Every season has them. Well, at least every Mariners season has them. Losses that cling to your memory, as chilling as yesterday’s Minneapolis air. The Double TOOTBLAN, LollaBlueza, LollaBlueza 2, “Mariners 14, Cleveland 2”, Mike Greenwell’s Eight RBI, and on. In the course of 162 games, it’s almost impossible to get through a full baseball season without a loss the feels like five or ten.
So it was yesterday against the Twins. James Paxton, undeterred by America’s Bird or its midwestern chill, was near the 2017 version of himself. He touched 98 with his fastball, he sat 94-96. He mixed in the curve, and cutter effectively. He looked like an ace. But in the sixth, up 2-0, on a 1-2 count, a curveball to Miguel Sano split the plate at thigh level.
For Sano, who is built like the War Rig in Fury Road, to hit a home run really only two factors are necessary: The ball must go in the air, and the bat must not break. Actually, two is more of a recommendation than a requirement. Anyway, both those factors aligned, a no doubt very polite Minnesotan got themselves a souvenir, and it was 2-2. Paxton was done.
From there, well, you know how these things can go. Dan Altavilla gave a up a bomb to Mitch Garver, who had never dingered in major league baseball before that moment. The Mariners went 2-17 with runners in scoring position, which is a big loud “REGRESSION” klaxon, but also when a large number of your high leverage at bats are going to David Freitas, Mike Marjama, Ichiro Suzuki, and Ryon Healy, you’re most likely going to struggle.
It was a bad loss, and the kind a team with a roster whose best case scenario is fringe Wild Card contention can afford precious little of. But also, losses like this are an inevitable part of the long season. Today is another off day, which is hilarious both because it’s their third in the first eight days of the season, and that after having their starting pitchers combine for nine innings the past two games, they could actually really use it.
The first few days of the baseball season are a euphoric experience. Baseball’s simple existence transports fans to a borderline rapturous state of ecstasy. This is good and fun, but it’s also much the opposite of the baseball season’s modus operandi. The baseball season is about routine, and habit, steadiness, and the long game. We’re starting to get into it now, with the Mariners showing both their best and, the last two days, their worst. The season will be defined on them being about 53% one, and 47% the other. It’s a beautiful, frustrating, thrilling thing. Stings like yesterday’s make the sweet days much sweeter. Let’s just hope there’s more of them, and fewer stings.