It’s almost cosmic. It’s almost funny. Of course it had to go down like this. There was really no other way. Are the Mariners touched by fate? Cursed? Doomed forever to be the team with the most narrative?
Tonight was King Félix Mariners Hall of Fame induction night. Nearly a year on from the induction of Ichiro, in which they lost 4-3 in spite of a heroic effort from Luis Castillo, the Mariners come back to do it all again on Félix night.
The story of tonight’s game is simple. The Mariners could do nothing against Seattle public enemy number 1 Cole Irvin, allowing him to go 5 scoreless innings and rack up 6 strikeouts. And then, even after Irvin was pulled, they were still unable to put anything meaningful together. The closest was in the sixth, when a Ty France walk and a Cal Raleigh double put runners at second and third with two outs. Teoscar Hernandez, wearing a jersey with a number just one higher than Félix’s old one, hit a ball 102.9 mph into left field. Austin Hays caught it. Inning over.
After the game, Scott Servais remarked that if anyone doubts that the baseball gods are real, they need look no further than tonight’s game. I would counter, instead, that we are beset not by baseball gods, but by baseball devils. Imps sent to torture us by getting us so close to want we crave. The Blue Jays lost to the Cubs before tonight’s game, meaning that a win would put the Mariners officially in a playoff spot. If they took that spot tonight, and held it until the end of the year, they would have been able to do something for Félix in celebration that they were never able to do for him in his career.
And tonight’s pitching was a show fit to impress the former king. Prince George Kirby threw nine shutout innings tonight, allowing 0 walks, and striking out seven. In an almost belligerent fact, the last time a Mariners pitcher threw nine innings in a game the team lost was in July of 2013. The pitcher was Félix Hernández.
Postgame, George said that he and Tom Murphy had worked out a solid gameplan. Rely on the changeup, and mix in the curveball and fastball to keep hitters off balance. That Félixian plan brought him a level of success that very few pitchers could surpass or even match. Scott said that “it’s impossible to throw the ball better than George did tonight.” It is, however, possible by exactly three hits. But still, George got very close.
It feels cruel, to even measure by that standard of perfection. But seemingly, that is what the Mariners require of their pitchers. Seattle has 58 quality starts this year, just two behind Minnesota for the lead. This pitching staff is one of the best in baseball. Yet the team languishes in third place, fighting under the table for the scraps of the third wildcard spot. I don’t want to be too hard - after all, this team did just win 8 in a row - but I, and many fans, are becoming weary of the failure to support pitchers.
It does not help facts that the winning pitcher for Baltimore was Felix Bautista. After the series earlier in the year, the Orioles Twitter account called Bautista “King Felix.” This, rightly, ruffled some feathers among Mariners fans. Which is why tonight, the night that was perfect for some karmic retribution to be laid at the feet of Baltimore, the night that was perfect for the Mariners to hang the loss on Bautista, they let him get the win. The Orioles Twitter account had the good sense not to make the obvious “King Felix” tweet tonight, but they had the opportunity. The Mariners firmly rejected their chance to ensure that their King would reign uncontested.
And that’s a shame.