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Time for one more run
Haunted by half-measures, the Mariners round the season's final corner positively gassed—but with everything in front of them.
I honestly didn’t play baseball for very long growing up. I don’t know at what age I quit, just that it was in third grade. Whatever age that is. The game was very hard and, consequentially, not very fun.
One of the sports I enjoyed most, if it is a sport, is likely the most dorky. At least, it felt like it had the most dorks. That would be cross country. And eventually track, but that was the cooler version of cross country.
Cross country was hard and I wasn’t that good at it. But it was more straightforward than baseball and I was slightly better so it was more tolerable. Good people to be around, too.
Cross country was particularly tough because we ran a lot of our league meets at Lower Woodland Park, one of the harder circuits in the state.
For those familiar with the park, you’d do one big lap around the lower, flatter section—around the track, the fields, by where the bike jumps are now and so on—then go do a mile up in the hills, with the big rollers up top by 99 being particularly hard.
From there, you’d stumble down the sidewalk next to N. 50th, hang a left at the light at Green Lake Way, across from Kidd Valley, and more or less fight for your life along the park’s entire eastern border before rounding the track about 200 meters from the finish line.
Going from those hills to an almost entirely flat final mile was particularly hellacious.
See, there’s not much strategy in long-distance running, but there is a little bit—especially the end.
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You run about 75 percent of the race at the best pace you reasonably can. And then at a point determined on the fly, by you and the context of the situation, you run the rest at a constantly ascending rate set about as close to whatever would make you throw up or collapse as possible.
The good ones fully redline it and go over. Our team had a girl, one of the fastest distance runners in the state, she threw up after almost any race.
But anyway, after you got off that hill, after you rounded the corner you had about a half-mile of nothing but tree-lined flat ground and self-inflicted torture.
That’s where the Mariners are now.
They’ve run the measured portion of this race at their own pace. Sometimes they felt great, sometimes a side-ache felt like they got shot in the ribs with a small-calibre handgun.
But they’re there now. You’re not gonna not kick.
I’ll be as blunt as I can—I don’t know how in the hell they didn’t add a starting pitcher before the deadline.
That felt like a given. Like, that would obviously happen. They’d grab a 2021 Tyler Anderson-type backend dude and the real interest would be in how they chose to augment the lineup.
“Augment” is the perfect modern buzzword for what the Mariners often do. It isn’t about adding impact, about dramatically changing circumstances, but simply adjusting the roster they’d created to navigate and survive the coming year’s events—and certainly not control them.
That made some sense at the deadline, but only some.
Either way, you thought they had to add a starter.
Before 2023, Bryan Woo threw 126.1 innings between college and pro ball. Over five seasons.
After last night’s gem, he’s thrown 119.2 frames this year.
That is a jump.
Again, honestly, I didn’t know not adding a starter was even an option. And not just for Woo, but Bryce Miller and even George Kirby, pitching now in his first complete Major League season and already nine innings past his prior high-water mark.
This team is battling more than a year of half-measures. It’s been 12 months in the crucible, when they could’ve sacked up and gone for more but that was too scary. For whatever reason.
They didn’t add impact to the lineup in the offseason or at the deadline. They didn’t add starter depth when it looked like they surely needed it, and a Tommy Milone or Adam Oller start feels like it’s lurking, like Jimmy Yacabonis, in these final 17 games.
I write this from Greece as I stare out at the Aegean Sea before heading to dinner, so I assure you I’m not grumpy. Just fleshing out some mental notes. Some tweets.
But this division could’ve been theirs had they set out to have it.
Either way, it still could.
Last night’s Bryan Woo start is what a kick looks like—what it looks like when you know you don’t got a lot left, in the tank or the race, so you start digging into dwindling reserves.
The baseball season is a marathon, but this one isn’t anymore.
If the 162-game slog were a 5K, the distance we ran in high school and the race readers are most likely to be familiar with, the Mariners would have 525 meters left.
About one lap around the track, plus a straightaway.
You’re not in a full sprint yet, but you’re thinking about it with every step, with every wincing breath that could taste like bile if you wanted it to.
How long before a gradual acceleration flips over to “as fast as these beat-to-hell legs will turn over”? You don’t know until you know.
Last night, it seemed like Bryan Woo knew. It was time to go, and so he did.
With diminished velocity and a tired arm and soul, he delivered the best start of his career.
Julio’s been in his kick for a month or more now. Some guys are just like that.
All I know is, between Opening Day and now, the circumstances haven’t changed much. They have, and they haven’t.
On Opening Day, when I said the Mariners would win 96 games because they were greater than the sum of their parts, I wrote “We’re not asking them to do anything they haven’t done before.”
And we’re still not.
The extenuating circumstances aren’t in their favor. We wish they had a few more pieces. We wish they had a few more wins.
But they don’t. And they will have to battle.
They will have to, because they have no choice but to give it a kick. And you never have a choice. You’re gonna kick no matter what.
We’re looking for one more run. One more run into October, to the division, to—fuck—the pennant. Maybe more.
The thing to remember is, everyone around them is feeling the same way they are. Everyone else is, figuratively, the same dumb teenager who had Geometry or American History or AP Bio earlier in the day and some homework to do later, just trying to get through this so they can put up a good time, get on the bus and go home.
The majority of the season’s remaining games will be at home. And we’ll be there for them.
When I was in high school, when I rounded that corner at 50th and Green Lake North, with a little more left than the Mariners have now, there was an assistant coach of the cross country team, a lady who worked in the principal’s office at the school, standing there.
Mary Sue Silver was her name. One of her kids swam in the Olympics and I understood why. She’d say “Let’s go, Colin!” or “Come on, [first name]!” to every runner on her team who came by.
We’ll do that for them.
But after that corner, it’s all on you. It’s all on these guys.
Empty the tank. Go get the division. Go get more.
And, shit yeah, this is what we live for—