It was a tough night to follow Mariners baseball. The first presidential debate was on the tube and the wonderfully talented Missus Smyth insisted I watch it with her. I was able to check in on the first couple of innings, and was gratified to see the M’s were up on Nellie Cruz’s ground out, but then I went into a debate-imposed baseball blackout mode until about 7:45.
When I was able to tune into the game, the Mariners were up 3-1. Robinson Cano hit his career best 34th home run and James Hoyt managed to botch Ben Gamel’s bunt to score Ketel Marte. I walked in on wunderkind Edwin Diaz’s ninth inning.
Sometimes I wonder why I turn on the television. I often feel like me watching the M’s is a curse. They’ve lost the last four games I’ve attended at Safeco, including two that ended important win streaks. I was there the night Fernando Rodney crashed and burned against the A’s in 2014, essentially ending the M’s hopes for post season play. I am strychnine, I am the kiss of death, I am the evil eye.
And so it went for Diaz. A few bloops, bouncers and bleeders later, the score was tied, the save was blown, and momentum shifted to the home team. The game was on the line, and the M’s, so sensitive to atmospherics all year long, might have slipped into a season-ending funk.
But Drew Storen managed to dispose of the Astros in the tenth. Robinson Cano drove another second deck shot out to right. Nick Vincent held on for the win.
With the team struggling to score runs, the Mariners have had to fall back on a couple of guys to get it done. On Sunday in Minneapolis it was Cruz. Last night it was Cano. Cruz was clearly in agony with every swing of the bat. Who knows whether he can finish the season. He says he can play, but the grimace accompanying each rip at the plate says otherwise. Kyle Seager is in his September funk. Mike Zunino is back to being Mike Zunino. As much as I’m encouraged by their performances since their respective call-ups, Nori Aoki and Jesus Sucre are still just Nori Aoki and Jesus Sucre.
The M’s simply aren’t getting a lot of offensive production. Over their past 11 games the Mariners are averaging 3.27 runs per game. That includes a 7-3 win over the Astros on September 18th, and the 10-1 rout of the Twins last Friday. Those two games represent nearly half the 36 runs the team has scored since September 14th.
For almost every player on this team, each day represents the most important game they’ve ever played in. Last night with the season on the line, Cano seized the heart of this team and this fanbase and showed why he is the $240 million man. Last night he put on the blue suit and dragged his team kicking and screaming to victory. The others will have to doff their Clark Kent garb for the last six games to drag this team into the playoffs, and find a blue suit of their own. The cape is optional