Way back on Friday night, the Texas Rangers beat the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. It was a close game, but it never really felt that way, despite the clearly inferior competition. The M’s fell behind and then sputtered, losing their fourth straight game. Season over, said the people who reallllly love to say that. Though, for at least a moment, I’m pretty sure we all felt that way.
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When Nelson Cruz stepped to the plate today in the ninth, with two homers on the day and a chance to win the game, nothing could have felt further away than Friday night. It felt like, yeah, duh Cruz is going to hit the game-winner. What else would he do in this situation? These are the Seattle Mariners we’re talking about, here. And the Seattle Mariners are awesome.
Let’s go back a day, first. Felix Hernandez is the reason that today’s game got to matter as much as it did. If Felix doesn’t do what he did last night, all this does is avoid a sweep at the hands of the lowly Rangers. But The King struck out twelve in seven innings, single-handedly dragging his team to the top of the mountain. Felix can do that. Felix did do that, just yesterday.
As fun as Felix is, last night’s game wasn’t an all-timer. Today’s game, on the other hand, was absolutely that, as the M’s overcame two seperate five-run deficits to win on the game’s last pitch. It was, one would hope, a catalystic moment much the same as Kyle Seager‘s losing streak-ending home run from a year ago. Cruz came to the plate, having already had one hell of a game, and gave the M’s a W.
At one point or another, every Mariners hitter has given us reason to feel hopeless this year. Today the lineup was bonkers from top to bottom, as everyone was getting it done and only getting better as the game went on. The only starter who didn’t get a hit was Jesus Sucre, who gave way to pinch hitter Seth Smith, who drew two enormously important walks.
The non-Sucre lineup was surreal. Austin Jackson had a homer, two singles, and a walk. Rickie Weeks had a hit and a walk. Robinson Cano had three hits and two walks. Cruz had two homers and a walk-off single. Kyle Seager had three hits. Justin Ruggiano and Willie Bloomquist each had a hit, and pinch-hitter Brad Miller did, too. Logan Morrison had a hit and a walk. Everyone contributed to this one.
On a day when James Paxton didn’t have his best stuff – or anything close to it – the lineup came together to make their starting pitcher’s crappy day irrelevant. Ross Detwiler, it turns out, was just the pitcher the M’s needed to feast on. And did they ever feast.
After this game any team would look like the best team in the game, but the Mariners especially. Their strength is pitching, remember? And the pitching faceplanted, but the hitters saved the day. To hell with the crappy performances from earlier this week – outliers, right? Must be. If this team can do this, they can do anything. They looked World Series-caliber today, which is what they were supposed to be all along.
Rose-colored glasses, of course. The M’s still have one of baseball’s very worst run differentials, and they’re still near the bottom of the division. But it’s early, and “bottom of the division” also means “one game out of first.” Robby Cano’s slow start? Yeah, he’s hitting .280. Seager’s at .283, Jackson’s at .277… this one game basically forces us to admit we’ve been acting silly for the last week. These guys are fine! They were hardly “slumping,” or whatever we were saying.
Best yet, the sun is shining and there’s a big smile on your face. The Mariners!! The Mariners did this to us, and now we get to bask in it. It might be like this all summer, you know. One can hope. But now it seems like more than just hope.