Contranymic Mariners defeat Royals 6-5

One of my favorite phenomena in the English language is the contranym or autoantonym, which is a word that has two opposite definitions. For example, oversight means both looking over something and failing to see something.

The 2022 Mariners have been the living embodiment of an autoantonym. At times, like after the Angels series in mid-June, they’ve seemed to be completely toast. At others, like after the August/September seven-game winning streak, they’ve seemed inevitable. They’ve dramatically beaten the Yankees, Mets, and Braves, and flailingly lost to the A’s, the A’s, and the A’s. The Mariners left a euphoric home stand and then spent the bulk of this road trip re-enacting George Brett’s most famous (probably apocryphal?) rated-R story.

At this point you might be saying to yourself, hey, that’s just baseball. To which I say, yes, that’s my point. Over 162 games of round bats and round balls, the game puts you through both agony and ecstasy, even in the best and worst seasons.

In the past 24 hours, the Mariners took us from one of the most frustrating and avoidable losses of the year to a Luis Castillo extension and an exuberant comeback win. The Mariners are terrible. The Mariners are wonderful.

Strike. When talking about natural resource extraction, a strike is hitting something. When talking about pitching, a strike is missing something. But then again, in baseball, the bat can also strike the ball. Coming into tonight, Logan Gilbert had been on a roll, with a 1.57 ERA and a 4/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last six starts. But just as he won Pitcher of the Month for April and then swooned over mid-summer, he followed up his recent hot streak with a bad outing tonight.

The wheels came off early when Vinnie Pasquantino hit a two-run blast in the first inning, but Logan was bad all night, allowing traffic in four of his five innings. Going almost exclusively with his fastball and slider, neither pitch was particularly good: it took him to his 30th pitch to collect his first whiff. In contrast, Logan’s pitches were struck hard seven times tonight. He ended up leaving the game having surrendered five runs over five innings. Logan Gilbert’s fastball and slider have been hit hard and have struck batters out.

Left. When you exit, you’re told to have left a place. When others exit, you’re told to be left at a place. In the sixth inning, with the score at 5-3 Kansas City, Scott Servais executed a line change, pulling righties Luis Torrens and Curt Casali for lefty Jesse Winker and switch hitter Cal Raleigh to hit from the left side. Winker got on base and then Cal hit a ball that left the yard and tied the game at 5-5.

But immediately after, when JP Crawford, Ty France, and Mitch Haniger drew back-to-back-to-back walks, the three runners were left on base. It was one of two times that the Mariners would leave the bases loaded. The 2022 Mariners leave the yard; they left the bases loaded.

Weather. When something is eroded, we say that it has been weathered. Yet when something withstands an assault, we say that it weathered the event. Jarred Kelenic’s prospect status has weathered over the past two years. Even when he was called up in August, he was sent right back down. But this time, in what seems like his 20th batting stance, he looks balanced on his feet, with low hands and an eye line that allows him to see breaking balls. It’s only been three games, but he has a home run and three doubles so far. Tonight, he hit one of those doubles and an infield single. The latter put him on base to score the winning run in the ninth on a transcendent Cal Raleigh double.

But Kelenic’s night also included an outstanding play in center field, cutting down Vinnie Pasquantino at second base.

I know it’s a small sample, but he finally looks right to me, as if he is weathered the storm and come out stronger. I’m in the tank for Kelenic, so take that analysis with a grain of salt. But the Sun Hat Award for notable individual contribution to a game is mine to give out, and I don’t care if my bias is showing. Jarred gets it tonight whether you like it or not.

Bound. When you tie something up and render it unmovable, you have bound it to something. But if you’re traveling somewhere, you are bound for that location. The 2-6 start to this road trip has felt like the Mariners have been bound in place, unable to make any progress. With a ninth-inning win from Seattle and a ninth-inning loss from Baltimore, though, tonight reminds us that the Mariners are still bound for the playoffs.

Their magic number is now seven. Maybe this time.

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