You can boil it down to that. The Mariners lost 2 of 3 at home this weekend to the Angels. The Mariners finished 2 games behind Boston and New York for the wild card spots. Had we swept the Angels, we would’ve been right there in a 3-team play-in situation.
It’s sad for me, more than any other emotion. Of course, I was out of town all weekend and didn’t really have access to the games outside of an occasional Twitter catch-up session, so I didn’t have to sit and watch these games. I would’ve been a wreck, I’m sure. It’s frustrating though because this isn’t even a good Angels team! They are SO injury-depleted on offense, and their whole pitching staff outside of Ohtani is a mess (and he wasn’t even slated to pitch this series once they shut his arm down). The Angels were every bit of a 77-win team, and we couldn’t beat them with our season on the line.
If I had to guess, I would’ve been a ball of anxiety and rage on Friday. That was the 2-1 loss where the offense was 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. The game started off well enough, with Jarred Kelenic hitting an RBI double in the second. But, Marco gave up a 2-RBI double in the top of the third to give the game its final score. We had ALL OF THOSE INNINGS left to go, and couldn’t do a damn thing in any of them! Marco got one more quality start to throw on the pile (6 innings, giving up 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 5), and the A-Squad Bullpen (plus Misiewicz) shut it down from there, but it sadly wasn’t enough, as the Angels were able to match us 0 for 0 the rest of the way.
That loss made Saturday’s game a must-win, literally. Either win, or the playoff hopes would’ve died that night. Things were looking good for a while, Haniger hit an RBI single in the third and a 2-run homer in the fifth to give the M’s a 3-1 lead. Flexen made it 5.1 innings, giving up just the 1 run, and once again it was A-Squad Bullpen Time (plus Misiewicz).
Only, it was Paul Sewald in the 8th who blew it! He gave up a 3-run homer to make it 4-3 Angels. Luckily, these cardiac Mariners were able to get a rally going in the bottom half of the inning, punctuated with a Haniger 2-RBI single (giving him 5 RBI on the game), and a Seager 1-RBI single to make it 6-4 Mariners. Steckenrider shut it down from there for his 14th save of the season. It was a nice effort from the heart of the order, as France, Haniger, and Seager had all 8 of our hits and 6 of our RBI in this one (as well as 4 of our 6 runs scored).
That set us up for a Sunday miracle that never materialized. We needed to win and either the Yankees to lose to the Rays or the Red Sox to lose to the Nationals to force a play-in. But, we lost and they didn’t, so that was that.
Tyler Anderson had quite a rollercoaster of a week. First, he fell on his face in that 14-1 defeat to the Angels the previous Saturday, then he heroically stepped up on Tuesday against the A’s to give us 4 innings of 1-run ball on very short rest. But, he lost it again in the season finale, against those pesky Angels who won’t seem to give him a break. He lasted all of 1.2 innings before getting pulled, having given up 4 runs (3 earned) on 5 hits and 2 walks.
It was a bullpen day from there, with Misiewicz and Swanson (of the D-Squad Bullpen) giving up three more runs in their combined 2 innings of work. The M’s made it interesting early, scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the second to make it 4-2. But, we were down 7-2 after five innings, with our rally in the sixth cut short to just a lone run. We couldn’t do anything but cry the last three innings of the 7-3 defeat.
Cry because, of course, Kyle Seager had his farewell under the most bittersweet of circumstances. I’m glad I missed that too, because I’m sure I would’ve been a puddle of tears. I’ll have more to say about Seager in the coming days. He was never my favorite Mariner (impossible with Felix around for almost his entire career), but he was always there and almost-always a reliable fixture. A pro’s pro, and he’s going to be a huge hole to fill on this team, with his veteran presence, as well as his defense at the hot corner, and his bat in the middle of the order.
I’m not one of those fans who takes solace in the journey, when the destination is more disappointment. But, maybe I’ve softened in my old age. This was a fun Mariners team to follow for 162 games. Well, MOST of those games. Over half, definitely!
Here’s the thing: I never expected this team to break the playoff drought. Indeed, I never expected them to win 90 games, which is utter lunacy when you think about it. But, even as we headed into this final week, it never seemed likely that we’d win enough – and get the help required – to force our way in.
When we lost that Red Sox series back in mid-September, that’s when the season was over in my mind. We were 78-68 and there were too many teams and games in the standings to overcome. Yet, we finished the year on a 12-4 run to end up 90-72; what a remarkable run!
But, of course, the level of competition was subpar: Royals, A’s, and Angels.
Here’s a list of our records against the playoff teams in both leagues:
- Astros 8-11
- White Sox 3-3
- Rays 6-1
- Yankees 2-5
- Red Sox 3-4
- Giants 2-1
- Dodgers 1-3
That’s an overall record of 25-28, but heavily propped up by an unlikely dominance of the Tampa Bay Rays. Against the rest of baseball, we were 65-44; almost a .600 winning percentage. I would argue the Mariners were not on that playoff level; we were one tier below. I would also argue that if we found ourselves in a 1-game playoff with either the Yankees or Red Sox (but especially the Yanks), we almost certainly would’ve lost. Yet, it would’ve felt like a tremendous accomplishment just to be there, and I’m not interested in that.
I want the Mariners to be division winners. I want them to make it to the World Series. I want them to win it all and give us what we’ve been dying for all these decades.
This team might be forgotten to the sands of time, since it ultimately fell two games short. However, if this was just the start of something HUGE, we might look back at the 2021 Mariners as one of the great What If’s in franchise history. Either way, there seems to be tangible evidence of … something happening here. We could always Mariners it up and see everything fall apart, but I’ve been wrong before.
What’s certain is this: expectations will go through the roof in 2022. That starts with this offseason. It’s not unfair to immediately set our minds into Next Year Mode as fans. That means pleading with this organization to finally spend money on bona fide All Stars in trade and free agency to fill in around the talent already here.
2021 was a big success in many ways. We won 90 games, we played “playoff baseball” for the last two weeks of the season (for all intents and purposes), and we learned a lot about the young core of this organization. As the offseason begins, I’ll be writing about those guys a lot. The young core who stepped up and asserted themselves as cornerstones, as well as the young core who fell apart and should be dealt away posthaste.
This is going to be a FUN offseason! I can’t remember the last time a baseball season ended and I wasn’t simply relieved for it to be over so I could focus on other things. This is the first time I’ve ever wished the next season could start tomorrow!