A five-run lead after four and a half innings shouldn’t feel particularly secure, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t. When a team takes a five-run lead into the bottom of the fifth, they’re going to be odds-on favorites. But when the team down by five runs is the hottest team in the world, things get slippery. When the team that’s down by five runs scores five unanswered runs against an ace pitcher, it invokes words like “destiny.” But when the team that was up by five before allowing five scores two to win it late, it’s just a reminder that trying to predict a game of baseball is foolish and ill-advised. Baseball will make you look silly, time and time again.
The Seattle Mariners got started early against Kansas City Royals ace James Shields, getting a run in the first on an Endy Chavez double and the following Robinson Cano single. Hisashi Iwakuma took the mound in the bottom of the frame and struck out the side. He’s ridiculous. In the fourth Mike Zunino hit one of the bigger home runs we’ve seen this season, a solo shot to left that traveled approximately 750 feet. In the fifth Cano doubled in a run, then scored on a Logan Morrison home run. Five to nothing M’s against the best starter on the game’s hottest team.
Then Iwakuma did something weird – he fell apart out of nowhere. After striking out Alex Gordon to open the frame, he allowed a home run to Salvador Perez. Lorenzo Cain followed that up with a double, then scored when Mike Moustakas took Kuma deep. He got through the rest of the inning unscathed, though he did allow a hit and a walk. Iwakuma was pulled after allowing two singles to open the sixth, and both runners scored after Dominic Leone took over. Five to five, and the Royals are going to win the World Series. Or so it felt.
Virtually the entire bullpen chipped in in keeping the Royals from scoring again, and Lloyd McClendon deserves a big tip of the cap for the way he managed his staff in this one. Danny Farquhar made a mess in the eighth, loading the bases on two singles, a sac fly, and an intentional walk. Charlie Furbush came in and got an infield fly and a swinging strikeout to get the M’s out of trouble. Fernando Rodney also worked around danger with the winning run at the plate, but that was the bottom of the ninth, and the big deal there is that Rodney was even in position to pitch. Because the Mariners were in position to win.
Greg Holland is probably the best closer in the American League. Sean Doolittle and David Robertson just got all mad for me saying that, but Holland’s certainly not an unreasonable pick, at the very least. Holland came in to pitch the ninth. He hung a slider to Brad Miller, the first batter he faced, and the ball ended up deep in the outfield seats. It was another long, powerful home run for the Mariners, but more importantly, Brad Miller.
It’s time to stop ragging on Miller. Whatever the hell happened with those first couple months is in the past now, and now he’s just absolutely on fire. In June he’s hitting .293/.354/.500 with a .207 ISO and 134 wRC+. And he plays well above-average shortstop defense. All of a sudden, Miller looks like a superstar in the making. His season stats are pretty much ruined by April and May, but make no mistake – what we’re seeing now is Brad Miller, Awesome Baseball Player. The Mariners beat the Royals because he hit a home run off an elite closer. Logan Morrison added another run after Miller’s bomb. Mariners World Series 2014.
Chris Young vs. Jason Vargas, 11:10am start time. You know who’s off to a fine start to his season? Jason Vargas, of all people, that’s who. It would be nice to knock him around. The Mariners are great! Go Mariners!