I almost recused myself from this series before it even began.
How could I hope to maintain impartiality between a team that I’ve grown to love these past few years, a team I write about practically every day, and the team I have faithfully followed for almost a quarter century?
I couldn’t. I can’t. So I didn’t really try. I can never stop rooting for the Mariners, who took a hold on me in my youth and have stubbornly clung on ever since. But a part of me wonders if it was their historical ineptitude that allowed the Marlins to creep into my heart and take a permanent foothold. I honestly don’t know if I could truly call myself a Fish fan today if I had been a Yankees fan, or a Cardinals fan coming in.
I can say this for sure: It definitely wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t started writing here at Fish Stripes. I don’t know if any of you have tried to “adopt” another team before, for whatever reason, but it’s not something that comes naturally. I’ve had a few false starts. The Columbus Blue Jackets, when I wanted to get into hockey. The Buffalo Bills, when it seemed like the Seahawks would never be good again. The Charlotte Hornets, when I missed basketball so much I felt I had to have another team to follow to replace my dearly departed Supersonics. I’d even tried to adopt other baseball teams without success. The San Diego Padres, because I loved San Diego so much. The Tampa Bay Rays, who I paid a little more attention to during their 2008 run.
All of them failed, I realize in retrospect, because you can’t force an attachment. Writing here allowed me to cover the Marlins on a regular basis and really get to know the team on a deep level, so much so that I found I cared within short order whether they won or lost. When Mike Redmond was canned and Don Jennings brought into the dugout from the front office, I groaned. When Giancarlo Stanton won the home run derby, I cheered. When José Fernàndez died, I cried.
It felt like cheating on the Mariners, a little, just like writing about my Mariners fandom here feels like cheating on the Marlins, but I can rationalize these things in my head by proclaiming the Mariners my American League team and the Marlins my National League squad.
I wondered how I would react when the two teams met on the field and I found out rather quickly when I attended the game on Monday. I cheered when the Marlins made a big play. I cheered when the Mariners made a big play. As it turned out, the Mariners gave me more to cheer for Monday then the Marlins did, but the tables turned on Tuesday and I was content to see the Fish even the score.
In an early April skirmish where the stakes aren’t all that high, it was easy to feel like, no matter what was happening, that my team was winning. After this, they wont meet again for years, going on to play in their own little paradigms thousands of miles apart in separate leagues, and I can continue to root for both with ease.
Unless, of course, we get that fabled Marlins/Mariners World Series matchup. Then I’m in some serious trouble.
The Marlins came out aggressive early against Felix Hernandez and it paid off in a big way. Dee Gordon led off with a base hit, then was running when Martin Prado snuck one past an outstretched Robinson Cano, first and third with nobody out. Christian Yelich followed with a sharp single to score Gordon, Marlins lead 1-0. Giancarlo Stanton then continued the trend of first pitching swinging and hit yet another single, loading the bases up for Justin Bour. Bour would lift a ball medium depth to left field, and whether Fredi Gonzalez sent him or Prado went on his own, it was a mistake. Prado was thrown out by Jarrod Dyson so easily he didn’t even bother to slide and actually slowed down before he got to the plate because he knew he was toast.
Marcell Ozuna would make sure all of the hits weren’t entirely wasted, though, by singling to plate Yelich in the following AB, giving the Fish a 2-0 lead before King Felix was able to get out of the inning.
The first hitter for the Mariners was Dyson and he lifted a Volquez pitch high and deep to center field. Yelich responded with a early catch of the year candidate.
Christian Yelich. Wow. What a catch. What a collision. pic.twitter.com/zyrjbUepiU— Will Manso (@WillManso) April 19, 2017
Ironically, it was Volquez on the mound and Yelich at the plate last year when Dyson made a stellar catch, robbing Yelich of a sure homerun.
Edinson Volquez was all over the place early, giving up a couple of base on balls, one coming around to score after a wild pitch got away from Realmuto, bringing the score to 2-1 Marlins after the first frame.
While Hernandez would settle down for the Mariners in his second inning, Volquez’ second turn wasn’t so kind, as he again walked a couple. ROTY candidate Mitch Haniger extended his hitting streak to 13 games as he laced a single into right to score two and give the Mariners a 3-2 lead. He would escape after a “strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out” double-play, but still had racked up over 50 pitches.
In the third, Giancarlo Stanton would tie things up with a mighty blast to centerfield, 445 feet out, and the game was all tied up at three apiece.
This would last but half a frame, though, as Volquez would promptly give up back to back doubles to Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, giving the Mariners back the lead at 4-3. Realmuto would help limit further damage with his infamous quick pop time, catching Seager too far off of the bag at second for an important first out. Volquez would get out of the inning but that would do it for him, his day ending with a rather unfortunate final line of four earned runs off of five hits, four walks and three strikeouts.
Dustin McGowan would start the fourth for the Fish and did not fair much better than Volquez. Mitch Haniger continued to be a thorn in the Marlins side, driving in two to put the Mariners up 6-3. After loading the bases, Seager singled up the middle for another two runs in, driving the score up to 8-3 M’s.
Not going down without a fight, the Marlins began to chip away immediately as Yelich hit one out to left-center field to bring our score to 8-4 Mariners. Stanton would walk and Bour subsequently smacked a ball that would’ve been out at most parks but died on Safeco Field’s center field warning track. Marcell Ozuna would K, then Realmuto hit about as deep an infield single as you could. Stanton, who was running on the play, made an aggressive turn to score but Mariners first baseman Mike Freeman made a great throw and Mike Zunino was just able to tag Stanton out before he touched home plate.
McGowan came back for a quiet fifth, striking out a couple in the process. Hernandez responded with a similarly quite inning. Junichi Tazawa would replace McGowan after he’d garnered an out in the sixth. He would load the bases because that seemed to be something everyone would have to do at least once this game but was able to wrangle out of it courtesy a Freeman ground out.
Hernandez managed to record the first out of the seventh inning but Yelich drove him from the game with his third hit of the game. Final line of six and a third’s innings pitched, four runs on 12 hits, one walk and six strikeouts. Tony Zych took over in relief, and, after walking Stanton, induced Bour into a double play to end the threat. Tazawa had himself a nice seventh with a couple of strikeouts to his credit. Queue Nick Vincent and his clean eighth inning.
AJ Ramos came in to relieve Tazawa and predictably struggled in the non-save situation. Ramos gave up a hit and three consecutive free passes, walking in a run, before being pulled for in favor of Jarlin Garcia. Garcia was able to get out of the inning but not before issuing a bases-loaded walk of his own. The Mariners now led 10-4.
With Evan Marshall in for the Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki came up to the plate in what was (likely) his final Safeco Field at bat, gave his fans both young and old exactly what they wanted.
Ichiro homers on the first pitch in his last at bat in Seattle. So so awesome. pic.twitter.com/YNgxVKedyh— Koozie (@OldRowKoozie) April 19, 2017
You can’t write a better send-off than that.
Marshall kept himself in trouble to the point where the Mariners felt compelled to call on Mark Rzepczynski to finish the game out, which he did. 10-5 Mariners is the final score.
The Marlins have an off day tomorrow, then will return to action against the Padres on Friday. 10:10 eastern start time, Adam Conley vs. Trevor Cahill.
Swordfish: Mitch Haniger (.402)
Flounder: Edinson Volquez (-.318)
Play of the game: Haniger single plates two in the second (.173)