BOTTOM OF THE FIFTEENTH: MARINERS 6
(4) – 5 TIGERS
An e to an a, a Pete to a Kyle, and a late-night extras win in Seattle for Seager: “If he had a homer, he’d homer in the morning. He’d homer in the evening, all over this land. He’d homer out danger, he’d homer out a warning, he’d homer out love between his brothers and sisters, all over this land.”
In the 8th inning, down a three spot, Kyle Seager whacked a game-tying home run into the right-field stands—into the box scores and history of the team’s best year this decade, into the eager glove of the team’s best fan, maybe ever. A white-bearded Mariners obsessive, a leopard-print fez atop his head, a kitsch homage to Shriners, Akbar and Jeff’s lost triplet, a style play the likes of which never before assembled until now, until him.
The fez is back, he seems to say, the fez most definitely is back. The dude abides.
— garth purkett (@garbagecoven) August 10, 2016
Seven innings later, late night Safeco Field, past the bedtime of all but the die-hards, a stalemate gets broken. In the top of the 15th, Victor Martinez hits a go-ahead home run for the Tigers, the away team back on top. Five, to four—and into the bottom half of the inning.
Dawn on deck on the east coast, midnight past in Seattle. K-Rod stepping up in relief to close out a Detroit win. Shawn O’Malley at the plate. And a quick groundout to Ian Kinsler for the first out. The ball skips around the horn and Rodriguez sets up for Nelson Cruz, swinging huge practice cuts as he steps into the box. Thirty home runs on the year and looking for thirty-one. He takes a first-pitch strike, as Rodriguez ends up, as he always seems to, about ten feet off the first-base side of the mound, his follow-through a drifting jaunt down the slope. He sets up again.
Cruz walks. Nelson cruises, I should say, on to first.
Behind home, there’s an ad for a STAR WARS promotional weekend, in a week’s time—which means, in broad strokes, a proliferation of dad jokes to come from the broadcast crew: a couple of force-outs at second base; which pitchers might best Leia bunt down; a reliever being pulled, once Ewoks the bases loaded.
Get here by bus, car, or Millennium Falcon.
— Mariners (@Mariners) August 16, 2016
Adam Lind lines the first pitch from Rodriguez into right, one bounce in front of J.D. Martinez. Two runners on. A single needed to tie it. Fifteen innings and the game clock approaching five hours. Seattle’s moose mascot perks up, leaps atop the home dugout, and revs up the Safeco Field hype. Kyle Seager, the already hero, is up to bat.
He skies the first pitch foul, into the stands, his body twisted up with both feet rolled over onto their sides. And then, fair contact on the second pitch. A ball hit the opposite way, on a line to left field. Into the grass. Nelson Cruz watches and breaks for third, breaks for home, sent in to score with a throw on the way. The left-fielder bobbles the pickup, and the TV announcer spews pure joy into the mic: “Base hit… left field, come on, Nelly!!! Yes, sir!!”
Cruz storms in, touches the plate to tie it. 5-5 ballgame and the stands go wild with comeback cheer, the remaining crowd whipped up into a rowdy sea of hope, dreaming of a win, a restored playoff run, a chance at the Wild Card and a spate of luck to bring all three in range. The fez-festooned fan sings a hymn of Mariners praise way out in the bleachers. Clutching the Seager home-run ball, praying for one more to fly his way.
The fez is so in. pic.twitter.com/upFqucIMCX
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) August 10, 2016
And Mike Zunino steps up, with a chance for the win. “Big Mike,” they call him on the broadcast, “Mikey Z.” Zunino, Zunino, a surname like a Brazilian footballer. He waves a big whiff on the first pitch, with an Oh-ho!! chuckle bursting out from the TV guys.
The fans put on rally caps, beaming as their team digs in, a painted 24 on the grass for their beloved, hall-of-fame inducted Ken Griffey Jr. Everyone up for the at-bat, a sea for miles of Seattle smiles.
Rodriguez delivers. Contact from Zunino. Lofted high in the air, pulling the centerfielder back for a deep catch. And Adam Lind tags, waits, whooshes off the base and darts down the line, safe with the throw twenty feet off the mark.
“Dat’s plenty deep, Yeahhh babyy!! He wins it!!”
Lind scores. Mariners win. The place goes wild.
With no long build-up, with a small-ball inning of clutch, they finish the comeback, a one-run win in the longest game of the year. A five-in-a-row streak, inched back into the contending standings. And a whole roster bursting from the dugout, jumping for joy, bottles of red Gatorade sprayed in a mixed-up scrum of born-again kids.
“The world has got to take notice of this 2016 Mariner ballclub,” they say on the broadcast, “Beautiful!!”
The night closes, the Mariners win, the commentary ends, with a quote, a reference, a cultural phenomenon, the phrase of all great phrases—denoting, in this case, the unmatched thrill of Safeco Field on cloud nine.
Hey now. The Mariners are back. Hey now, hey now, hey now.