Ketel Marte Fights Tampa Rays, Lives

I really wanted to take a shot at going to tonight’s Felix start against the Rays (and newly-uniformed Brad Miller and Logan Morrison), but I didn’t really have the right clothing for it, and I need to be on my best financial behavior for my trip to Denver this week. I would rather have been in the King’s Court, but it looks like the section is full of more than enough people to cheer in my absence. My couch is comfortable, the house is warm, and I’ll probably have to go to bed before the game is over anyway; there will be other opportunities to go watch in warmer weather.

Felix looked sharp through the first three innings, taking down Rays batters left and right. The Mariners stranded a few, with Ketel Marte hitting two doubles before being able to tag up and score our first run on a Nelson Cruz sac fly. There was initially some question in the announcer’s booth as to whether or not he’d left his base too soon, but it was not addressed on the field, and Marte’s slide under the catcher’s tag was impressive. The lead did not last long, as Felix gave up a dinger over left field to Corey Dickerson that Norichika Aoki just couldn’t get into his glove. He made up for it to some extent by catching a fly foul that went into the corner to end the inning. Felix has been a little scary this year; I’m not going to panic because he hasn’t remotely collapsed, but he is showing signs of mortality and it’s a little uncomfortable. I know all athletes have a shelf life, but I really want this to last a few more years. It feels like we have some opportunity this time, and Felix has more than earned a trip to the post-season. I don’t want to talk out of turn, because I know this could all go away tomorrow. It’s been a fun ride so far, and I’d like to stay on the bus.

Dae-Ho Lee took a 94MPH fastball into right field for a single in the bottom of the 4th. He’s been fun to watch, particularly given the doubts that surfaced after his acquisition; but it is more clear every game why the front office thought he’d be a good match here. No scoring in the 4th for either team though.

Brad Miller and Logan Morrison both had to face Felix tonight with not much to show for it. Miller tried to get the ball past Kyle Seager on his third trip to the plate, but Seager wasn’t having it, and made a nice dive to throw Miller out at first. The two of them shared some smiles and gestures at each other. No matter Seager’s offensive woes so far this year, his defense is still excellent, and I have faith that he will come around as the games go on. After that exchange, Evan Longoria crushed a homer to center to raise the stakes 2-1 in the Rays favor. Bummer.

In the bottom of the 5th, Ketel Marte went 3 for 3 with a single. Robinson Cano came up and the hope was that he might really kill a Matt Moore fastball, but instead, he hit a liner to Longoria at third. Longoria turned the ball around, but the throw missed its connection with first baseman Logan Morrison and went wild, and Marte took advantage of that by high-tailing it all the way to third from his perch at first. With two on the corners and nobody out, Nelson Cruz worked Moore for a while before striking out swinging at a mid-80s changeup. Franklin Gutierrez might have been the hero at that moment were it not for Moore’s sudden inability to pitch anywhere other than in the dirt and the ball bouncing off catcher Hank Conger’s chest protector, scoring Ketel Marte to tie it up. Chris Ianetta plate patienced himself into a walk to load up the bases then, and the Rays had to make a pitching change to get Moore out of the game. But it was not to be for Dae-Ho Lee; a heavily but short-hit ball to second base ended the inning.

This is likely me speaking in an in-game context with in-game eyes (trying to write in progress is always a bit of an excercise in the futility of feeling things for me), but this season has been funny so far (when it’s not being a lot of fun to watch). We have done some really amazing things in some of the most surprising ways over the last month, but we are still having issues with runners in scoring position, and it doesn’t make much sense that it’s gone on for so long. I feel like there isn’t any other reason for this outside of some sort of team-wide mental blight. As of the end of the 5th inning, we had already left nine runners on. We seem to have no problem walking, stealing, getting that OBP up, but once we have guys there, the players who are supposed to take care of that just…don’t. Unless they do. And maybe I’m being too critical; I mean, those are the two conditions, right? Either you can drive guys home or you can’t. I think it’s frustrating for a lot of fans because it’s been a problem for us for so long now, and after you see some good games and then get another Felix start with the same stuff we were doing last year, you just want to toss something out a window and scream. It can be hard to watch, and if anything is going to be the undoing of this team this year, that’s definitely going to be it. Again.

Did I mention that Chris Iannetta gunned out a Brandon Guyer trying to get back to second in the top of the 6th? Well, he did and it was amazing. I wasn’t too sure how to feel about Iannetta at first, but he’s growing on me. And then the best thing happened; after Leonys Martin and Norichika Aoki walked, Ketel Marte went 4 for 4, and hit a bomb over the center field wall, bringing everyone home. Score 2-5 Mariners. Marte is having a good night tonight, and even if things were not suddenly going so well, his accomplishments as a young player this evening would still be impressive. See? All the worrying it just took me about 20 minutes to write above there was all for naught. Other bloggers and journalists probably have a way to deal with rewriting something like that, but I prefer to own it. These games have been a roller coaster, and what starts out as a disappointment doesn’t always end that way.

Ketel Marte came up to the plate again for the fifth time in the bottom of the 8th inning with a chance to hit a triple for the cycle, but instead he got a hopper to Brad Miller for the out at first, and a standing ovation from quite a few of the fans in attendance, who all knew they’d seen something special tonight. Steve Cishek was warming up in the bullpen for the Mariners, while Ryan Webb was taking some tosses for the Rays, just in case.

Steve Cishek worked a pretty smooth 9th inning, taking out his last batter looking, and helping give Felix Hernandez his 146th career win. Felix has just beat Jamie Moyer for the most Mariner wins. According to Brad Adam in the post-game show, Moyer had already given his congratulations on the event. I am exhausted and really need to go to bed now, but it may take a while for me to wind down. The reason I write in this space is for games like tonight’s, and if I wasn’t so tired right now, I’d be able to string more flowery words together about it. But I have a much-needed vacation coming up, my fourth foreign stadium visit on the horizon, and a much-needed vacation coming up in less than 48 hours. Even if the Mariners lose tomorrow, this week is starting off on a high note.


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