As the Earth proceeds along its path around the sun again and tilts on its axis just so, we humans lean on millennia of nature's training and subconsciously begin to take note of a few annual bellwether moments. The first day where the Texas sun doesn’t feel like it is trying to murder the pesky planet that won’t stop flying around its head. The arrival of the first pumpkins at the grocery store. Six Flags going to a weekends-only schedule. And the moment where the spirit of the Seattle Mariners snaps clean in two.
It just so happens the Rangers were in town for the festivities this year. The big moment came in the top of the first inning of Texas' 4-2 win on Thursday night, a win that completed a sweep that vaulted the Rangers right back into the AL Wild Card conversation. Here’s how it transpired:
With Seattle’s tall flame-throwing left-hander James “Big Maple” Paxton on the mound and Delino DeShields already out on a bunt attempt that failed, Shin-Soo Choo laced a single up the middle. On the very next pitch, Elvis Andrus swatted a single of his own into left field. Two pitches later, Adrian Beltre’s blooper into right loaded the bases. Paxton was still just eight pitches into the game.
After Joey Gallo struck out, Carlos Gomez came to the plate. Gomez had a pinch-hit double that sparked the game-winning rally in Tuesday’s game, but this was his first start since suffering a high ankle sprain on September 9th.
Of course the game would test him at the earliest chance. Typical Baseball.
Gomez swung hard at the first pitch and missed, then watched a ball go by to even the count at 1-1. He fouled off a couple of pitches, and then at approximately 7:19 local time the little man who lives in the little cottage at the top of the Space Needle opened his tiny little door, and walked over to the ledge. With a voice incommensurate to his size, he bellowed out his yearly proclamation: A CURSE UPON YOUR SWELMET. THE GLOOM IS NIGH AND SUMMER IS DEAD. 12TH MAN BAM BAM 12TH MAN BAM BAM GO SEAHAWKS”.
Gomez swung hard and the ball left the bat at a hard-but-not-impossible 96mph, due directly Kyle Seager-ward. But it landed just short of its destination, and when it bounced, the third baseman–oft a thorn in the Rangers side–was unable to wrap his glove around it. The rebellious orb caromed into left field, and both Choo and Andrus scored. It was 2-0 Rangers, and from that point forward, the Mariners seemed to be in shock, swinging the bat at what seemed like every pitch Cole Hamels threw, while their eyes vacantly stared into the distance as if the little old Space Needle man had betrayed some promise that this would be the year he finally ceased his tradition.
That’s not to take away from Hamels’ performance. The lefty went into full Ace Mode, striking out eight and allowing just three hits (two of them singles by Jean Segura, who evidently was not present at Grandpa Space Needle’s Spring Training Pep Talk of Lies) and the other a solo home run by Nelson Cruz. Hamels had full control of both off-speed pitches tonight, and when you put an ace in a playoff chase up against a listless and half-present team, these are about the results you expect.
After the annual wreckoning, the remaining runs all scored via solo home runs. Adrian Beltre, still operating on a left hamstring made of literal ham and string, hit his in the top of the sixth. Choo added one in the seventh, and then after Cruz’ seventh-inning shot, Robinson Cano squared one up against Keone Kela in the ninth. It was the 300th of Cano’s career.
This all would have been simpler if the Mariners had been ripe a week ago instead of shaking the last fits out of their 2017 season and winning three of four from the Rangers in Arlington, but–while the little man that lives in the little cottage at the top of the Texas Skyscreamer has cracked his door a couple of times in the last few weeks–he has not emerged yet to yell his dreaded “HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS”. And so we continue to watch and see if the improbable is indeed possible.
With the win, Texas holds pace with the Twins, who also emerged victorious today. The Angels, however, lost to Cleveland, and they are now tied with Texas at 2.5 games behind Minnesota.
Tomorrow, Texas begins a three-game set-to with the Athletics, who are 69-83 this season, but 6-6 against Texas. Nick Martinez and Kendall Graveman get started at 9:05 Texas time, and it is my pleasure to inform you that Friday’s game will be the last one of the season to start at such an ungodly hour.