About an hour into the game last night, I texted my brother, “God damn fucking worthless ass Miley …”
It couldn’t have been much later than the first inning, but of course we were already losing 4-1. On the heels of the previous day’s meltdown with Paxton, Miley was trying to one-up him. So, I did what I usually do when I’m confronted with a losing Mariners effort: anything but watch more baseball. In this particular case, it involved my continuing pursuit to catch up on The Americans (no spoilers!).
As I do, I tend to have a little A.D.D. when it comes to entertaining myself at the end of the day, so I was flipping in and out, occasionally checking in on the score of the game, when I saw it was 12-2, Padres. Well! All right then! I guess I can go fuck myself, if I think there’s going to be any chance of a comeback!
When I returned to Twitter to check on the game, it was 12-7 and Robinson Cano had just been hit on the hand to load the bases. To be honest, I was more concerned that we had just lost Cano to an injury, but when he stayed in the game and it looked like he’d be all right, I have to admit, the thought of a full-on comeback intrigued me. 5 runs in the final 3 innings? That’s do-able, right?
If I’m being honest, had I stuck around and watched the whole first half of the game, and forced myself to endure beyond the 12-2 deficit, my hopes for a comeback would’ve been pretty bleak. But, 12-7 is an entirely different animal! 12-7 is like 12-2 didn’t even happen!
But it did, and that’s what makes this game so amazing.
I’ve mentioned it repeatedly, but I’ll say it again: I’m one of those knobs who first became a fan of the Mariners in 1995, during the stretch run of awesomeness. Almost right away, I went from not knowing much of anything about baseball, to trying to be the biggest super fan of them all. Before the 1996 season, I joined the Mariners Fan Club, which I want to say came with free tickets to a game, a media guide (which I still have, btw, and it’s awesome), and a bunch of other crap, for what I want to say is a pretty reasonable price. Essentially, for the price of tickets, you get all this other stuff, plus tickets.
My first-ever game that I saw in person was April 15, 1996, in the Kingdome, against the California Angels. Did I have my dad buy me a scorecard so I could learn to keep score that day? You bet I did! Do I still have that scorecard somewhere in my dad’s house? You’re damn right I better, or I’m gonna be pissed!
As you can see from the snippet of a box score I posted above, the Mariners started out that game down 9-1, before roaring all the way back to win 11-10. It was, up until last night, the largest comeback win in Mariners history. Someone named Paul Menhart started for the Mariners, went 3 innings and gave up 7 runs. Edwin Hurtado followed him – just trying to eat up some innings – and gave up 3 runs over the next 3 innings. Rafael Carmona went an inning to bridge it to Norm Charlton, our closer, who came in for the 8th inning. Once the Mariners took the 1-run lead in the bottom of the 8th, Charlton came back out for the 9th to lock it down, with the crowd (including my dad and myself) going absolutely nuts.
Last night’s game, I shit you not, was WAY more impressive. Not just because the Mariners were down an extra couple runs, but in the way we came back. Let’s go back to that 7th inning, down 12-7, with the bases loaded and 1 out. Nelson Cruz was at the plate and I want to say he saw somewhere around 11 pitches before finally striking out. That was the ONLY time, all game, where the Mariners failed to get a hit with runners in scoring position. They’d finish the game 11/12 in that category! Now, you can complain about Cruz’s at bat all you want, but even though he didn’t score anyone, or take a walk like he probably could have, I want to say he really tired the pitcher out. From there, with 2 outs now, this happened:
- Seager 2-run single; 12-9
- Lee 1-run single; 12-10
- Iannetta 1-run single; 12-11
- Romero 1-run single; 12-12
- O’Malley 1-run single; 13-12
- Aoki 1-run single; 14-12
- Aoki stole second base
- Guti 2-run single; 16-12
- Cano ground out
I mean, isn’t that unbelievable? To be perfectly honest, I would’ve settled for the 12-10 deficit after Lee’s at bat. I thought, for sure, with the slump he’s been in over the last month, that Iannetta was the easiest of easy outs. Then, when he somehow found a hole, I was DOUBLY sure Romero wouldn’t do anything. After he also somehow found a hole, it just got silly. O’Malley? Sure, why not? Aoki? Whatever, dude, get some! Guti? Shut the front God damn door! At that point, it was destiny. The Mariners would do whatever it took to keep that average with runners in scoring position as high as possible, without actually being perfect.
From there, it was a simple game of hold-on. Luckily, we had our best three pitchers in Vincent, Benoit, and Cishek, all lined up and ready to lock down the final three innings. And, thanks to the unearned run allowed by Vincent, Cishek even got the save!
With Joel Peralta’s release earlier in the day, someone had to fill the gap in the bullpen. When it comes to personnel on the 25-man roster, that spot went to Cody Martin, who was doing some starting down in Tacoma, but essentially was called up to be a warm body given all the poor outings we’ve gotten recently from our starting pitchers. He actually came in last night and pitched a scoreless inning! I didn’t see a lot of what he had to offer, but it looked pretty average to my untrained eye.
As it turned out, filling Joel Peralta’s role as Giant Turd Sandwich in the bullpen somehow, mysteriously, fell to Mike Montgomery, who came in the game immediately after Miley, and gave up 3 runs of his own, on top of a few inherited runners Miley left him. Suffice it to say, had Montgomery pitched like he’s pitched just about the entire season to this point, the game wouldn’t have been nearly as big of a Padres blow-out (and, indeed, may not have even qualified for the largest comeback in Mariners history).
Of course, the goat of the game falls on Miley himself, who – when he’s bad – is just the God damn worst. When he’s good, he’s fine, but he’s never going to be overpowering, and he doesn’t seem to have it in him to limit the damage when his stuff isn’t particularly “on”. He is, in essence, exactly who we thought he was coming into the season, and the offense is letting him off the hook by providing him with among the most run support in all of baseball.
Make no mistake, by season’s end, if we’re relying on Miley to be a third starter for this team, we’re in trouble. He can be an okay innings-eater as a back-end of the rotation guy, but he is by no means someone I want to rely upon when the games start to really matter.
In closing, I’d like to – as briefly as I can – take you back to August 5, 2001. The Mariners, in their greatest-ever season, where they would end up winning 116 games and tying the all-time record, had a 14-2 lead after the 5th inning, and proceeded to remove a bunch of starters to allow them to rest for half a game. You can see, by and large, those bench guys who came in did next-to-nothing the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Aaron Sele fell apart in the 7th, and a pretty good bullpen just totally shit the bed through the 9th. At that point, with the game going to extras, it was only a matter of time. Ichiro, Edgar, and Olerud were all pulled, but the team as a whole was just defeated.
It was, as a fan, one of my lowest points for a regular season game, in ANY sport. To have the game so in control, and then watch helplessly as it’s chipped away, until finally you’re dead in the water and there’s nothing you can do but await the inevitable … I wouldn’t wish that on many people. Last night, the game was decided in the 7th, and as Padres fans, you probably just sat there stunned for the final three innings, miserable and bitter. In 2001, the misery lasted from the 7th through the 11th innings. With each passing out, there was some hope of the Mariners ending the suffering, until finally it went to extras, and at that point, more outs were just delaying the inevitable. Either way, it’s not a good feeling.
But, in a completely different way, nearly 15 years later, did we – as Softy noted on Twitter last night – exorcise those demons? Well, technically, that was the last year the Mariners made the playoffs. And, I’ll admit, even when we were in the thick of it against the Yankees that October, that defeat to the Indians was staunchly in the back of my mind the entire time. Could last night’s game be the type of reverse-mojo THIS team needs? A team that looks to finally break the string of seasons without a playoff berth? A team that – should it break that string – might have what it takes to go all the way? Unlike a certain 116-win team 15 years ago?
Look, I’m just asking questions here. No harm in that, right?