Unless you've been invaded by a body snatcher or root for the team from the town Canadians call "Tor-UN-toe," it was impossible to watch the Mariners celebrate their historic comeback Monday night without feeling a little bit better about the baseball season, and thus life in general.
Seven runs down in the seventh inning, in the throes of a seven-game losing streak, what were the odds of the Mariners rallying for their first Safeco Field victory in 2011?
At the precise moment before Milton Bradley’s one-out home run made the score 7-1, the odds of the Mariners winning were .3 percent, or three in 1,000.
And yet, 50 minutes later, 25 guys were jumping up and down in front of 45,000 empty seats. In the middle of the mob scene was Luis Rodriguez, the utility infielder who’d concluded his marathon at-bat with a line drive launched into the right-center gap.
A switch hitter who’s got surprising pop and a versatile glove, I’m inclined to wish Rodriguez well for no other reason than his baseball card draws comparisons to the mid-1990s Edgar Martinez. The front of the card, I mean, with the photo.
But Luis, I’ve gotta be honest: Your game-winning hit, and the dash-from-the-dugout jubilee that followed it, are going to cost me several hundred hours over the next five and a half months.
Before your refusal to give in with two on and two out Monday night, the notion of the Mariners solving an apparently insurmountable deficit was, well, let’s use the thesaurus.
“Crazy” fits. So do “absurd” and “ridiculous” and “foolish” and lots of phrases associated with exclamation points: Fiddlesticks! Baloney! My eye! Tell it to the marines!
When the Blue Jays’ bashing of Felix Hernandez continued with a two-run homer in the sixth inning off the bat of Corey Patterson – his name can be found in the thesaurus listing of “journeyman” – I yelled a word containing all of consonants of “fiddlesticks!” Then went on a long walk to the store. Not to buy anything, just to take a long walk.
(Between Hernandez’s struggles and the one-pitch-a-minute pace of laborious Blue Jays starter Jesse Litsch, I had enough restless energy to sprint to Ellensburg.)
The rally culminated by Luis Rodriguez figures to change my lifestyle. Instead of turning off the TV and doing something more productive than throwing shoes across the room whenever the Mariners fall behind by several runs, I’ll be forced to sit still and wait for them to seize another opportunity with a .3 percent success rate.
I know, logic insists the success against the Blue Jays was an aberration. Since the franchise was born in 1977, the Mariners never had won a game that found them trailing by seven runs or more in the seventh inning. But they mounted a late comeback Monday night after falling behind by seven runs, while I was taking a long walk to buy nothing at the store, and because of that comeback, the team’s ability to turn 7-0 snoozers into 8-7 thrillers must be honored.
Monday was a sort of flip side to the Mariners’ infamous night in Cleveland on Aug. 5, 2001, when the Mariners exploded for 12 early runs against the Indians. After five innings, with the score 14-2 and his team executing with all-systems-go efficiency, manager Lou Piniella sensed an opportunity to give his veterans an unscheduled breather. Piniella replaced first baseman John Olerud with Ed Sprague in the fifth, Charles Gipson for Ichiro Suzuki in the sixth, Stan Javier for Edgar Martinez in the seventh.
The Indians answered with three runs in the seventh, four in the eighth, and five more in the ninth, forcing the issue into extra innings at 14-14. They won in 11. Cleveland’s comeback from 12 runs down tied a major-league record also held by the 1911Tigers and 1925 Athletics.
How weird is baseball? This weird: A 2001 Mariners team boasting an 80-30 record – 50 games over .500 – couldn’t hold onto a 14-2 lead in the seventh inning. Ten years later, a 2011 Seattle team with a 2-7 record, on pace to resume play after the All-Star break with a 20-70 record – 50 games under .500 – wins on a night it had fallen behind 7-0 in the seventh inning.
As dominant as the 2001 Mariners were, no victory could be assumed after their meltdown against the Indians. As flawed as the 2011 Mariners are, no defeat can be assumed after their comeback against the Blue Jays.
Nice hit, Luis. Congratulations are in order, but do you realize what you and your teammates have done to my summer?
Next time the Mariners are on the wrong end of a clobbering, next time I’m convinced there’s got to be something better to do than sit in front of a TV watching a dreary baseball game with a preordained conclusion, I’ll be thinking of you.