The Mariners have rarely been a team that feels like good things come naturally. We all want good things to come naturally, of course. They seem to come so naturally to other people and other teams.
The feeling, which isn’t particularly pleasant (literally), most often arises while scrolling through social media or listening to someone describe their exploits. You’ll see someone who just bought a house, or hear someone talk about the promotion they just won, and the feeling comes. Call it envy, resentment or jealousy: it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, it’s a horrible pinch in your heart as your mind tries to convince you that something could be seriously and fundamentally wrong with you, which has kept you from realizing those things.
Of course, that feeling doesn’t hold up after a few seconds of lucid reasoning. You see the new house on social media, but not the mortgage at 7% interest for a fixed term of 30 years. The promotion sounds great, but those 70-hour work weeks don’t sound great.
The problem is that the analogy doesn’t exactly hold when you try to apply it to the Mariners. Trust me: I’ve tried every cognitive gymnastics in the book in an attempt to justify how my Mariners fandom will begin to pay off on my investment. Oh, those other teams had to spend $200 million to win the World Series. Not my money. Alright, well, they had to tank to get there. Sure, but they got there.
The adaptation turned inward as the Mariners fell further and further back in the standings. Their schedule strength was really tough! Their xwOBA was much higher than their overall wOBA! The bullpen will knock him down! Et cetera, et cetera.
This month was the first litmus test of the first assertion: that the Mariners will look better when they start playing against worse competition. Unfortunately, that didn’t go over well against the Oakland A’s last week, as the Mariners dropped the series to their pitiful Bay Area rivals.
This series was therefore a must-win by any stretch of the imagination. Injuries be damned — if the team can’t win against the Orioles who still live in the basement, they’re probably not going to move this season.
After a Game 1 win, yesterday’s slump turned into a rubber game today that probably looked like a joke to most Major League Baseball players, but felt like a joke. urgent importance for its implications for Jerry Dipoto’s upcoming State of the Team Address (if only).
It didn’t start very well. A Jesse Winker TOOTBLAN cost the Mariners a run in the first inning, and Chris Flexen continued a worrying streak of poor command as he gave up a series of singles that gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead.
Luckily, the Mariners’ opponent has been the fucking Orioles of Baltimore, after all. Taylor Trammell continued her stellar start to the season with a brace to start the third inning, and a single from Winker brought it home. Later, with Luis Torrens on third base, Julio Rodríguez once again showed his speed by stealing second and forcing a throwing error that allowed Torrens to score, tying the game at 2-2.
More gross singles and doubles late in the third made the game 3-2, Orioles. On that note, it’s striking how different it is to watch Logan Gilbert, George Kirby or Marco Gonzales, compared to watching … any other Mariners pitcher. The Logan/Kirby/Marco experience is fun. Any other caster’s experience ranges from milquetoast to actively harmful to a watcher’s health.
Luckily, the M’s finally put together a big run in the sixth. Three straight singles from Julio, JP Crawford and Eugenio Súarez finally set the stage for a sacrificial fly by Adam Frazier and a two-RBI Torrens single to put the Mariners up 6-3.
The most frustrating thing about the 2022 Mariners, unfortunately, has been their propensity for skipping tracks. Tonight’s bullpen goat was Matt Festa, who recorded one (1) out, two (2) batters and one (1) hard-hit double. Weft. Paul Sewald was called in to limit the damage, but an unfortunate brace from Cedric Mullens allowed his two legacy runners to score and level the game.
Of course, with the game now even, both relievers began to look exemplary. Sewald threw another round of pristine relief, and Andres Muñoz did the same. Two amorphous Orioles relievers kept the Mariners off the board for nine years, and we went to extra innings. As has been the case with every game so far this season, the Mariners’ season was on the line.
Adam Frazier started the tenth by crashing down the right side, allowing Súarez, who tonight was playing Manfred Runner, to advance to third base. Not that it mattered. Abraham Toro, who also had some exemplary plays at third base tonight, hit the first fastball he saw deep center.
A less dead ball could have carried more than the 411 feet this one did. Eighteen other baseball fields would have allowed him to escape from their walls. But even though he didn’t quite go over the fence, the ball went past Cedric Mullens’ outstretched glove. Ricocheting off the top of the wall, the ball penetrated far enough into center field for Toro to reach third base with a triple RBI.
The Mariners, unfortunately, were unable to score Toro from third base, so the Orioles got their shot in the bottom of the tenth with the game-tying Manfred Runner at second base.
It would have been a draw, anyway, if Diego Castillo hadn’t kicked off the game of his season so far.
Two sliders, a fastball and a final slider to Austin Hays resulted in a swing and a miss for the third strike.
Five straight sliders to Ryan Mountcastle ended in exactly the same way.
Adley Rutschman, to his credit, had enough discipline to work a 3-0 score against Castillo. Castillo fought back, however, eventually inducing a line drive in the change to seal the game and block the abomination that is the Manfred Runner at second base.
It was how the Mariners scratched, scrambled and gave it their all just to earn a 7-6 win and a 2-1 series win over one of the worst teams in the league.
As with any Mariners game, it didn’t matter. Gone is my angst about the implications the game had for the rest of the Mariners season, or what the way the game played out said who the Mariners were as a team. These are the thoughts that tend to fester throughout the day, in the hours leading up to the actual game.
No, as Abraham Toro smiled in his postgame interview, I had neither the urge nor the energy to care about the fancy new homes the Dodgers and Mets live in, or the shine that the Rays seem inherently gifted.
I was, as they say, just happy to be here.