clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Faced with cynical fanbase, Mariners keep insisting on hope, along the way beating the Padres 6-1

Some things are new (Emerson Hancock), some things never change (Big Dumper)

MLB: San Diego Padres at Seattle Mariners Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

A debut is a juxtaposition. Youth face-to-face with age, experience with freshness, anxiety with composure. We attend to players’ previous life experiences more than we might otherwise: whether and where they went to college, where their family lives, hardships they faced, adjustments they made in the minors. We split our minds, thinking of the day’s game not only in context of our team’s season, but also in the context of one player’s career. For that reason, we have a little more grace to offer, more generosity. Usually we just want a good outcome, for our own gratification, but today we’ll take a good effort, for the sake of someone else.

The first six innings of this game were a juxtaposition of pitchers. The Mariners started Emerson Hancock in his afore-referenced debut. The Padres started eternal craftsman Yu Darvish. When Darvish made his professional debut in Japan in 2005, Hancock was graduating from kindergarten. Two very different proud-mom events! Tonight, both pitched like they belong in the big leagues: Hancock went 5.1 innings to Darvish’s 6, and each gave up one run.

Hancock gave up only two hits, walked three, and struck out three. Honestly, it felt like he walked more than that, probably because one came around to score (thanks to Ha-Seong Kim stealing two consecutive bases in the first inning; he stole another in the third). Hancock threw mostly sinkers (59%), averaging 93 mph— he hit a maximum velocity of 95 in the third inning, and was down to 90-91 by the fifth. This was the good version of as-advertised: good movement on the fastball, good ground-outs, not a lot of whiffs. We knew he wasn’t a high-strikeout or low-walk guy, but he had good stuff, and that stuff worked.

After the game, Scott Servais called this everything we could have asked for in a debut: five innings, just the one run, and composure with runners on base and big-name power hitters like Tatis, Soto, and Machado at the plate. He did mention that he’d like to see better command of the changeup, as evidenced in the pitch chart above. Emerson Hancock, on the other hand, was harder on himself in his post-game comments. “I have to get better, I have to pitch better,” he said, noting in particular his failure to hold Kim at first in the first inning. Hancock credited Cal Raleigh with a part in his composure, adding to the litany of praise Cal receives for his handling of the Mariners’ young pitchers and his ability to help them slow the game down and follow their plan. Hancock also expressed appreciation for the countless people in his life who’ve helped him get to this point; his parents, other family members, and hometown friends were in the crowd.

Both Servais and Hancock chuckled when asked about a fielding moment in the third, in which Hancock laid out to snag a grounder and toss it to Ty France at first. The pitching was more than enough for a successful day, but he got to impress Perry Hill too, as a treat.

On the mound for the Padres, Darvish looked as sharp as ever, effectively mixing his eight (!) pitches for four strikeouts and no earned runs in six innings. Outside of Hancock’s work, the first seven innings were more frustration than fun for the Mariners. They scored an unearned run on a single, an error, and a sacrifice fly in the third, but otherwise had either pathetically quick innings, or TOOTBLAN-ed their way out of scoring opportunities. In the fourth inning, J.P. Crawford and Eugenio Suárez collided on an infield play, hard enough that Geno motioned for the trainer the instant the throw to first left his fingers. J.P. was down for a full minute, and seemed dazed when the trainer helped him to his feet. Though he stayed in the game that inning, he was pulled in the eighth, feeling unwell. Concussion watch starts now; Servais says we should know more on his status tomorrow.

...Speaking of the eighth. Going into the bottom of the inning, the Mariners and Padres were locked in a one-one tie. Julio Rodríguez led off with a walk, and the air crackled as Eugenio Suarez came up to bat, fans roaring. When I say his strikeout was tremendous, I mean, he really went for it. But Geno going down meant Cal could come up. He worked deep into the count, fouling off two pitches before seeing a sweeper low in the zone, a pitch that punched a ripple in the space-time continuum as it hurtled toward the plate.

Remember this image from last September? “The pitch from Acevedo...”?

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

And here was today:

MLB: San Diego Padres at Seattle Mariners Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Same pitch, same result. A 450-foot home run tonight, the longest in his career. At that point, ahead 3-2, the victory felt secure. Heck, we can run through our whole bullpen with the off-day tomorrow, and a home run that majestic feels like it counts for secret extra points. But hey, we’ll take more!

The “more” came in the form, first, of Teoscar Hernández getting hit in the head by a pitch right after Cal’s homer. It didn’t look to me like the knock was intentional, but the Mariners dugout got agitated— Geno jumped the rail and looked like he wanted to charge the mound. The pitcher and both dugouts got a warning (we know this because the umpire pointed at each in succession and exaggeratedly pronounced the word “warning”... how intimidating...), and the game went on. After a Canzone ground-out, the M’s strung together four strong at bats in a row: a France double, Marlowe single, Rojas grounder on which he reached due to a fielding error, and then a Dylan Moore single. Three more runs before Julio came up yet again and flew out to end the inning.

The bottom of the ninth gave Isaiah Campell a chance to redeem himself in my personal memory (had he ever pitched well? sure. had he ever pitched well while I’m watching? absolutely not). And he did! A walk and a single aren’t ideal, but a fly-out and two strikeouts will more than suffice to leave the runners on base. And with that, the Mariners win their seventh straight game and sixth straight series, reaching ten games above .500!

There’s another juxtaposition— between the way the ownership and media talk about the Mariners, and the way the players do. From the outside, the team had relinquished the playoff chase by the All-Star Break, doing not enough in the off-season and underperforming offensively. Jerry Dipoto and the media were both talking about next year and the promise of the young players— “promise” of course being code for “not good enough yet.” According to the players, the people who actually are the Seattle Mariners, they’ve been in contention for the playoffs all along. It’s evident in particular when talking to Cal Raleigh, who answers questions with sentences that start with “Since we’re in a playoff race...” We’re starting to hear Scott Servais acknowledge the possibility as well, though he couches it in more cautious language. Both Raleigh and Servais commented today on the team’s recent ability to put together strings of quality at bats, exemplified by the eight inning tonight. I’m not quite ready to re-ingest the hope I set aside months ago, but there was a moment when the ball left Cal’s bat today. I blinked, and the roar of the crowd could have been last September’s, with everything, a whole lifetime, riding on this particular hit. As soon as I opened my eyes it was gone: no one was weeping, no droughts ended, nothing near clinched. But it did, for a split second, feel the same. Resignation face-to-face with hope, the past with the present. I’m not ready to be all in, but when they tell us they’re going for it... who am I to say no?