One of my kids saw the 40-year anniversary patch the Mariners are wearing on their sleeves and said: “Hey Dad, 40 years of not going to the World Series.” This probably has something to do with hanging out with a cynical father for the first 12 years of his life.
I saw the patch and thought of when I went with my mom and dad and sister to the team’s first game in franchise history at the Kingdome, exactly 40 years ago today, April 6, 1977. The Mariners’ Diego Segui vs. the Angels’ Frank Tanana.
I was 19 and excited that Major League Baseball was back in Seattle after the Pilots were moved to Milwaukee following their only season at Sick’s Stadium in 1969. I don’t remember too much about that opening night, aside from the Mariners losing 7-0 and my sister being upset that she couldn’t smoke in the Kingdome.
The Mariners went 14 years without posting a winning record, finally breaking through with an 83-79 season in 1991, and now they’ve gone the last 15 years without making the playoffs.
These things crossed my mind during the Mariners’ 5-3, 13-inning loss to the Astros Wednesday night. Watching that game, as much as I didn’t want the old Mariner fan to make an appearance, there he was again, wondering how they would lose this time.
In 40 years, we’ve seen the Mariners lose more than 3,000 times. It might be closer to 3,500, I don’t know, I refuse to do the math because it’s too depressing and time consuming.
Point being, there have been a lot of Ls, and yet I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one like the latest one in Houston. How can you load the bases on walks and get an RBI walk and then not score any more runs when you have no outs and the bases still loaded against Houston’s seventh pitcher of the night?
It would have been so Mariner-like if they had won 3-2 in such feeble fashion, the highlight being a game-deciding walk by Kyle Seager. But it was even more Mariner-like to blow the lead in the bottom of the 13th after being one strike away from winning on the last two batters.
You saw what happened. George Springer deposited a fat breaking ball from Chase De Jong in the first row of the left-field seats to give the Astros a walkoff victory. The old Mariner fan saw it coming before it happened.
I felt bad for De Jong, a kid making his major-league debut in the toughest of circumstances. He was the last reliever available and he wasn’t even supposed to be there, a last-minute replacement for Dillon Overton, who was on paternity leave.
Of all the crazy things that have happened in their 40-year history, this was the first time the Mariners lost because a player’s wife was having a baby. That’s harsh, but if you wanted to be a jerk about it, maybe things would have turned out differently if Overton had been the last option Wednesday night instead of De Jong.
I truly hoped his first big-league appearance would be one he’d never forget. I pictured De Jong calling his parents after his first career save, excited and out of breath, asking his mom: “Did ya see it, did ya see it?!?!”
He was one pitch away from saving the game when Nori Aoki slapped a single to left field to keep the Astros’ two-out rally alive. Let me ask you something: when did Aoki do anything like that for the Mariners last year?
And then De Jong threw an unfortunate full-count pitch that Springer jumped on, causing a walk-off celebration by Houston and a dejected De Jong to go to the dugout for a cup of water that I’m guessing he wished was tequila.
Speaking of tequila, can you pass the bottle over here? The Mariners are 0-3. They’ve scored four runs in 31 innings and have gone 1 for 27 with runners in scoring position during the first three games of the series. After Jean Segura’s two-run homer in the fifth inning Wednesday night, they managed one hit the rest of the way, a drag bunt by Jerrod Dyson. They struck out 14 times.
I know it’s just three games, but have you seen the batting averages from the starters? Aside from Segura at .267, Robinson Cano at .167; Danny Valencia, Mike Zunino and Dyson at .154; and Mitch Haniger, Nelson Cruz and Leonys Martin at .083.
They look hopeless, but they’re not. The pitching, in particular Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton, has been very good, and in the case of Paxton, outstanding. Paxton allowed two hits in six innings, and he was replaced by Evan Scribner, who allowed two hits to the first two batters he faced in the seventh.
With his electric stuff, Paxton will be the ace of this staff by the All-Star break if not before. So there are encouraging early returns from the top three starters in the rotation at least.
And as recently as last year, we had these same here-we-go-again feelings when the Mariners started off 2-6 only to finish 86-76 and remain in playoff contention until the next-to-last day of the season.
But that old Mariner fan was back Wednesday night. He was saying “Same old Mariners” and turned his attention to Richard Sherman and the NFL draft. He was thinking of ways he could joke about the Mariners’ slogan of “Whatever It Takes.”
As in, Whatever it Takes … to fall short of expectations again.
But let’s take a deep breath. OK, now one more. We’re only three games into the season. The Mariners could still return for their home opener on Monday with a 4-3 record, carrying a four-game winning streak into Safeco Field.
But if they’re 0-7, I’ll make the call to the bullpen for the Mexican right-hander, Jose Cuervo.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.