That year, for the first time since 1783, Alewives made a 70-mile voyage from the ocean to China Lake in Maine. A type of river herring, the alewives are an ocean fish that migrate in freshwater to spawn, much like the Pacific Northwest salmon that the Seattle Mariners call home. The Seattle Mariners are also trying to find their way back into important waters, although their hopes are to produce a winning record and a return of fanbase goodwill.
Since their last day off, the Mariners have had four runs or more in six out of ten games. Out of those ten, they only won three. The Alewives as a species have a somewhat nebulous relationship to their conservation status. They are listed as ‘least concern’, although their populations have declined across much of their range, largely due to habitat loss, including access to their spawning grounds. The Mariners’ situation is far less nebulous. They’ve been through a twenty-year drought after appearing in the playoffs and this season has been marketed as a departure from those troubled waters, but they’re currently in a torrential descent. They seem to be their own worst enemies, every time a problem area is addressed a new concern arises to block their path. The state of fanbase goodwill, to put it bluntly, is much easier to define and is in acute jeopardy.
As cliché as it may be, every journey begins with a small step. For the Alewives, their journey is one of many steps, big and small, and until recently their path to China Lake was long blocked by a series of impassable levees. If the Mariners are to advance in their journey, they must win a game and then win another. You don’t have to be successful as individuals, but as a team.
For his part, Logan Gilbert did his best to help his team win today. In his seven innings, he gave up just five hits, two walks and three earned runs. He hit four, subdued compared to the nine he’d fanned in his last two starts, but still admirable. By the time he left the game, the M’s offense had put twos on the board and was failing to overcome or even equal the three runs from his few errors, including solo home runs Christian Arroyo in the 2nd inning and Trevor Story in the 6th .were abandoned. Gilbert wasn’t perfect, but he deserves credit for the steps he took in his sophomore season.
For their part, the offensive seemed to have real life in today’s game, leveling the game in the ninth game and even taking a run lead in the tenth. Overall, they had nine hits compared to Boston’s ten, but only scored half as many runs and went only 2-for-9 with runners in goal position. Still, they scored points, which makes this game more interesting to me than the last few games I’ve covered for LL.
The first damage didn’t come until the sixth inning. Taylor Trammell, who made his season debut after some time today with an extended spring practice and before that on the IL, set the stage by drawing the count 3-1 and then working the walk. Adam Frazier, who had a 3-for-5 night, didn’t want to let that go to waste and complimented his teammate’s efforts:
Okay, sure, that wouldn’t have been a home run at any other park, and as sacrilegious as it may be, I’m a bit averse to the odd dimensions of Fenway Park’s outfield, but when Chaos Ball gives way, then as a fan I’m happy to receive, and I am sure that Frazier shares this opinion. However, that two-run blast still wasn’t enough to catch the three runs Boston put on the board. What Eugenio Suárez did in the top of the ninth inning as the Mariners finished their last out, though, was. He ambushed a first pitch slider from Hansel Robels, his monster of a blast defeating the infamous Boston Green Monster, tying the game at three apiece.
From there, Haggerty emerged to send it to the end of the ninth and it was up to the steadfast Sewald to keep hope alive. Given the recent bullpen issues, it would have been easy to give up hope on that alone. Paul Sewald managed to get Cordero to hit a liner straight at Frazier, who snapped it out of the air with a short leap that betrayed the effort of bringing the ball down, going 109.3 mph off the bat came. Next, Arroyo worked the 2-2, fouling a couple and then immediately striking with a swing. Hope was briefly dashed when Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a sharp grounder in left field corner for a double, but was saved at the last minute when Dalbec flew to Dylan Moore (who took over from Trammell in 8th) in right field.
Saving Hope continued as the tenacious fish who was Seattle’s offense today continued to climb upstream, first when Dylan Moore hit a single punch that propelled Haggerty into third. Even more so when Frazier, always the hero in today’s game, hit a bloop single to flat center to bring Haggerty home.
France and Crawford then struck to end the inning, but the one-run lead would have been enough if the Mariners could have held the rushing rapids the Boston Red Sox have been under Fin for the past four games. Enter 23-year-old Andrés Muñoz. When Muñoz is on, he is absolutely on and blows his fastball faster than bats can keep up with it. Today he was swept away by the current, charging bases and delivering a walk-off grand slam to Franchy Cordero to finish the game 4-8.
For the hardy Alewives, their momentous return to historical terrain was not an easy journey, or one that could be made unaided. Efforts to restore their path met with resistance, protest. I can’t help but draw a parallel with the current remodel and the initial reaction I saw from most when this decision was made. In order for the Alewives to be successful, several dams had to be removed entirely and fishways built as alternate routes to bypass the dams that would not exist. It was a seven-year coordinated effort. There were probably times when all the effort seemed pointless. But this year they’ve made it back, they’ve reached the end of their journey, a journey they hope to continue for many years to come.
I’m not suggesting that we avoid criticizing the front office for its missteps. I am not suggesting that we should avoid wallowing in misery when there is a steady stream ahead, as this can be cathartic. Today, however, there were signs that the Mariners are moving up some of these fish ladders, although there are still dams that need to be destroyed for them to succeed. There is still joy to be found in pain, and in the Seattle Mariners’ journey there is still hope of a way forward. For this year and hopefully many more.