There are so many things that the 2015 Seattle Mariners can’t do. Hit, for one. They can’t really pitch in the late innings, and the starters have been worse as of late too. They can’t field particularly well, and they can’t keep other team’s fans from overrunning Safeco Field. But for all they can’t do, they’re still capable of providing us with moments of unabashed joy. They did that today.
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The Seattle Mariners defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 6-5 this afternoon in ten innings, winning the series and moving their second winning percentage to .500. They started and ended things with a home run, and had another dramatic one in the middle. They turned a triple play! It was easily one of the more fun M’s games of the year.
Taijuan Walker has allowed a lot of home runs today, and the Blue Jays have hit a lot of home runs this year. Superstar third baseman Josh Donaldson was the second hitter Walker faced today, and he took a 2-1 fastball out over the left field fence. Go figure. But! The first M’s hitter faced by Mark Buehrle was Austin Jackson. It only took two pitches before A-Jax evened the score.
Walker’s start ended up as something of a stinker, as he allowed four runs while walking three batters, ending a lengthy streak of outings marked by excellent control. But he did strike out six in six innings, so it’s not like it was all terrible or anything. Especially impressive was his fifth inning, where he struck out Jose Reyes, Donaldson, and Jose Bautista in order. Walker’s a good kid with an ERA over five. I’d bet on him figuring it all out.
With Seattle trailing 5-3, Kyle Seager drew a seventh inning walk. This brought Nelson Cruz to the plate, which (of course) prompted the broadcasters to mention that a home run would tie it. Usually when the on-air guys call for a home run, they do not get a home run. But this time was different! This time there really was a home run! Long live Nelson Cruz, who’s season has just been too much fun to understand.
Mike Zunino had a three-hit game, and has really looked better as of late. The team has been quick to point to Edgar Martinez, who apparently is really resonating with Zunino while also changing up the way he stands at the plate. With a new batting stance, Z is starting to look less and less like a guy who needs to hang out in the minors for a while. Which is nice.
Backing up a bit, this game really got crazy in the fourth inning. To quote MLB.com’s gameday: “Ryan Goins grounds into a triple play, first baseman Mark Trumbo to shortstop Brad Miller to catcher Mike Zunino to first baseman Mark Trumbo. Ezequiel Carrera out at home. Kevin Pillar out at third.” That’s… not quite what happened, so let’s try to explain the play a little more.
With runners on first and third, Goins slapped a grounder to Trumbo, who stepped on the base for the first out. Trumbo then threw to second, having caught Pilar in an apparent rundown. But when Carrera got too far off third, the attention shifted his way and he was caught in a rundown. Miller ran over to the third base line, and Carrera tugged on his jersey while in the basepath. That’s interference, but he still ran back to third – where Pilar was just arriving. Zunino tagged Pilar, then also tagged Carrera when he fell off the base. It was wild. It was almost unprecedentedly wild.
At that point it was already a game to remember. But then things went into extra innings – not the spot you’d want to see with the ‘pen being both heavily worked and recently faulty. They made it through the top of the tenth, then sent Robinson Cano up to face Aaron Loup. He grounded out, bringing up Franklin Gutierrez. Then Guti decided to be a hero.
Loup’s first pitch to Gutierrez was a called strike. The next offering Guti swung through. The third pitch was also in the zone, and Gutierrez swung. He made contact. And he hit it over the wall in center field.
It’s the second time this week Gutierrez has been the late-inning home run hero, but this time it didn’t simply say “hey guys, I’m back!” No, this was the hit that said “I’m back and I’m good and I’m having the best damn time of my life.” Watching Franklin Gutierrez run the bases with his fists in the air was one of the most incredible things I’ve seen this year. That guy, the once-fleet center fielder who almost lost his career to unimaginable ailments? Yeah, he’s here, and he’s a hero.
Gutierrez is hitting .267/.306/.511 on the year, which is fitting of his recent MLB profile: questionable defense, not a lot of walks, stunning power. That’s who he’s re-invented himself as, and it’s made him an absolute asset. And, you know, there’s the whole thing where he came to spring training not even knowing if he was capable of playing baseball anymore. The answer is yes, he is capable of playing baseball. He’s incredible at baseball.
A triple play. A leadoff home run. A called-it home run. A walk-off home run! This one had it all, and to make matters even better is the fact that tens of thousands of why-are-you-here-how-do-you-even-exist Blue Jays fans had to watch it happen with their own eyes. The Seattle Mariners aren’t good at a lot of things, but they still know how to perform a little magic.