Drayer: Mariners put their stamp on playoffs with signature chaos
When the Mariners clinched a postseason berth last week in Seattle, a favorite sight of mine was seeing the team get their Wild Card T-shirts on the field during the celebration. It was an “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that on TV before” moment.
Saturday night at Rogers Centre, there was a new favorite sight: the chaos behind the scenes as the Mariners were about to pull off a different kind of chaos on the field, coming back from a seven-run deficit.
As I arrived at the staging spot for the walk-off interviews outside the Mariners clubhouse and behind the dugout in the bottom of the ninth inning, clubhouse attendants were hurriedly emptying the visiting clubhouse of sofas, exercise bikes, tables, televisions – anything that could get in the way of a celebration that would take place if the Mariners completed one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history to sweep the Blue Jays and advance to the Division Series.
In 20 years of covering this team, it was another sight I had never seen before.
This was happening.
As the clubhouse attendants worked, shouting could be heard coming from the video room as the occupants were unhappy with a ball-and-strike call on the field. Media relations reps for both the Mariners and MLB were directing traffic and determining which outlets would get which players for interviews should the Mariners win. Cameramen jostling for position to get out on the field, reporters shouting questions to others about where they were in the game, who was on the hill, and how many outs there were as the game could not be seen from the tunnel.
“Kirby’s pushing 99 out there!” one exclaimed, referring to Mariners pitcher George Kirby attempting to get the save on the mound.
“Two outs,” yelled another.
Seconds later, “Go!”
And off we went. The Mariners did the grande circle dance, took the team picture in their new Division Series T-shirts, and then celebrated on the field before heading inside for an address from the skipper – and the champagne and beer spraying, yelling, jumping, and lots of hugs that ended with beer or champagne being emptied on each other’s heads. Sure, they did this a week ago, but seeing the joy and the exaltation up close, it’s easy to understand why this doesn’t get old.
— Seattle Sports (@SeattleSports) October 9, 2022
You fight your way through 162 games. You break a 21-year playoff drought. You put your goals out there, goals that are higher than perhaps most would expect, and you take a step closer. It’s not the time to play it cool, and it certainly for this group is not the time to act like they have been there before because they haven’t.
After what we saw in Toronto, there’s little question they belong there.
Now they head to Houston with momentum. Never mind the ugly road trip at the end of September. Never mind the individual struggles some had coming into the postseason, no matter how long they lasted. You need look no further than Game 2 hero Adam Frazier to see how much that matters now.
Unlikely hero? Not at this time of the year, according to Jerry Dipoto.
“I think the thing is it starts over at zero,” the Mariners president of baseball operations said of the postseason. “It’s not about the numbers, it’s not about the paycheck, it’s not about the 162, it’s just about winning the game. We are all-in for the win every day, whatever it takes and we did it.”
And they did it in a most Mariners way – or to be more specific, in that other Mariners way.
After Game 1’s near-perfect, no-nervous-moments 4-0 win Friday afternoon, player after player explained it simply as being “Mariners baseball.” Good pitching, good defense, good at-bats leading to enough runs to win.
Sounds good, and yes, we have seen a good number of those wins. But they also have had more than their fair share of late-comeback, one-run, edge of your seat-type wins. If Friday was “Mariners baseball,” what was Saturday?
“I don’t know what to call it. Chaos ball?” shortstop J.P. Crawford said on the field after the game. “Shoot. A dub. That’s what this was.”
“I have no idea. Chaos ball,” said catcher Cal Raleigh with a laugh. “It’s amazing. I’m so happy right now. I’m even more happy we get to go home and play more baseball in front of the home fans.”
Dipoto admitted he started making plans for Game 3 when the team was down 8-1 in the fifth inning but didn’t count them completely out, and it wasn’t because of any stat.
“You always feel like you have a chance with this team because we do weird things,” he said with a laugh. “We have fun players that do fun things. When Cal got his hit (in the eighth inning), I said ‘We are going to win this game.'”
They won the game and the series, and in doing so in two games erase a bit of the advantage the Astros had as the division winner getting to sit out the first round and set up its pitching. The Mariners will get an extra day’s rest and also flexibility in setting their rotation.
On Sunday, they head to Houston.
More Mariners playoff coverage on SeattleSports.com
• Video: Highlights from Mariners’ sweep with Seattle Sports radio calls
• Recap: Mariners erase big deficit, sweep Blue Jays with 10-9 win
• Believe it! Mariners come back from seven down, clinch ALDS berth