It’s not every season, never mind every day, when you open the bottom of the ninth in an apparent blowout, your designated hitter leads off by pulling to within eight of 600 career launches, he returns later in the inning to tie it up with a single, and the next man up hits one to the back of the yard to win it.
It’s a longtime baseball cliche that little men come up big in the clutch when you least expect it. The complementary cliche is the one about big men who aren’t as big as they look until you least expect it or you liberate them from an impossible world.
Things got this bad for the Mariners by midweek: They were hitting .239 and slugging .393 as a team. Nelson Cruz may be having a stellar season thus far but he’s the only Mariner regular with an on base percentage reaching toward .400. In fact, he looks more like Robinson Cano, their big free agency signing of over a year ago, than Robinson Cano does these days.
God knows (as does His servant Casey Stengel) that I had better things to write about on the day after Opening Days. Things like Nationals’ shortstop Ian Desmond calling second baseman Dan Uggla (yes, Virginia, that Dan Uggla) off a by-the-book popup, dropping the ball, allowing the Mets first and second, leading to Lucas Duda busting up Max Scherzer’s no-hit bid with the two run single that made the difference in the Mets’ win.
When the American League champion Royals let Billy Butler walk as a free agent following the postseason, the question became who might step into the designated hitter slot. Butler fell out of favour with manager Ned Yost when he produced too little bang for his .271 bucks. Butler got the number one job for the Royals’ staggering postseason run simply because he was there.
Adam Jones got a few Camden Yards fans a little pie-eyed—cream pied, that is. Bryce Harper plopped a personalised Washington, D.C. Fire Department helmet on his head and took selfies with teammates. Neither man had to be told otherwise that a possible Beltway World Series loomed ahead, depending upon how the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals handle themselves when the postseason launches.
Let’s have no more than absolutely necessary about the Alex Rodriguez contretemps. For now, say only that he’s managed to provoke comparisons to the end of the McCarthy era while suing his own union, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, in a filing that includes a rather nasty dig at the late executive director Michael Weiner (Weiner “falsely declar[ed] Mr. Rodriguez’s guilt and stat[ed] he should accept a suspension and resolve the Grievance at issue,” the filing charges) who urged A-Rod to make a deal rather than fight a war he couldn’t win.
There was a little is-he-is-or-is-he-ain’t talk early but that dissipated soon enough to affirm. Robinson Cano is going to Seattle. If nothing else, Washington state’s lack of an income tax makes his ten years and $240 million an even nicer payday than it would have been if the Yankees had been willing to go above and beyond their $170 million to keep the second baseman.
The Seattle Mariners may have been on a bit of a tear of late, but they’re not exactly looking for a postseason shot that they’re just not going to get. However, read carefully: the Mariners have the single most tough schedule in the American League to come down the stretch of the stretch.
The New York Yankees and their minions love to say, no matter how the Yankees might be struggling lately, that the road to the Serious still goes through the south Bronx. But for the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland Athletics, and the Texas Rangers, the road to the postseason is going through Seattle: 21 out of the Mariners’ coming final 24 games will be played against those clubs. The lone set with no postseason prospect involving the Mariners is a three-set against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Sean Rodriguez could only look as strike three dropped in on him, the second consecutive strike at which he looked after opening with two balls and swinging and missing on the third pitch of the sequence, a nasty breaking ball that was nothing compared to what dropped in on him for the finish.
Felix Hernandez could only wonder if he was really there, when this happened to him, after opening all three Tampa Bay batters he faced in the ninth with ball one, then putting on a display of finishing what he started at a level once thought the exclusive domain of a Sandy Koufax. Maybe that was why, after he dropped strike three in on Rodriguez, he raised his arms as high as he could.