Overall, it was rough week of watching baseball, friends. Before yesterday, the Mariners opened the 2016 season at home and proceeded to lose five consecutive games. Those games were mostly characterized by our deflated and incoherent offense, punctuated by some actual decent pitching, general frustration and a whole lot of “DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAEEE-HO”.
The fun was hard to come by in the last 5 and a half-ish games. Mariners hitters could not seem to hit off pitchers that were not named Sonny Gray. A certain newspaper reporter published impertinent accusations of Mariners fan loyalty in the form of a “market study”. Fans were questioning the unique excitement they had built up through the off season and Spring Training, wondering how these new shiny human baseball players could be different from the ones they had seen in the past.
Games 4-6, the series against Oakland. We lost all three games. We saw pitchers Taijuan Walker and Nathan Karns make their first starts of the season. Felix Hernandez made his second. He spun a masterpiece, but the narrative for the rest of the team remained familiar. Remember that “loyalty” report I mentioned? It was published right after this series ended. Call it a editorial troll job, trying to add salt to a decade-old wound, or just plain mean. Twitter was angry. Fans were indignant. This need to blame someone or something for these losses was fulfilled the familiar adage, “Same Ol’ Mariners”. It was comfortable, it was easy to fall back on, it was normal.
Games 7 and 8 were weird. We were struggling to C that Z and string together any type of formidable hitting sequences. The Rangers seemed to track down anything and everything that the Mariners hit. The only type of offense in those two days came at the hands of three Nelson Cruz RBI (double + 2-run home run), in a 7-3 loss to Texas. The Mariners were shut out the next day 8-0 at the hands of Derek Holland, and a guy named Adrian Beltre (and the rest of the Texas offense). Tuesday was just a bummer to watch, but at least I got some helmet nachos out of it.
Game 9. A Wednesday day game, middle of April, 5-game losing streak. I heard the phrase “this is a must win game,” a must win, in the first week and a half into the season. While thats extremely premature, it did accurately describe the panic that some fans were experiencing. What if we just keep losing? We can’t be bad forever, right? Trade Cano! Trade Cruz! It was straining to think that fans had given up that early. Then comes Wednesday afternoon…
Taijuan Walker’s solid pitching performance was lost in happiness of the walk-off. There was also a moment he had some words for Laz Diaz, and it was awesome. The first and the second go by with no score. Adrian Beltre scores the first Texas run of the game on a 2-out, 2-2 count in the bottom of the third. In the Mariners half of the 3rd, Nori Aoki gets on base for the 8th game in a row and Seth Smith and his legs pick him up with a single. Smith advances to second on an error by Delino DeSheilds, but was stranded to end the inning.
2016 AL MVP (I still believe, sue me) Robinson Cano comes back from a 5-game hitting slumber and his first Safeco Field home run of the season (5th overall). Mariners have their first lead since the Nelson Cruz 1st inning double on Monday. However since we cannot ever have nice things, the Rangers tied it on a Delino DeSheilds home run in the 8th.
A tied game and the second extra inning game of the season, set the stage for Dae-Ho-Lee-st-of Grails. Everyone’s current favorite Korean comes in as a pinch hitter for first baseman Adam Lind. He crushes the third pitch he sees, an elbow-high 97 MPH fastball over the left field bullpen:
Now, now, isn’t that better? Everyone is happy. Look at Kuma’s face, look at Miley cheer, it’s all going to be okay.
One win will not erase the crappy feelings obtained after a 1-5 homestead, but this win does allow us Mariners fans to do a few things. It allows us to take a much needed deep breath and understand that this one end of a bad spectrum that will even out. The Mariners will not sustain the offense they showed us in Texas, but the offense will also not be as bad as it was the last six games. Our bullpen is really not all that bad, they just gave up really untimely home runs when the Mariners could not reciprocate the runs.
I know everyone out there in Mariners dedicated cyber land wants this team to be good. We saw different and the new, and got excited for the possibility of winning. It hurts right now because the losing is so recent. The season is young, y’all. Don’t give up on being a fan because it’s easy to hate the losing. Don’t go back to the comfortable, and remember that theres still 153 games of fun to be had. Go Mariners.