The last time I wrote about the Mariners, I was basking in the excitement of an Opening Day win. Felix Hernandez was his usual dominant self and the bats, surprisingly, found ways to support him. Since then, the M’s have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride. Seattle dropped the last two games against the Angels. That weekend, they took two out of three from rival Oakland – both wins coming in extra innings – and a collective sigh of relief rolled through Seattle.
The ride was right back down the following series, as the Mariners were swept by the Dodgers. Sure, those games were played in LA and Vin Scully’s boys are looking really good, but there were some hard lessons learned. James Paxton looked bad, coughing up five of the Dodgers’ six runs, an omen of things to come. The next night, Fernando Rodney‘s arrow landed dead center in the heart of Mariners fans everywhere. I knew we were getting a cardiac closer a couple of years ago in Rodney. By the time Friday night’s game had ended, the M’s were the proud owners of their first four game losing streak to go with a three game skid within the first ten games.
All the sanguine attitude afforded by such a successful Opening Day win had been obliterated. That may sound a bit dramatic (yes, I’m listening to The Dramatics right now), but it is directly informed by the 13 seasons of futility preceding last year. Thankfully, a healthy and presiding King Felix returned to his court on Saturday and stomped the Rangers, aided by middling, yet timely run support. While Felix doing what he does always lifts our gloomy Pacific Northwest spirits, those seem to be only fleeting moments. Once every five days, we feel like our team is going to win. It’s those other four days we’re iffy on.
Sunday, the Mariners rolled out their cream, yellow, and blue alternate home jerseys; possibly the best looking uniform they’ve donned since Ken Griffey Jr. was still being groomed in Bellingham. Would this new look divine a new direction for the stumbling 2015 Mariners?
As a quick aside, it should be noted I only saw bits and pieces of this game, as I only have MLB.TV to watch games. We all know the blackout restrictions. Luckily, I was on my way over to my friends’ place to help them prepare the nursery for their first kid. They have cable, so we were able to slowly work on the nursery’s new look while taking breaks to churn our stomachs in front of the game.
I’m not going to give you a full game recap, you (hopefully) have already collected that information for yourself. Mariners fans lost hope of a two game winning streak after Paxton (and the defense) again stunk it up with a seven run 3rd inning (only two earned). What is most important was the Mariners ability to keep digging themselves out of a hole, twice erasing 5-run deficits. Apparently, as wobbly as Seattle pitching is in the early going this season, Texas pitching is even worse.
So, there we are, my buddy and I, covered in sawdust and sweat and plopping back down in front of a 10-9 game in the bottom of the ninth. Brad Miller‘s stirrup socks lace a single into right. Good start, but he’s followed by Logan Morrison, who flies out to center. Both of us are slightly rocking back and forth on the couch; we’re anxious sports fans. Seth Smith, who’s come back to earth from the heavens since Opening Day draws a stylish and well-earned walk. Runners at first and second. No offense to Tigers fans, but we here in Seattle still have not completely warmed up to Austin Jackson. Lest you forget, he didn’t exactly impress in 54 games last year with a skinny .229/.267/.260 slash line. With a lead-off home run and his ninth inning, game-tying single in the ninth, his approval rating eclipsed George W. Bush’s second term average.
My buddy and I relaxed, in a manner akin to someone about to be waterboarded with the promise of steak dinner afterward. Next up, Rickie Weeks flies out to center, but too shallow to score Seth Smith. Neftali Feliz is given four fingers; Robinson Cruz is intentionally walked to get to Nelson Cruz (who already had a two-homer game!!). Bases drunk.
My buddy and I spend the next 73 seconds explaining to his wife why the conventional baseball wisdom dictated that call. Sure, Cano generally hits for higher average and better, more consistent contact than Cruz, a prototypical slugger. Sure, a righty-lefty matchup is ‘less desirable’ than righty-righty. It made enough sense, but it made us clench up all over. Cruz was certainly more prone to striking out and sending the game into extra innings.
The thought of extra innings reeked with the fear of Fernando Rodney firing another errant arrow. Add to that the fact that Feliz hadn’t blown a save since last August 3rd and nervous isn’t even the right word for it. After wasting a few good pitches on foul balls, Nellie made them pay with a rocket of a single in between third and short that allowed Smith to cruise home without a slide. We lost our minds. Maybe they can learn to consistently win games within the traditional 9 innings after all?
Whatchya see, is whatchya get!