During a depressing season of lackluster baseball, we fans are forced to find our wins where we can. Not real wins, obviously, as this year has seen a gaping deficit of those, but rather, little figurative wins—the kind that acts as a salve to heal the sharp, painful hurt that losing brings. And my oh my, do we need as many of those wins as we can get—in general, sure, but very, very specifically during this 2019 Seattle Mariners season.
Because as we all know, this season has been categorically rough, but it hasn’t been without a bright spot or two.
Over the weekend, during the Mariners’ 3-game series against the Oakland Athletics, something amazing happened. It was very quick, essentially requiring slow-motion cameras to truly observe the chain of events in all their glory. Fortunately, the Oakland Coliseum is equipped with high-speed cameras and this shared achievement was observed from multiple angles, almost guaranteeing that it will be reshown on Mariners highlight reels for years to come.
Unlike a monster Vogelbach home run into the third deck (#VoteForVogie) or dynamic throw from Haniger in the right field corner to gun down a runner trying for a double, this play was smaller in scope—an infield hit being stopped and an attempt to throw out the runner at first. On paper, this isn’t overly dazzling; in fact, you may have seen it and not even realized what exactly happened.
Let’s give this three-player Mariner moment its well-deserved time under the bright lights.
*Also, please know that I am aware of my endlessly desperate and sad optimism when it comes to the Mariners. This is a transparently glass-half-full story.
During the bottom of the fifth inning with no outs, nobody on base and Oakland leading the Mariners 9-2, Marcus Semien entered the batter box. On the first pitch from Mariners reliever Taylor Scott, Semien knocked a 95-mph ball back up the middle that scorched past the mound and quickly made its way towards centerfield.
Ranging toward second base, the moment the ball was hit, shortstop J.P. Crawford took four quick steps before laying out to reach the ball at the grass’s edge. The force of his effort caused his legs to fly up behind him as he slid on his chest across the dirt. While impressive, this defensive stop left Crawford on the ground with no chance at throwing Semien out at first. That’s where Dylan Moore entered the story.
—Quickly, do you remember Dylan Moore? He’s the Mariners rookie utility infielder who’s spent most of this season filling in holes left by injuries. Playing shortstop against the Boston Red Sox back in March (yes, March), Moore made national headlines for committing three consecutive errors with two outs in the ninth, almost costing the M’s the game. Remember now? Okay, back to the story.—
With Crawford splayed out in the dirt, second baseman Moore moved closer to his “fallen” teammate, inspiring a weak glove flip up to his ready-and-waiting mitt. Crawford could only watch as Moore received the ball, turned, planted his feet, and uncorked a sidearm rocket toward first.
During all this, Marcus Semien was summoning all possible speed to reach first base before the ball. To his credit, Semien has above average sprint speed, but he ranks 3rd fastest on the Athletics, so he’s not exactly greased lightning on the bases. However, he’s had a lot of success hitting leadoff this season, leading the majors in games played and ranking second in both at bats and plate appearances. More to the point, he’s currently tied for sixth in singles hit in the entire MLB. Not an easy out to make by anyone’s estimation.
Okay, back to the play. Moore turned and fired toward first as Semien dashed for safety. But what’s this? My main man Daniel Vogelbach is playing first! And Vogie knows how close this is going to be, so he drops to a knee and stretches out to accept the low throw from Moore. And wouldn’t you know it? Vogelbach narrowly completed the out.
Semien knew he’d lost the footrace and slowed into a disappointed trot back to his dugout. Back on his feet, Crawford smiled from ear to ear as the Mariners threw the ball “around the horn” in shared appreciation of the true team effort.
As stated above, the Mariners were losing 9-2 (Oakland would eventually win 11-2), making this an encouraging blip in an otherwise discouraging game and season overall. Nevertheless, this small moment signaled two positive steps forward for the team: First, this is evidence of young ballplayers learning to work together as a team, which is essential for a rebuilding franchise. Second, this is a significant improvement for the Mariners defense, which has been abysmal this season.
This was a brilliant moment to watch, and dare I say, an indication of better defense to come in upcoming seasons. We need all the wins we can get, and this one stood out in dramatic fashion.
The season isn’t even halfway over, but I’m calling it now.
This was the Seattle Mariners defensive play of the year (at the 3:23 mark).