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Sailors beat Astros, Minute Maid Park, old patterns of behavior, magical thinking itself

Sailors beat Astros, Minute Maid Park, old patterns of behavior, magical thinking itself

We all probably have some experience with magical thinking: the belief we do (or think, or believe, or the rituals we engage in, etc.) can influence events outside of ourselves. Many of these magical beliefs crumble when we emerge from childhood and collect enough information to understand that in fact, stepping on a crack won’t break anyone’s back, but some stubborn and deep-seated beliefs persist: maybe make a wish at 11:11 a.m., or say “bunny bunny” first thing on the first day of every month, or believe in supply economics. No judgment here.

But there is a time when wishful thinking can become toxic, especially when the thoughts become intrusive, as is often the case with OCD and other disorders, or when these long-held beliefs keep people from coming out. patterns that could inhibit growth or be downright harmful.

The Mariners’ career record with the AL West Astros isn’t all magic – the Astros have, over the years, built a juggernaut that’s designed to perpetuate itself through clever drafting and development and good old fashioned competitive perks, up to up to and including outright cheating. But there’s also a mystical haze of fog surrounding the divine Astros, and specifically around visiting Minute Maid Park, a place where the Mariners have gone a truly miserable 4-26 since 2019, that seems to be inhibiting them. It’s a problem they themselves seem to recognize:

(For those of you who don’t know, burning sage is believed to remove negative energy from a space. It’s also delicious sautéed in a bit of brown butter and layered on top of piles of sweet potatoes, if that’s more your jam.)

Not all ritual thoughts are necessarily bad. Rites of passage help humans deal with massive changes in the stages of life: the journey in and out of this world, the transition from child to adult; even those cheesy grim reaper posters and those black balloons with a banner that says like “lordy lordy Cathy’s 40” can help mark a life change, namely the change when you realize helping a friend move means a full day of recovery like you’d been out drinking on Bourbon Street the night before. But sometimes the rites become constraining or normative, especially when external expectations are introduced; a friend recently left a bridal shop upset after learning she was a last minute bride because she hadn’t chosen her dress six months in advance. Sometimes the rite can get bigger than what it represents, and that’s where you run into trouble.

Today it looked for a while that the Mariners might fall back into the belief pattern that says we can’t beat the Astros at Minute Maid Park. The Mariners looked to change the narrative early, squaring Cristian Javier off the jump: Jesse Winker didn’t get a hit but started the game with a 400-foot flyout (.660 xBA, in tribute to 6/ 6 maybe?), then with two outs, Julio took advantage of a shoddy drive from Javier to take a 3-1 lead before lacing a 111 MPH single down the middle. JP Crawford followed with a brace down the left field line and just like that, the Mariners had scored more runs (1) than they had on Javier the last time they saw him, and tied the number of hits they recorded on him in five innings of work in May (2), all in the first inning. The vibes were… good?

But then Robbie Ray gave away a third-court tying homer to José Altuve — and it wasn’t cheap either: 107.1 EV, 409 feet. But Cal Raleigh said no he’s not really sticking with this sage burning thing but he knows the pitchers and he could tell Javier didn’t have his good thing today after he started second step Adam Frazier and hit Dylan Moore with a pitch, setting up this BEEF BOY BOMB:

Obviously, four runs against the Houston Astros in the literal sense in Minute Maid Park wouldn’t be enough, but after the team’s offensive sleepwalking in May, four runs seemed like a good start. But ah. The Lucy-snatch-the-football feeling returned in the bottom of the second set, when Robbie Ray restored that lead in his notorious no-no-no Big Inning: Kyle Tucker smashed a terrible mid-mid slider deep into Texas night, and a hitter later, Chas McCormick (!) hit another solo shot, this one more of a scraper but enough to draw the Astros into one. An unusual throwing error from JP Crawford allowed Maldonado to reach, a wild throw between Cal Raleigh and Ray Crusaders took him to second, then Altuve brought home the blowing Maldonado for a 4-0 draw. 4.

Also, a moment to appreciate that DMo, taking over in right field, got two assists to the outfield to cut Jose No-Longer-As-Fast-As-He-Thinks-He-Is Altuve, a once here and once in a plate game that would turn out to be pretty key later on.

Javier bounced back in the third, apparently having found his slider, to put the Mariners down 1-2-3 while meanwhile Ray opened up his half inning walking Gurriel on four pitches but managed to get away with it (and also rolled out a rare curveball for a foul hit against Tucker). He would also manage to work a clean fourth despite giving up back-to-back hits – a single to Altuve and a double to Brantley which should have been the go-ahead except for DMo, as noted above – and also worked around a single Kyle Tucker in the fifth to post five innings and save the bullpen somewhat. Alright, I promised earlier, let’s see this DMo outfield assist and the AlTOOTBLANve:

Ray worked hard, but no one worked harder than Cal Raleigh, who was seen in the dugout chatting with Scott Servais, probably about changing the game plan, then had to go out and do a variety of Pitcher Wellness Visits to coax Ray through five very eventful rounds.

Hilariously, even if he doesn’t throw well, Ray will get the win thanks to – who else – Cal Raleigh. Frazier started the fourth with a double BABIP-chance that had just come off the glove from a McCormick Spices dive, then Raleigh scored a single in the run of the go-ahead on a fastball he hit through hole 3 -4.

Cal Raleigh: multidimensional hitter! We like to see it. Jesse Winker followed with a single that knocked Javier out of play, then it was on to the reliever battle.

Penn Murfee, Ryan Borucki and Sergio Romo, to whom I owe a big apology for the sound I made when I saw him come out to protect a one-point lead against the Astros in the eighth, all worked innings clean, with Murfee’s 1.2 of aimless work innings to bridge the gap between the starter and the backend of the bullpen earned him my Unsung Hero of the Night award. The Astros also went 1.1 scoreless on something called Seth Martinez, Parker Mushinski who I remember being a pest against Arkansas travelers in the Texas league, Ryne Stanek and Phil Maton, racking up seven strikeouts and no runs between them.

Then round nine came.

Hector Neris has taken the mound and what you need to know about Hector Neris is that he has appeared in 26 games so far this season with a K% over 30% and a BB% of 4.6 %. So we’ve established that he’s a very good reliever with solid control of the zone, right? Good. Not this evening. Neris hit Ty France, which from a content creator’s perspective worked for me because I was able to drop Zach Mason’s great “Please Stop Hitting Ty France” track earlier, but also makes Scott Servais reach the roof of MMP.

This led to a cleanup of the pews, which led to some hilarious stuff we can break down later, but a few things to highlight include Jesse Winker immediately running off next to Served All you have my sword sir because the Bills Mafia is strong in this one:

And also Julio immediately removing the alleged instigator Hector Neris, his compatriot and 10 years his senior, at a safe distance from the proceedings. We love our peacemaker son who is just there to make sure only management gets fined:

Here’s the full content, if you haven’t seen it, although I can’t promise it will make more sense afterwards:

Anyway, after Julio removed Neris from the proceedings, the next thing he did, because he has absolutely no respect for his elders, was this:

Let’s review it:

That’s right, after pulling Neris out of the fight all “okay grandpa, we’re taking you home”, he hit a tank at him. I don’t say this lightly: we hold a legend.

After all that excitement, the human equivalent of Xanax, Diego Castillo, came out and spun a bunch of sliders and got some kills and a lineout to end the game. I’m really here for a calm, cool, collected Diego, although tell me why his face after getting the baddest hitter in baseball in the last week to end the game is the same as mine when I look at my Taco Bell Order:

Kidding aside, it feels good to come out of a pattern of negativity against the Astros. Burned sage isn’t my favorite smell, but I’ll stuff a packet up each nostril like walrus tusks if the Mariners keep playing like this against the Astros at MMP. Angie Mentink said on the post-game show that Julio is an energy absorber of all kinds of energy – good, bad, whatever – and then he transmutes that energy at his will, reaffirming my belief that it is a very powerful crystal. If 2021 was Chaos Ball, I’m here for 2022 being Witch Ball. Just keep the rites under control and remember to create the patterns that serve you, not the other way around.

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