Two hit batsmen, a balk and a stolen base in the ninth inning had the Mariners at the brink of an all-too-familiar feeling.
The stomach-punch loss. It’s a term Bill Simmons uses to describe a specifically painful type of loss. It doesn’t just hurt, it saps your strength going forward.
Mariner fans have gotten used to this feeling over the course of the past 10 years or so. Especially when Felix Hernandez is on the mound.
So when Cleveland had the tying run at third base and the go-ahead run without getting so much as a hit in the top of the ninth, the reaction wasn’t “Oh, no!” so much as “Of course.” Of course that would happen in a game where Felix pitched more than five scoreless innings, leaving with the Mariners leading 2-0 thanks to a first-inning home run by Nelson Cruz.
This is why we can’t have nice things for Seattle baseball. Closer Edwin Diaz wasn’t even particularly bad. He struck out the first batter he faced, then hit Edwin Encarnacion with a pitch that was a little too high, a little too tight. Encarnacion was replaced by Raji Davis, who was balked over to second base in a truly odd and unnecessary hiccup in Diaz’s delivery. Then that goof named Lonnie Chisenhall was bailed out of a two-strike count when he successfully appealed that a pitch hit his pant-leg, and suddenly the Mariners were poised to once again snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory.
To say we’ve seen this hundreds of times over the past few years is an exaggeration. To say we’ve seen it dozens is not. Especially in games that Hernandez pitches well.
Only it didn’t happen.
Diaz struck out the final two batters he faced, pumped his fist as he turned from the plate and the Mariners, their King and a sold-out crowd had an opening-day victory that was a little spicier than it could have been, but still exhilarating.