Oh, man. Oh, man, oh, man, oh, man. That was a terrible loss. It was absolutely crushing. Crushing, crushing, crushing. It doesn’t get much more devastating than that. To hold on and do everything right (I can say that because the only error we made did not result in damage, luckily; it wouldn’t have made a difference, as it turned out, all else being equal, but at least we can hold our heads high the way the score turned out) and play so well until the very last possible minute and then give it all up will bring the pain every time.
The matchup was exceptionally even, but I don’t think anyone thought it would be going into it, which is a huge credit to the pitchers we sent out there. Morales was nothing short of stunning, both literally and figuratively. He pitched a full seven shutout innings. He gave up only three runs, walked two, and struck out seven. He threw 109 pitches, seventy of which were strikes. He threw a really nasty curveball as well as a nasty two-seam fastball, and his four-seam and changeup were also fantastic. He took advantage of his arsenal, mixing pitches well and varying speeds. He was efficient for the most part as well; he threw eleven pitches in the first, nine in the second, twenty in the third, nineteen in the fourth, eighteen in the fifth, thirteen in the sixth, and nineteen in the seventh.
The first and second were his only one-two-three innings. He gave up his first walk in the third and his second in the fifth. He gave up a single in the fourth, sixth, and seventh, his only inning in which he had to deal with more than one baserunner thanks to a missed catch by Gonzalez, which put runners at the corners with two out.
Miller had himself a one-two-three eighth inning. It was Atchison who took the loss for giving up the walkoff RBI single that ended it all. He began the inning with a flyout but followed it with a double and then an intentional walk. And then John Jaso pinch-hit for Miguel Olivo and singled on the first pitch of the at-bat to right field, scoring one run to win the game.
If that had been all, the loss would have been crushing but not so devastating because we would have known that we tried our best and it simply wasn’t enough that day against the Mariners. But it doesn’t end there. Ross threw to the plate to try to get the runner, and Salty had it and was ready to tag and go into extra innings. He was ready. He had the ball and he was in position and everything with ample time and distance to spare. There wasn’t even a doubt that no run would score. And if the play had gone according to plan, who knows? Maybe we’d still be out there playing baseball.
But no. As Salty tried to make the tag, he lost the ball. I saw it with my own eyes, and even as it was happening, I couldn’t even believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. It was one of the more pathetic things I’ve ever seen; Salty didn’t even know he lost the ball until after he applied the tag and saw that the run had scored. Only then did he notice that the ball was lying several feet from the plate.
Meanwhile, the offense was completely and totally stymied by Felix Hernandez, who pitched a complete game shutout and held us to five hits and one walk. We struck out thirteen times, which tied a career high for Hernandez.
We went down in order in the first, second, fifth, sixth, and eighth. We singled in the third, fourth, seventh, and ninth. Our best opportunities to score were the two innings in which we somehow managed to put two runners on the basepaths: the third, when we had two on with two out thanks to two singles which were for naught when Pedroia ended the threat by hitting a ball too hard to left center field, and the ninth, when we had two on with one out thanks to a single followed by our one walk, which went to Salty. And then Gonzalez stepped up to the plate and was quickly 3-0. The situation looked good. Then, all of a sudden, he swung through a fastball and then fouled off four straight pitches. So the count was full, and all of Red Sox Nation was hanging on the edge of their seats. And of course it ended very anticlimactically: with a flyout on the ninth pitch of a valiant at-bat. And you can thank the spaciousness of the outfield at Safeco for that.
So the final score was indeed 1-0, and it was the most intense pitcher’s duel I’ve seen in a very, very long time. I mean, it was a real, old-fashioned pitcher’s duel. It had to be when the final score is 1-0. But it didn’t have to end the way it did. Even if we would have lost eventually anyway, it didn’t have to be decided by something so humiliating as simply having lost the ball. It was actually literally just horrifying.