It is over.
It is finally over.
After 21 long years, the Seattle Mariners are finally back in the postseason. The longest playoff drought in the major North American sports is over.
Let’s set the stage a bit for how this played out. Seattle got a run early in the game to take the lead. Then at around 7:15 pm, Logan Gilbert gives up a game-tying home run. Less than 10 minutes later, the Baltimore Orioles won to keep their postseason hopes alive. The Mariners now have to win this game or the drought continues for another day. Logan Gilbert settles in. He doesn’t give up another run and ends up throwing a career-high 8 innings pitched. Matt Brash comes in and shows his electric stuff out of the bullpen in the top of the 9th and shuts the Athletics down in order. Oakland pitchers had also held the Mariners scoreless since the bottom of the 1st inning.
Fans were on their feet to start the 9th inning. 45,000+ fans were ready to witness history. Leading off the bottom of the 9th inning was Mitch Haniger. He is known for writing the Players Tribune piece after last season. He was adamant that this team was going to end the drought. “That’s not an if, it’s a when”. The moment seemed perfect for him. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get it done. Carlos Santana comes up next. He had a tough at-bat and the Mariners are down to the last at-bat in the 9th. They either need to put a rally together or play extra innings for the second night in a row. Cal Raleigh comes on to pinch hit. He has been limited recently with a thumb issue and finally got a chance to hit late in this game. He’s facing RHP Domingo Acevedo. We end up in a 3-2 count after some off-speed pitches for balls and some swinging strikes. Raleigh was selling out for the fastball. He was well ahead on both of his swings. Then he readjusted his approach and the man known as “Big Dumper” ends up hitting a low spinning slider 406 feet to walk off the game. The crowd goes crazy. Raleigh is in shock as he rounds the bases. Mariners players are rushing out of the dugout to get to home plate and celebrate.
Let’s look at some historical and statistical implications of this home run. He broke the previous Mariners single season HR record of 25 set in 2017 by Mike Zunino. He hit his 28th HR of his career, 25 of those coming off RHP. He is the first player in MLB history to hit a pinch-hit, game-winning, walk-off HR to clinch a postseason berth. His HR will go down as one of the biggest and most memorable hits in Seattle Mariners’ history.
As a lifelong Mariners fan, this still doesn’t feel real. I might have been alive, but I was 2 years old the last time the Mariners made the postseason. I have been through the ups and I have certainly been there through the many downs. Being able to witness them clinching a playoff spot in person, at the stadium, was surreal. The moment it happened was intense. It was screaming, yelling, and jumping around. Tears were coming to my eyes but I couldn’t cry. I was in absolute shock.
They have made the playoffs, now what? Now they need to start by hosting a playoff game. The fans and the city were going crazy for a regular season game. Imagine the atmosphere in the playoffs. The chances of hosting the Wild Card are very slim now, but if they can advance to the ALDS, they will guarantee at least one home playoff game. With continued strong pitching, solid defense, and timely hitting, this team has a chance to make a legitimate run and upset some teams along the way. This is the first payoff we are truly seeing from this “rebuild”, but the hope in the Pacific Northwest is that it won’t be the last.
Featured Photo: Mariners / Twitter