Wednesday, June 19, 2024

THE CHEAP SEATS with STEVE CAMERON: M's avoided being ambushed by fruit and veggies

| June 11, 2024 1:05 AM

Just as MJ Melendez made contact, I thought of Pakistan.

Wait, no!

The visual image of Kandahar airport actually blossomed suddenly as Melendez took a step or two forward as Mariners reliever Mike Baumann was delivering a pitch.

It was the sort of move that a hitter might try if he’s going all-out for a home run.

Committing your swing that early doesn’t help if you’re trying to make solid contact, and maybe just hit a line drive to the outfield.

Melendez wasn’t thinking that way, not with the Royals down 3-1 with two outs, bottom of the ninth and a runner on second.

He’s got kind of a wild swing anyway, with an open stance that gives you a chance to clobber a “mistake pitch” — something right down the middle.

Unfortunately for Baumann, a big guy at 6-foot-4 that the Mariners acquired just a couple of weeks ago with their bullpen shortage, he trusted his stuff against Melendez (with a .165 average and six homers in 196 plate appearances).

So, Baumann just wanted to throw a strike and get ahead.

BAD NEWS for him: Melendez was thinking the same thing, and literally ran into a cutter that was middle-middle.

Melendez hammered the thing into the right-field stands, tying the game at 3-3 and, considering that Seattle closer Andres Munoz had already been used in the eighth inning, left the Mariners staring into the abyss of a three-game sweep.

It had a sickening feeling, which is why I mentioned Pakistan.

I’ll explain that in a minute.

The Mariners, you probably know, lost the opener of the series in Kansas City after jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning.

The second game was a nightmare, as Luis Castillo had so little command of anything that he might as well have thrown the rosin bag toward the plate.

Then finally came Sunday, and a pitching battle between George Kirby and the Royals’ phenomenal find at last year’s trade deadline — when they traded Aroldis Chapman, the human bus ticket — to Texas for young lefty Cole Ragans.

J.P. Crawford homered off Ragans to start the game, and then the Royals' new ace promptly declared that the fun was over.

Ragans breezed through six, looked a lot like Clayton Kershaw, but couldn’t win on his own because Kirby was just as good.

It was 1-1 in the seventh, when the Mariners were treated to an awesome surprise.

A good one, this time.

Rookie Tyler Locklear, summoned that very day because Ty France was out with a bruise on his heel (yep, another hit by pitch), announced his arrival with a run-scoring double to right-center.

Greetings, young man.

Grab the trident.

The Royals obviously didn’t take any scouting report seriously enough, because they weren’t playing deep enough, and Locklear one-hopped the wall in right-center like he’d hit a tee shot with a 3-wood.

Josh Rojas followed with a single to make it 3-1 and we were set from some serious drama.

MUNOZ worked a clean eighth, punctuated by terrific barehanded plays by Ryan Bliss at second and Rojas over at third.

The idea was to have Andres face Bobby Witt Jr. — he struck him out — and gamble with Baumann in the ninth.

It almost worked, as Baumann got two quick outs, gave up a hit and then … BOOM!

This is where we close our eyes and think of Pakistan.

I’ve been on some gloomy team flights over the years, and it dawned on me that if (when) the Royals closed this out, the fellas might have a quiet trip home to Sea-Tac.

Ah, yes.


I did manage to laugh amid the chaos, because there are parts of the world that take sports results more seriously than we do — even in Philadelphia.

The world champ Pakistani cricket team got upset in India (brutal rivals) one year, and when the team got back, a mob at the airport bombarded the team and plenty of unlucky bystanders with fruit and veggies.

Nice job, you mugs.

Have a rutabaga in the snout!

Needless to say, our Northwest is far more civilized (I think), but no one would be thrilled with a three-game washout against a team that is built a lot like the Mariners.

On the other hand, maybe an assault using cabbage from the sky would jolt the guys back into sharpness.



Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns appear in The Press four times each week, normally Tuesday through Friday unless, you know, stuff happens.

Steve suggests you take his opinions in the spirit of a Jimmy Buffett song: “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On.”

Fun fact: A rutabaga is basically a cross between a turnip and a wild cabbage. Excellent for pelting failed athletes and lying politicians. Supposedly also sweet and nutritious.