In some ways, it was a team effort. Chris Young had to do his part, as did Charlie Furbush and Fernando Rodney, in order to put the Seattle Mariners in a position to have a fighting chance. Justin Smoak had to be on base, as did Robinson Cano and Corey Hart two innings later. The whole awful last week-plus needed to happen, just for there to have been a streak that needed snapping. But in the end there was an eight game losing streak, a ninth-inning deficit, and Kyle Seager. Most importantly, there was Kyle Seager.
You didn’t miss reading about the Mariners the last few days. At least, I hope you didn’t. After the debacle in Miami, this current series against the Houston Astros got out to as bad a start as possible as the Mariners were drubbed on Felix Day. Tuesday didn’t go any better, and I tweeted this. Despite the hopelessness clinging to the team, I bet I’m not the only one here who somehow found myself watching the AL’s two worst teams yesterday afternoon. Because, you know, the Mariners have the second-worst record in the league. But there’s still a worse team, and there almost wasn’t. That’s why you’re reading this: the Mariners won.
They won in spite of themselves. Jarred Cosart throws hard and was once a top prospect, but he’s never been even so much as decent in the majors. Against the Mariners yesterday, Cosart was decent. He stayed in the game all the way up until that first Seager home run, the one in the seventh inning with an out. Heck, Houston even let Cosart face the next batter after Seager, but that’s probably saying more about Nick Franklin than it is Cosart. Franklin, by the way, was rightfully demoted to AAA after the game. Coasrt walked three and struck out four, allowing four hits. He wasn’t good, per se, but he kept the Mariners scoreless for six-plus. That’s infuriating, since he sucks. And since, you know, the Mariners had lost eight straight.
Chris Young was an exaggerated version of Cosart. Young threw seven frames with five walks and six strikeouts, even matching Cosart by allowing a homer (Chris Carter solo shot) and four hits. He also allowed a two-run double off the bat of Jason Castro in the third, at which point nine straight felt like a certainty. Furbush and Rodney, who pitched the eighth and ninth, respectively, had identical lines of a hit, a walk, and a strikeout. As futile as this game may have felt after the Castro double, this is still the Astros we’re talking about. Their records may be uncomfortably similar, but the Mariners are still clearly a much better team than the Astros. Everyone is clearly a much better team than the Astros.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Justin Smoak dropped a single into left. This brought up Seager, struggling through a month in the six hole and inspiring coast-to-coast worry as one of the game’s bright young talents seemed to have suddenly fizzled. Seager watched strike one, then swung through strike two. He fouled the next pitch off before taking a ball. He fouled one off before looking at balls two and three. Then a foul, then a foul, then a foul, all with good wood. The eleventh pitch was again hit hard, but this one stayed fair. It sailed way out to right and left the yard, bringing the Mariners within a run. “They’ll waste this,” we all thought, “but that was awesome.”
Josh Fields was a busted reliever picked in the first round by Bill Bavasi’s front office. He was traded to Philadelphia, where he flamed out and ended up in Houston, as hard-throwing former prospects always do. He’s now the Astros closer, and while he’s not very good, he has the Mariners’ number. Fields allowed short fly ball singles to Cano and Hart, which in and of itself is not surprising since Cano and Hart are good hitters. Smoak struck out, bringing Seager to the plate with an out and two on. He didn’t waste any time this time around, smacking the first pitch he saw and putting it right where he did the last time around. The two most recent pitches Kyle Seager has seen in MLB action were near-identical home runs. Five RBI, walkoff win, streak snapped. All hail Kyle Seager.
Now that the streak is over, everything can start to feel normal again. Before the streak the Mariners had played twelve games and seemed like a perfectly acceptable baseball team. Now they’ve played twenty-one games and seemingly have had all their flaws exposed. Nobody’s kidding themselves anymore: this team is an extreme longshot to make the playoffs. This team isn’t even all that likely to contend next month. Projections called the M’s a .500 team, give or take, and now the team’s five games under .500 because of underperformance and injury. Yeah, sounds about right. They’re also not going to be Astros 2.0, as it was so easy to believe during the streak. The M’s are something. What, exactly, we don’t know yet.
Today’s an off day, and we go into it on a sweet note. A struggling player delivered a pair of key homers, and he just happens to have been the best player on the last two Mariners teams. The roster is going to undergo a bit of a shakeup, as Erasmo Ramirez is expected to join Franklin in Tacoma. Ramirez can go down because the M’s don’t need a fifth starter for a while, meaning Erasmo can get his needed AAA work in while we wait for Hisashi Iwakuma. In place we’re likely to see a reliever and Cole Gillespie, a 29-year-old outfielder who has been Tacoma’s best player so far. The team just did something good, but the team’s also recently been sooooo bad, and changes are coming. Excitement is back, sort of.
Next up is a three game home series against the Texas Rangers. Robbie Ross, Colby Lewis, and Matt Harrison will pitch against Roenis Elias, Felix Hernandez, and Brandon Maurer on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. How are the Rangers doing, you ask? Pretty good! Despite a host of serious injuries to stars like Adrian Beltre and Derek Holland, the Rangers are 14-8 and currently lead the division after a three-game sweep of the Athletics. They have a negative run differential, but so do the division-leading Detroit Tigers and the division-leading New York Yankees. It’s April. Things are still weird. Today is weird because there’s no baseball. But all that means is that Kyle Seager is somewhere in Seattle, waiting for you to find him and give him a weird hug. So go find Kyle Seager, and give him a big, weird hug. Because you love the Mariners, you weirdo.