Last night should have been celebrated as Nick Franklin’s “coming of age” moment. With the game (seemingly) on the line in the eighth inning — two outs, runner on second, scoreless tie — Franklin sized up a 1-1 pitch from lefty Travis Blackley, took a nice, compact swing, and lined an opposite-field single to right. You can see the result above: Endy Chavez sliding into home with the go-ahead run that put the Mariners three outs away from a hard-fought win over the Astros.
Well, everyone knows what happened. Before they got those three outs, the Astros had scored six runs, and nobody today is talking about Nick Franklin. If Tom Wilhelmsen had held down Houston, Franklin’s hit would be celebrated today, I’m sure. Instead, he had his hero’s moment snatched away from him (as did Jeremy Bonderman, who worked eight innings about as efficiently as possible — one of the best games of his career — yet that notable achievement was pushed aside by the disastrous ninth).
It strikes me that this scenario has played out numerous times of late. Here is a roll call of would-be Mariners heroes whose heroic moments were obscured by subsequent events:
May 17: Raul Ibanez hits a two-run homer in the sixth to pull the Mariners into a 3-3 tie, only to have them give up three runs in the bottom of the 10th for a 6-3 loss to Cleveland.
May 18: Down 4-0 to the Indians, the Mariners score two in the eighth on a Brendan Ryan homer, then tie it with shocking suddenness with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on back-to-back homers by Ibanez and Justin Smoak. For the struggling Smoak, getting a game-tying bomb with his team down to its last out would have been a huge talking point if the Mariners had pulled out the game. But that was the night the Mariners coughed it up in the bottom of the ninth when catcher Jesus Montero couldn’t keep his foot on home plate as the go-ahead run scored.
May 20: This was Endy Chavez’s night for the spotlight after hitting a ninth-inning homer to give the Mariners a 7-6 lead over Cleveland. Oops. Wilhelmsen couldn’t make the putout at first base in the bottom of the ninth as Cleveland tied the game. Ah, but Smoak rose to the moment again in the 10th with a go-ahead, two-out homer. And again, the Mariners gave it back – all the way — on a two-run homer off Charlie Furbush. Smoak again was a mere footnote, along with Chavez.
May 29: In a 1-1 tie in San Diego, Jason Bay led off the ninth with a homer to give the Mariners the lead. Great game-winning hit for the vet, great human-interest angle for the ex-Padre striving to re-energize his career. But Wilhelmsen gave up the tying run in the 9th, Yoervis Medina gave up the winning run in the 10th, and the Padres walked off, 3-2. Bay’s homer was quickly forgotten by frustrated Mariners fans.
June 1: Bay got another shot at glory with a seventh-inning homer against the Twins that broke a 2-2 tie. The M’s took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth, when Wilhelmsen gave up three runs for another stunning loss that rendered Bay’s homer immaterial.
June 5: This was the whopper of all stolen heroic moments. Kyle Seager’s 14th-inning grand slam would have been the stuff of legend had the Mariners pulled out this game against the White Sox. And what team battles back from a five-run deficit in extra innings and then isn’t so galvanized it simply refuses to let the game get away? The Mariners, that’s who. Hector Noesi gave up two in the 16th, and Seager’s grand slam, which could have gone down as one of the greatest blasts in Mariner history, will instead by remembered in the context of an excruciating loss.
As you can see, Franklin has company. The Mariners have made an art out of squandering the moment of glory for a growing array of players.