It would be a crime to not comment on the Mariners vs. the White Sox yesterday afternoon. First, it was a pitcher’s duel through 13 innings that the Mariners seemingly had in control, even though they couldn’t do the one damn thing required to win the fucking game: push home a run. Led by Hisashi Iwakuma’s 8 shutout innings, and an offense that got on base EVERY INNING through the first 10, the Mariners failed to do what they’ve failed to do all year long: hit with runners in scoring position.
Then, in the top of the 14th, it all came unravelled. Across two relief pitchers, the Mariners gave up four hits and two walks, turning a 0-0 nail-biter into a 5-0 rout. As most of the 20,000 and change headed for the exits, it was just a matter of the Sox getting three outs from a closer who has blown only one save all year and until the month of June had an ERA under 2.
With one out, the Mariners swatted four consecutive singles from the likes of Saunders, Shoppach, Ryan, and Chavez; with Chavez’s single knocking in a run to make it 5-1 with the bases loaded. After a Jason Bay strikeout, Kyle Seager took to the plate and promptly homered to tie the game.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? We’re talking the first time anyone has ever hit a grand slam in extra innings to tie a ballgame. We’re talking about the first time a team has ever scored five runs to tie it in extras after ending regulation in a 0-0 tie. We’re talking about the kind of clutch at bat people talk about 20 years later! Remember When may be the lowest form of conversation, but I’ll be damned if in a decade – when we’re all celebrating Kyle Seager as one of the all-time Mariners greats – I’m not saying, “Remember when Kyle Seager hit that grand slam in the 14th inning to tie a 5-1 ballgame?”
Of course, it would’ve been all the more memorable had Kendrys Morales figured out a way to seal the deal in the very next at bat. But, I can’t place the blame in his lap. I mean, just tying the game was miracle enough.
That isn’t to say I’m here celebrating a “moral victory.” In the end, we still lost the game. It’s not as shameful as if we’d simply lost 5-0 in the 14th inning like we should’ve. But, one mindblowing grand slam doesn’t negate the fact that the team could’ve won this 1-0 in regulation had they simply gotten a fucking bunt down!
I know a lot of stat-heads hate the sacrifice bunt, but it’s a part of the game and I think an important part of the game. Like, when it’s 0-0 in the bottom of the ninth, your rookie second baseman hits a leadoff double, and you’re a struggling former leadoff hitter who has been dropped to 7th in the lineup. Right then? I’d say the sacrifice bunt is the most important play in all of baseball. And Michael Saunders fucking blew it. Again.
That “again” probably isn’t fair. I don’t know exactly how many sacrifice bunts Saunders has blown in his career, but I have a pretty good fucking idea of how many sacrifice bunts the Mariners overall have blown the past few years. It’s a fucking LOT! And, once again, it harkens back to the culture of losing with this ballclub. If you can’t score a man from second base with no outs when all you need is a single run, then there’s a problem in the organization and it doesn’t just stop with the president and CEO. It goes ALL the way down.
Sure enough, the Mariners would go on to lose this game in 16 innings, by a score of 7-5. Hector Noesi was the last man in the bullpen – with Tom Wilhelmsen getting the day off due to recent overuse – and he was going to continue pitching until his arm fell off. Of course, the White Sox were in a similar boat, but they had their closer in there pitching the final three frames.
People are blaming Wedge for this loss, due to his handling of the bullpen. Charlie Furbush and Oliver Perez threw a combined four pitches in getting a combined two outs. Both of those guys are capable of going multiple innings, and both of those guys are TONS better than Hector Noesi. So, yeah, I can see why people are getting on Wedge’s case. Did he think the game was going to go 16 innings? Of course not, no one ever sees that coming. You can’t necessarily manage a ballgame out of fear of going 15+ innings. Yes, you have one eye on that possibility, but your focus has to be in the moment: you’re at home, it’s a tie game, all you need is one run to win it. THAT has to be your focus: get your team to the bottom of the inning with the game still tied and see what your offense can do.
Now, had this offense struggled all game, being held to just a couple hits, then maybe you manage differently. But, the Mariners – like I said – had baserunners in each of the first ten innings! We knocked their starter out in the sixth! The White Sox went through seven pitchers before getting to their closer! Had the game gone one more inning, they were going to put Casper Wells on the mound! You had to figure the odds were pretty good that the Mariners could score ONE fucking run!
But, again, these are the Mariners. The odds are never good. Yeah, blame Wedge if you want. But, blame all those hitters who failed with runners in scoring position when the game was within reach. Blame the general manager for creating this shitshow of a roster; a roster that requires the team to carry three over-the-hill starters along with a reliever in Noesi who has no business being in the Major Leagues (among many MANY other problems on this team). Blame the ownership group that cares more about making a profit than winning ballgames. And, blame a minor league system that has failed time and time again to turn promising prospects into valid Major Leaguers.
But, don’t just blame Wedge. That’s hacky and lazy and irresponsible. You can’t say that the manager isn’t all that important, then turn around and say it’s all his fault. No, the manager ISN’T that important, but just because you don’t like him is no excuse to blame him for a loss like this. Wedge is doing the best that he possibly can with the “talent” that’s been laid out before him. Is he the guy who will lead this team to a World Series title? I doubt it; but that’s only because I think the organization is poised for a total housecleaning and he’ll be swept into the gutter with Jackie Z and the rest of these losers.