(Photo Credit: AP/Ted S. Warren)
Wades LeBlanc and Miley. Both were born in Louisiana. Both were Seattle Mariners in 2016. Both took the mound at the T-Mo on a cool Friday night in an already historically preposterous season.
Someday love will find you
Break those chains that bind you
One night will remind you
How we touched
And went our separate Wades
The Houston Astros are dominant, they are talented, they are feared. They’ve won fifteen of their last twenty games in Seattle. We get it. So it’s hard to expect the Mariners to put up much of a fight, yes, even this baffling mess of a team that dishes out homers like they’re free samples at Costco (Try our Oppo Tacos! Have a Moonshot! Here’s a Big Boy Blast!). Which is why, when the Mariners took a slim early lead, it was hard to feel secure, especially knowing this Astros lineup. The Mariners shaky defense and dubious bullpen loomed.
Maybe the biggest news to come out of the game is Wade LeBlanc’s oblique injury. He’d given up a two earned runs, but was putting in a solid outing, notching five strikeouts to one walk. After two outs in the fifth, he grimaced, grabbed his side, and was pulled without protest. It’s a major blow to the team’s hot start. Wade has been reliable and enjoyable, and he could be out for months, leaving an already strained pitching staff without a key piece. We hope he heals quickly, but oblique injuries tend to take their time.
They don’t love you like I love you
Fresh off of the Injured List, Shawn Armstrong took the mound to end the inning. Then in the top of the sixth, he allowed a double and two singles to load the bases for Jose Altuve, who hit a grand slam (his fifth homer in four games). None of this felt new. Altuve and the Astros beating on the Mariners in Seattle. Fine. Brad Peacock, who had already started two games on the year, came in for the Astros and set the M’s down in order. Whatever. Who cares. Big deal. (See how easy this no expectations thing is? What freedom! What purity!)
In the seventh, Ruben Alaniz–a twenty-seven-year-old professional baseball player of whose existence I was unaware before today’s news of his call-up–made his major league debut, getting through the inning despite a couple singles. But in the eighth, after retiring the first two batters, Alaniz gave up a single and two walks to load the bases. For some reason that I’m sure will be sensibly detailed at some point, Scott Servais felt it necessary to let the completely inexperienced and untested Alaniz try to clean up the mess himself, and Yuli Gurriel’s first home run of the year was the Astros second grand slam surrendered by the M’s bullpen on the evening, pushing the Astros lead to 10-5.
Astros rounding the bases, dominant, fearsome, obnoxious. Yadda yadda yadda.
One of the strangest plays I’ve ever seen occured in the bottom of the eighth, reminding us that if you think you know what is going to happen in any baseball game (or season), you’re delusional. After a single and a steal, Dee Gordon was on second when Mallex Smith went down on strikes swinging. But the ball pegged the home plate ump in the shoulder and bounced to the backstop–Mallex took first, and while the ump was writhing in the dirt, Dee flew around third and crossed home. It was a glimmer of something–and more glimmers would follow–but it wasn’t enough tonight. Ryon Healy grounded out softly to end the inning and it felt so familiar.
Tom Murphy hit his first home run in a Mariners uniform in the ninth, meaning the Mariners have homered in all sixteen games this season–an outrageous and hilarious all-time record. It also meant that the Mariners have scored at least six runs in all but two outings on the year, which is equally silly and an absolute joy.
The Mariners are still three games up in the AL West. They’re still ten games over .500–a feat no one thought possible at any point this season, let alone in April. They’re still leading the AL in several offensive categories. They still own one of the best run differentials in the league (second only to the Rays following Tampa’s four-run win and Seattle’s four-run loss). This is still one of the most enjoyable stretches of baseball I’ve ever witnessed. Most of all, there are still no real expectations for this Mariners team, and it makes it hard to feel much after a loss like tonight’s, especially against a powerhouse like the Astros–maybe the best team in the AL.
The freedom of having no expectations for this season leaves so much room to enjoy the oddities and absurdities of a game like tonight’s. It leaves so much room for anticipation; not of an expected win or any particular outcome, but for unpredictable and enjoyable baseball ahead. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s game, when these lovable misfits try again to be a thorn in the side of a division rival (a team with painfully high expectations). Let’s see what happens.
And a couple more Wade songs I hoped to work in, had they both gone deeper into the game…
True Love Wades
My Wade (okay, really: watch this Elvis version if you haven’t, it’s stunning)
I Am Wading