And so we head into the All-Star Break and baseball takes a three-day holiday. For reasons I can’t really articulate, it feels like the whole world is going on holidays for the next little while; I woke up thinking about how odd it was that CBC’s morning programming was exactly like any other weekday. But, of course, it is exactly like any other weekday because it is any other weekday.
This was a good game. No, scratch that. It was a great game. How much did I love it? I loved it very much. I don’t want to go so far as to say it was the best game I’ve seen all year, but it was pretty damn close. I was watching this one on KSTW and on Fangraphs at the same time, as well as continually hitting refresh at USSM, and for some reason I felt much more connected to the game than I usually do when the game’s on TV. (Three different information sources at once will probably do that to you.) The see-saw back and forth, then the bases loading, then Ibanez’s bases-clearing double, and the brawl that followed… it was great baseball. No, scratch that too: It was great entertainment, a fun, wild, crazy game and a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The great performance by Ellison was just icing on the cake — I’ve hardly been one of Ellison’s bigger defenders, and frankly I doubt the club would miss him were he DFA’d, but it was a great day for him, and a pleasure to watch.
That’s not why I’m writing this, though, why I’m trying to record this so I remember it. This was the first game in a long time where I never really worried about the Mariners being able to win. Even after Seattle lost the lead, after Ellis singled and two guys scored on Beltre’s error, I somehow knew we were going to pull it out — because we’ve been pulling these out all season, and while we’ll always have screwed up plays and bad games, I felt somewhere inside of me that this wasn’t to be one of those bad games. And though I couldn’t have predicted how it was going to get pulled out of the fire, it was, and we won, and I was deliriously happy for the rest of the day.
It’s an interesting feeling. I haven’t felt that way about the Mariners since 2002, maybe 2003 if I’m feeling charitable. It is almost the exact opposite of what I felt on a regular basis last season — “we may be up by five runs in the bottom of the seventh, but don’t worry, they’ll find some way to fuck it up” — and the worst part was that feeling was confirmed more often than not. This season has been different. I went into it with the sense of impending doom, that it was going to be another losing season, another year of futility, another six months of watching the Mariners screw up and play bad baseball, and that hasn’t happened yet, in spite of the shitty trades and frankly awful performance from some players. Sure, there that pair of obnoxious six-game losing streaks, but the losing stopped, and there’s also been a couple of fairly long winning streaks, too. I no longer have this lingering fear that the bullpen will cough up a bunch of runs and turn a W into an L, though a lot of that has to do with Mateo being gone. I realize that I am now going into every game with the expectation that the Mariners will, if not win, then at least give the other team a very good run for their money, and that’s something I haven’t been able to say for at least four years, maybe five.
To be clear, there are still problems with this team. There are still 77 games left, and we have many questions about starting pitching and the vortex of suckitude they call Jose Vidro. But Adam Jones in Tacoma will help — this is a matter of when, not if, and sooner, rather than later — and probably help more than most think. And really, in spite of the problems that have, in all fairness, been there since the beginning of the season, they’re 13 games over .500, 2.5 back in the West, and unless the team collapses in some kind of dramatic and horrifying way… well, part of me thinks it may still be too early to think about that.
But we’re here, at the All-Star Break, and the team is still in contention. In no way are the Mariners out of it. After that last six-game losing streak I thought for sure we were toast, but then the Angles got swept by Kansas City (!) and we reeled off a host of wins, and suddenly we’re nipping at their heels with half a season left. The second half is going to matter, in a way that it hasn’t in a very long time, and I have a feeling it’s going to come down to those final weeks in September, and maybe particularly the double-header in Safeco… and when was the last time you could say that?
A second half that matters. A real penant race. Who’d have thought?