacking the fort directly, attacked the nearby unprotected villages and cut off supply routes. Eventually, the defenders ran out of ammunition.

You don’t need to hit 400 foot home runs to score. There’s the cliche of the bloop-and-blast, but a walk, HBP, and a bloop work just the same. Sometimes it’s best to change tactics and be where the enemy is not.

But, I mean, also, winning by strength alone works too. Sometimes the strongest fighters come from unlikely places.

That was pretty much it for the Mariners. Mike Ford (!) hit a solo shot in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game, and Jose Caballero walked to bring the go-ahead run to the plate, but frustrating at-bats from the top three of the lineup ended the game. Julio’s out was especially egregious as he watched a 2-2, middle-middle fastball go right by him for strike three.

As a Mariners fan, watching this game was difficult, and not only because the Anaheim Angels were in it. Instead, it was because the Angels looked good. On defense, they were all locked in together, and turned a couple of really impressive double plays. They put together strong at-bats, they passed the baton, and they punished mistakes. They looked like a good baseball team, not the bumbling collection of individuals we’ve come to expect. Mike Trout struck out 3 times, and Shohei gave up 3 earned runs in 5 innings, but while that would usually sink the Angels, it honestly didn’t matter. After watching Anaheim pull ahead, seeing the top three in the lineup go down in order with the game on the line is just disappointing.

What’s especially frustrating is that while we (quite rightly) complain about a lack of effort in free agency, the Mariners are not short on guns. There is potential pop all the way through the lineup, but those guns are misfiring right now. It’s trendy and easy to complain about the Mariners, but that’s what Twitter is for. To look on the bright side, while the Angels used Oda Nobunaga’s tactics to great effect tonight, it's important to know that Oda lost, eventually. And his downfall made way for another meteoric rise to the top.

So may it be again.