Things were looking SO GOOD on Saturday! For starters, we were coming off of a win on Friday night (which I missed, in lieu of attending the Husky football game), while Toronto lost in New York at the same time to give us a CHANCE! Then, on Saturday, while Toronto came back to win it late, Baltimore lost to the Red Sox! And, what’s more, the Tigers lost in Atlanta! It was all set up! We needed to win out and have either Baltimore or Toronto lose on Sunday, and we were in a play-in game for the wild card! Meaningful playoff baseball was SO within our grasp!
Then, Hisashi Iwakuma came out, stood over me, spread his buttcheeks as wide as they would go, and dropped a huge pile of shit in my mouth he’d been holding in for three days. I know that he’s been Mr. Steady for us in a year where our starting rotation was by and large a mess (so we’re not supposed to criticize him because we’re so lucky the Dodgers failed him on his physical, thereby allowing him to return to Seattle), but it’s also okay to be pissed at the guy for failing to show up in the most important game of the season. The Win or Go Home game. This is what you get with Iwakuma! For as many terrific, wonderful starts he’s able to churn out, he gives you the exact same number of duds, with the rest a bland mix of meh games where he goes 5 or 6 innings and gives up 3 or 4 runs (in theory keeping you in the game, but it all really depends on how the other team’s starter fares).
I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but there he was, and there they were, scoring 4 runs in the third inning, immediately after we’d gone up 2-0 to set the tone. When Iwakuma came out in the fourth inning with the same bullshit – ultimately needing to be pulled to try to salvage our season – I was numb. That was it. All she wrote.
But, credit to the Mariners’ offense, they fought back, like they always do. 5-2 became 5-4. 7-4 in the top of the seventh became 7-7 in the bottom of the seventh. 8-7 in the top of the eighth became 8-8 in the bottom of the eighth. No matter what happened, we wouldn’t give up, but no matter how hard we tried, we could never overtake them!
From a bullpen perspective, Nuno and Vincent and Cishek all helped blow it for us. Typical. I’m STILL not sure Nuno ever actually appeared in a game the Mariners won, and he had a 1-1 record this season!
But, there we were, bottom of the 9th, tie game, bases loaded, two outs, with Nori Aoki – our hottest September hitter – at the plate.
There we were, bottom of the 10th, down one (forced to use Diaz an inning too much), Ben Gamel on base with nobody out and the heart of the order at the plate. Cano, Cruz, Seager.
Gamel got as far as third base, but it wasn’t meant to be.
I just have these images of heartbroken Mariners, unable to move from the dugout steps. Unable to cope with the reality before them. Another season on the outside looking in.
This is getting hard, this whole Being A Mariners Fan thing.
I was trying to remember if I felt this downtrodden back in 2014, when we were actually CLOSER to the playoffs than we were this year. In 2014, it came all the way down to Game 162 before things were set. But, in looking back, our run that final weekend was just too improbable. Too many things needed to happen, with the help we needed from elsewhere coming from teams who just weren’t good, so I never REALLY believed we had a shot (and therefore, it wasn’t as hard when we didn’t make it).
This year, we HAD help! Competent help! The Red Sox are division winners! The Yankees were in contention up until the last week or so!
(This year I believed. God help me, I believed that going into this weekend, one of those two A.L. East teams would lose two games to open the window for the Cardiac Mariners.)
Now, obviously, Sunday rolled around and both Toronto and Baltimore won their games, but those games were quasi-meaningless anyway because we were knocked out, and the Tigers would go on to lose to the Braves a second time. Do things change if the Mariners are still breathing down their necks? I dunno, maybe, maybe not, but it’s something I would’ve loved to have seen.
That game on Saturday was something else. It was intense, full of wild mood swings and shifts in momentum. Every pitch mattered. Every out counted, more than any other game we’d played this year. That WAS playoff baseball, regardless of where it fell on the calendar. Lots of pinch hitters, defensive replacements, pinch runners, yanking the starter early, blowing out your bullpen as far as it’ll go, IT HAD EVERYTHING!
And, in the end, as always, the Mariners came up just short.
I feel so sad today because I’m ALWAYS this sad when a team I love has a playoff run that’s cut short of the championship. While this “playoff run” ended with Game 161, it doesn’t hurt any less when the mind is tricked into believing what it wants to believe. I wanted so badly for the Mariners to get into THESE playoffs, that it felt like we were already there. Backs against the wall, in a Win or Go Home situation, and we lost. And we’re home. Where we’ve always been. Watching other, better teams, go on to play more important, more meaningful baseball.
15 years and counting. I’ll rant and rave later. I’m gonna be sad for now. This was a fun team to watch and a fun team to root for and it deserved better. Or maybe it didn’t, I don’t know.