The Seattle Mariners are great at destroying dreams. Unfortunately, they are also good at creating them. A four-game sweep of defending AL Pennant winner Tampa Bay pushed the Mariners back above the .500 mark on the season and into a position to at least sniff at a Wild Card spot. Could the Mariners actually be good? The fact that they are where they are in the standings despite a -46 run differential strongly suggests they are not. But can they at least be fun and not mind numbingly hopeless and depressing? Possibly!
Twice in two days, they came up with two-out grand slams, giving announcer Rick Rizz a chance to use the classic Dave Niehaus “Break out the Rye Bread and Mustard Grandma it’s Grand Salami time!” Anytime Rizzs gets a chance to pay tribute to his friend and mentor is a good one. Anytime two players that stand a good chance to play big roles in the franchise’s future- J.P Crawford and Shed Long — can deliver those moments, it’s even better.
Crawford had tons of question marks when he arrived from Philadelphia in exchange for Jean Segura. This year he is answering all those questions by playing gold glove caliber defense at shortstop and turning into one of the team’s most reliable hitters. He’s hitting .281 with a .330 OBP, which is fantastic for a position that emphasizes defense. His newfound hitting acumen doesn’t appear to be accidental either; all of his underlying statistics, such as exit velocity and barrels (batted balls with an exit velocity of at least 98 mph and a launch angle between 26-30 degrees which are extremely likely to be hits) have been up year over year since his debut and are finally coming together in a perfect storm of awesomeness.
Long had almost turned into an afterthought after struggling early in the abbreviated 2020 season, then getting hurt, then suffering several setbacks that kept him out for the first two months of 2021. Now he’s back in the lineup and making up for lost time. Long has never been known for pop, but he has speed, some defensive versatility in the infield and the outfield, and plays with such joyous energy that you can’t help but root for the guy. Thus, when he came up with the bases loaded in the bottom of the tenth against Tampa Bay and did this:
I found myself grinning ear to ear.
It was his first home run of the year and just the ninth of his major league career. The day before Long hit his walk-off, Crawford delivered a salami that was just as big, grabbing four of the Mariners’ five runs against the Rays in the third win of the series.
Both grand slams were line drives that landed in nearly the same spot, both hit by players playing with an energy that is just a joy to watch. Joy has been something that’s regularly missing from the Mariners team. A postseason drought approaching 20-years will do that to you. Watching top prospect after top prospect flame out will take some away as well. But watching the smiles on the faces of J.P Crawford and Shed Long as they led the team to an improbable sweep against one of the best teams in the American League gives hope that the franchise may just be heading in the right direction.