Baseball is the most pristine and beautiful game in the history of this earth. Everything about the sport exudes a sort of natural glory that has, over the span of many centuries, proved fantastically difficult to sufficiently illustrate. But even such a glorious game as baseball isn’t free of frustrations, of course. How could it be? Frustration is an essential element to art, sport, and anything else that’s beautiful. And one could argue that there’s nothing more frustrating in baseball than a walk.
I hate walks. Watching a pitcher give an at-bat away by means of losing the strike zone is one of the most infuriating things on the planet, especially if that pitcher is wearing a Seattle Mariners uniform. And especially if there are walks, plural. But extra-especially if those walks come in the late innings of a tie game. Extra innings make it even worse. It doesn’t help if the pitcher doesn’t have great command. And if it’s the most important game the team’s played in over a decade, well, that just may go beyond frustration.
The Mariners lost tonight. Felix Hernandez held the Oakland Athletics to two runs on seven hits over seven innings while striking out eight. He didn’t walk anybody. Neither did Joe Beimel. Tom Wilhelmsen walked the only batter he faced before being pulled in favor of Charlie Furbush, who also issued a walk. Danny Farquhar pitched a walkless ninth (and got the last out in the eighth). Overall tonight, the Mariners did a good job of limiting walks.
Except Fernando Rodney. Rodney came in to pitch the tenth after Robinson Cano hit a dramatic, game-tying home run in the seventh. His night started with two strikes to Coco Crisp, but the A’s leadoff man battled back and drew a seven-pitch walk. Sam Fuld bunted Crisp to second, which prompted Rodney to intentionally walk Josh Donaldson. Five pitches later, Alberto Callaspo had himself a walk as well. Brandon Moss struck out, then Rodney threw four pitches to Jed Lowrie. Those four pitches lost the Mariners their most important game in a long, long time.
We’ll celebrate Felix tomorrow, of course. Cano’s doing fantastic, incredible things right now, and so we’ll celebrate him too. But those walks, man. I hate walks. You hate walks. The closer walked in the deciding run in extra innings tonight, and that’s the headline now, not Felix. Felix is having arguably his best September ever, when his team needs it most, and we’re going to wake up angry because of too many walks.
It sucks, but it is what it is. Oakland and Kansas City won, which puts the Mariners a full game out of the playoff picture and a game and a half out of home field advantage in the wild card game. They’re on the outside looking in, but that’s where find themselves seemingly every other day. Tomorrow they could be back in, or they could be two games out. Two games out would be pretty miserable, but we’re not there yet. We’ll deal with that if and when it happens.