Mariners live by chaos ball, die by chaos ball

Mariners one-run loss to Houston haunting, M’s must move on



For the first time in over 20 years, the Seattle Mariners went to the playoffs in 2022.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports editor

For anywhere from four hours to just two minutes, Mariners fans everywhere including right here in Pullman stopped what they were doing to witness history. The Seattle Mariners held a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning in their first American League Divisional Series in over two decades. They once led 4-0, but the lead was fleeting in the hostile Houston postseason environment.

The dreaded Houston Astros had two on and two out with their best batter Yordan Álvarez at the plate. The Mariners made the questionable decision to put Robbie Ray, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner in the game to garner one final out.

As fans held their breath, Ray proceeded to top out at 94 miles per hour and threw just two pitches, each practically down the middle of the plate. Álvarez patiently waited for the one and sent it flying over the right field fence. Pandemonium had lift-off in Houston as the Astros celebrated a moment that will be replayed for years, at least in the hearts and minds of Mariners fans.

It is best to have a short memory in baseball, but not too short that we forget that only three days ago, the Mariners overcame a huge deficit of their own when they trailed the Toronto Blue Jays 8-1 in the fifth inning to punch their ticket to Houston.

The Mariners saw the other side of their brand of one-run baseball, which has resulted in more wins since 2016 for the Mariners than any other team.

Since 2016, the Mariners are 189-141 in regular season one-run games.

They won by one run on Saturday and lost by one run on Tuesday.

Many will blame the common thread between the two predicaments: Ray. Ray by and large prompted the need for the wild card comeback as he conceded four runs. 

On Tuesday, he allowed three runs, two inherited by Paul Sewald and one of his own, with one faithful pitch.

The logic for using Ray exists. He is a highly talented left-handed power arm. Mariners manager Scott Servais loves his same-side matchups (in this case, a left-handed pitcher versus a left-handed batter) and stuck to the plan that was discussed prior to the game of using Ray in exactly a high-leverage situation as this.

Unfortunately, Ray, on less than three days of rest, lacked his best stuff as velocity and location were subpar.

If you are a Mariners fan, it is OK to feel gutted. To feel as if you have gotten the wind knocked out of you and you cannot get up.

On the bright side, the Mariners lost IN THE PLAYOFFS. On the other hand, the Mariners plain and simple choked when it mattered most. 

The aromas of victory were wafting on the window seal before the pesky Astros knocked the victory pie to the ground, splattering it all over the floor. It is a feeling, painfully similar to Super Bowl 49 when the Seahawks failed to score at the one-yard line.

Many were quick to (rightfully) blame Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll for the decision to pass the ball instead of run. The decision haunts the organization to this day. Yesterday, many blamed Servais for the decision to bring in Ray.

“We made the decisions we made based on the players we had available, based on the numbers and the information I had available, and we stand by it,” Scott Servais said after the game one loss.

Every situational, bullpen-related decision is made by anywhere from six to a dozen people in the Mariners clubhouse. Servais calls the shots but not without the amo of ample preperation from his team. If Ray gets the out, it is a good decision. Since he failed, the criticism is ripe. Regardless, what is done is done.

At that moment, what was obvious was made painfully clear: the Astros have been here before, the Mariners have not.

Thursday is a new day. Tuesday will haunt the history books forever, but the master narrative is still being written.

The Mariners’ best bet is to have a short-term memory and focus on the next game which will be played at 12:37 p.m. on Thursday at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Luis Castillo, La Piedra, the rock, is on the mound, the Mariners bats proved they could score. Even off the Astros’ ace Justin Verlander and the bullpen should still have a lot of confidence having been a key component in the Mariners’ success being the sixth-best by earned run average (3.33) and the second-best by walks and hits per inning (1.08). 

If the M’s want to achieve what everyone in baseball wants to achieve, they can not remember Tuesday for long.