Phantom Game: A Recap for a Game Unseen

The Mariners hosted the Oakland Athletics Wednesday night. Actually, they did not, because of the whole *excessive hand-waving* pandemic or whatever. But, we pretended that they did. This is what happened in the game that wasn’t.

First pitch hit the back of the catcher’s glove at 7:11 pm. There was a sadness in the air, but not your standard Mariners sadness. Something about the atmosphere felt mildly oppressive, in spite of a clear, bright sky on a beautiful Pacific Northwest September evening. An invisible haze. A threat, not yet verbalized.

Kikuchi started well enough, retiring the side in order in the top of the first while regularly touching 96 mph, occasionally hitting 97 or 98. The curveball had good movement early on.

Mark Mulder took the mound in the bottom half for the Athletics, and promptly sent JP Crawford back to the dugout on a weak roller to second base. Haggerty, who for the time being insists on being a slightly-above-average hitter, flared one to the outfield grass for a single. Mulder shrugged it off and set the brothers Kyle down in order.

If there had been a crowd, it would have been uneasy. Instead, the sea of cardboard cutouts stood sentry as the players begin to feel it themselves. Something. Like a pre-earthquake cat.

Kikuchi walked Mark Canha on four pitches to start the 2nd, and Matt Olson immediately made him pay with a 550 ft blast to right center. This Statcast data looks like a glitch, but it’s not — if you were watching you saw the way the ball just sort of crawled out of the park, slowly and deliberately breaking the laws of physics as if intentionally giving Yusei more time to reflect upon his sins.

With two out in the bottom of the 2nd, Evan White unleashed a violent fury upon a baseball which has been hitherto unseen, and probably will never be seen again. Those who witnessed it are still in disbelief, but the numbers don’t lie:

At that point it was 2-1 in favor of the A’s, and things started to unravel a bit. Chad Pinder lead off the top of the 3rd with an inside-the-parker, thanks to a failed dive attempt by Dee Gordon in left field. It clearly got to Kikuchi, who walked the next three batters on 14 pitches. He regained his composure, however, finishing the inning with a strikeout and a double play. 3-1 going to the bottom of the 3rd inning.

And then it happened.

Those in the press box finally begin to realize what was going on. Sorry, “realize” is not the right word — no one could realize this abject, inexplicable horror. Rather, they begin to witness it. The nightmare on the field begins to be reflected in the voices of Dave Sims and Aaron Goldsmith.

No one really knows what happened after that. At once a blink and an eternity — something had occurred — but impossible to pinpoint when, and how. Profound, and devastating. But fleeting…untraceable. A block of time, in this reality, gone. But to where? How much? It seems unknowable. Matt Chapman was found four hours later, kneeling in the back of a Walgreens, lining up dish scrubbers with no explanation for why, or what he was doing there. Tim Lopes will not leave the shower that he staggered into during the event. There is blood on the dugout steps. No one knows who it belongs to.

Matt Magill came out for the top of the 7th, or back out. Maybe. I’m not sure. He pitched, and the A’s batted. The Oakland hitters then hit four balls in play to the exact same spot on the field, two of which were outs, two of which were doubles.

Official Statcast graphic

Like everything else on this night it made no sense, but also it did.

After yet another uneventful turn at the plate for the Mariners, Magill came back out for the 8th. This was his fourth inning of the game, and after a quick two outs he finished the night with 56 pitches. The reason he didn’t throw anymore pitches is that his arm fell off in a gruesome moment that was definitely not fun for the whole family.

The bottom of the 8th featured the obligatory “in play, Kyle(s)” moment of the game. Back-to-back doubles from the wondrous pair scored another run. Evan White reappeared to spin around like a top, come out of his shoes, and leave Seager stranded at second. On to the 9th.

Yohan Ramirez came on to throw some fireballs, and anyone who had managed to recover from The Event was now weeping openly. Where mercy was needed, Yohan brought judgement. Oh well.

With one out in the bottom of the 9th, Dee Gordon did this:

Joe Odom waved the white flag, and that was it for the good teal boys. Everyone involved hopes to never experience anything like this again.

FINAL: Oakland 15, Seattle 2

Full game thread here

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