I went to yesterday’s game with a friend. Yes that’s right the game against the Blue Jays the Mariners managed to lose 8-6 in the ninth inning. Two terms to remember-Fernando Rodney and bullpen fatigue. Maybe one more sandwiched in between the two would be appropriate-two-run homer. In any case, though the game had its moments, it was a demoralizing, dispiriting game in which the M’s game back from a 3-1 hole to take a 6-3 lead that Rodney couldn’t hold in the 8th, and Carson Smith gave up the game winner in the 9th. There’s lots of blame to go around, but honestly I’m done bitchin’ about one game.
I turned today’s game on in the car, and missed a great deal of it. Turned it on just in time to watch Franklin Gutierrez cavorting around the bases after crushing an Aaron Loup fastball for a walkoff homerun. Game over. M’s win the series. All the skazillions of Blue Jays fans infesting Safeco Field can go home knowing your team is one game further behind the Yankees than when you crawled in on Friday.
There’s lots of things I missed today. Nelson Cruz’s 25th dinger. The amazing triple play in the 4th. The sterling performances of Mark Lowe and Joe Beimel in a too short outing by Tai Walker and ineffectual stint by David Rollins.
But what I did not miss was the sheer joy on the face of Guti as he was rounding second. I didn’t miss the excitement on the faces on his teammates as they mobbed him at home. I didn’t miss the deft evasive maneuvers by veteran post-game reporter Jen Mueller as she dodged an entire cooler of orange Gatorade sloshed onto Guti’s back.
Honestly, I don’t give a rat’s ass what anybody else did in this game, because nobody, and I mean nobody believed that Franklin Gutierrez would be on this Mariners team at all this year, let alone be the catalyst for two M’s games in one week with key home runs. He shouldn’t even be playing this game given his history of illness, injury and degenerative arthritis. The M’s went out an got Justin Ruggiano, Ricky Weeks and Mark Trumbo to be right handed bats who could platoon with Seth Smith and Dustin Ackley, and they had this guy the entire world gave up on who could play a reliable right field and hit left-handers. It’s a very small sample size but Guti has hit .267/.306/.511 with a 125 wRC+ in limited duty. He’s filled in at the corners and at DH, and he’s been as effective as any other Mariner asked to fill in those spots.
Right now there’s not a lot to celebrate for these Mariners. Yes, Cruz is having a fine season, and Felix will be in the Cy Young discussion. But this team sports major suckage. Franklin Gutierrez is a silver lining to a shitty season. No, he may no longer be Death to Flying Things, capable of playing an electrifying center field. But, dammit the man is out there getting it done in a limited role. His grand slam in Detroit on July 21st gave the M’s the winning margin in the 11-8 victory. His home run in the 10th today was the game winner.
Regardless how the Mariners finish this season, I won’t forget Guti’s moments. It’s not often a player has struggled with more physical issues than him. It’s not often after a player basically retires, they are able to come back and make a difference with their team. Congrats to Franklin, and thanks to the M’s for giving him his shot.