Playoff baseball has officially arrived for the Mariners in Seattle

Aug 11, 2022, 12:06 PM
Fans cheer after the game between the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees at T-Mobile Park on August 10, 2022. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

It’s easy to get caught up in the semantics in the rigid definition of what it means to play in the postseason when the Mariners’ playoff drought has been this long. And it is close to ending, closer than it has ever been (never tell me the odds!), but don’t let the frenzied pursuit of the finish take away from what is currently happening in front of us.

Mariners show they can win their way against baseball’s elite

I had a teacher in elementary school drop the “take joy in the journey, not the destination” quote on us and at the time, I thought that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. Obviously, you want to get to the destination as quickly as possible, right? Shockingly, it turned out that the teacher knew more than the smart aleck kid.

We just witnessed a playoff series. The month might be different, the weather a little warmer, but from the crowd to the pitching performances, the drama of playing deep into the night, and a comeback win from unlikely heroes, this Mariners’ series against the Yankees was October baseball.

There were a lot of memorable moments from those three games but to me the singular image of what this series represents came on Monday night, during J.P. Crawford’s 11-pitch bases-loaded walk. Nearly 37,000 fans on their feet, living and dying on every pitch in the fourth inning, with the agony and stress that accompanies watching a dramatic sporting event, finally erupting in a guttural roar that sprung forth from the collective soul of every Mariners fan. That singular at-bat stands out precisely because of the outcome that night. Nothing good happened after that, yet despite the loss, you have a moment that brings you to life, ignites a fervor that doesn’t exist on a normal Monday night throughout the season. Plus, the loss set the stage for what happened next.

On Tuesday night, Luis Castillo pitched like the season was on the line. In fact, every single pitcher, on both sides, who stepped on the mound that night did. There is something unique and inherently more dramatic about a low-scoring, or in this case, no-scoring game. Not all close games are built the same and when plenty of runs are scored it certainly is exciting, but nothing can match the drama of scratching and clawing for a single run.

At first it was an excited buzz, a growing appreciation for two starting pitchers utterly in control and in a higher plane of existence. It then led to a gnawing, persistent agony, perhaps stressful pacing or constant snacking, as each subsequent inning rolled on without an outcome.

Don’t get bogged down in the details, you can’t tell me that wasn’t a playoff game. Each subsequent pitcher who followed Castillo or Gerrit Cole answered the bell, elevating his performance to match the situation. The feverish desperation led to the Yankees running themselves out of innings and to plays that underscored the magnitude of what was unfolding in extras. In the end it was the unlikely hero, a prototypical character needed in every great playoff story, who came through for the win.

You need your stars to carry you on the biggest stage and the Mariners got that, from Castillo’s sterling debut to the Andrés Muñoz strikeout of Aaron Judge and Paul Sewald locking down a save on Wednesday after pitching an emotionally charged 10th inning the night before, but it also seems like it often comes down to those aforementioned unlikely heroes.

Lucky 13: Mariners top Yankees in extras for tense 1-0 win

Maybe it’s a baseball thing, with pitchers working with such deliberation to make sure the offensive stars don’t beat them, that guys like Sam Haggerty and Carlos Santana have risen to cult hero status. It was a quantifiable impact on Wednesday, two home run swings that won the game, but it’s often guys like this who provide the energizing moments that lay the groundwork for a big series win.

Encore: Mariners stun Yankees 4-3 to follow up 13-inning epic

The players on both teams made it a high-caliber affair but the fans truly elevated it to a de facto playoff series. During Wednesday’s series finale, 43,280 came out to T-Mobile Park and on Tuesday night sizzled and roared like a living, breathing entity pulled together by the connective tissue of the masterpiece unfolding before it. Castillo clapped into his glove as he walked off the field after the eighth and acknowledged the crowd after the game by saying, “The fans were excellent, yelling on every pitch, every out, every inning, the fans were amazing.”

A baseball season is a long arduous grind. It is fickle and beyond our control. The Mariners might play two more games than originally scheduled; they might play 22 more. Cherish the moments that are unfolding in front of us as we race into the great unknown.

Mariners make 4 moves, including Lewis to Triple-A; Flexen now in bullpen

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Playoff baseball has officially arrived for the Mariners in Seattle