Although the last three years have been uneven at best, the White Sox always look the same to the Seattle Mariners:
The White Sox have the Seattle Mariners' number to such an extent that the numbers themselves are hard to fathom. A weekend sweep at U.S. Cellular Field boosted the Sox's record to 24-4 against the Mariners since the start of the 2010 season. That's absurd, even considering they've been last place in the AL West all three years, and buried in the cellar for the first two. 24-4! That's a 138-win pace if they were the only two teams in the league (and what if they were!).
This series took it to another level. These Mariners aren't your typical last-place team. They came into Chicago with an eight-game winning streak, riding high off Felix Hernandez's perfect game and Ichiro Suzuki's Ewing Theory potential. They caught a ton of breaks, and they also made their own luck:
- Friday: Six ninth-inning runs! It was the first time since 1998 that the Sox blew a five-run lead in the ninth inning!
- Saturday: Three first-inning runs and 42 first-inning pitches seen! The starting catcher and manager ejected!
- Sunday: Scoring first again! Gavin Floyd leaving after two innings! A one-run lead and a scary weather map!
That has the makings of a sweep. At the very least, a series win.
Somehow, they had nothing to show for it.
Tyler Flowers, of all people, embodies the best -- or worst, if you're in Seattle -- of this wackadoo phenomenon. He was the guy Mariners fans were happy to see on Saturday, entering the game after A.J. Pierzynski's ejection and taking his spot in the middle of the lineup. Sure enough, he hits the game-tying homer, then delivers a perfect bunt single to set up the decisive sac fly.
Sunday took the weirdness up a notch. As he comes to the plate, crew chief Jim Joyce calls for Roger Bossard. Bossard thinks he wants to the tarp, but Joyce just wants a quick Diamond Dry job to make the infield more playable. The grounds crew obliges, and Kevin Millwood, mostly cruising, waits through a six-minute delay.
When play resume, Flowers cranks the second pitch 453 feet to center, giving the White Sox a 4-3 lead. Two batters later the tarp comes out, and that's the ballgame.
(On Seattle's feed, as Eric Wedge took the ball from Millwood, broadcaster Dave Sims led into the commercials with, "...the nightmare continues in Chicago...")
It's rare that a backup catcher ever lands the decisive blow, and with a line of .222/.282/.380, Flowers was very much the second choice in both situations. After his double order of dingers, well, as Tyler Soze said, Seattle might be the only city where Pierzynski is the White Sox's second-most-hated catcher.
We'll have a better idea of the significance of these games after the season, because they could really loom large. After all, the Tigers just completed a 5-1 homestand ... and they lost a game in the standings.
This series has plenty of competition among other Sox-Mariners games when it comes to sheer strangeness. Some notable contests from the last three years in chronological order:
- April 23-25, 2010: Two walk-offs, and one in the eighth
In the opener, Jose Lopez hit a go-ahead grand slam off J.J. Putz in the seventh inning, but Alex Rios tied it with a double, and Andruw Jones ended it with a solo shot.
Rios won the second game with a two-run shot, the second homer of the inning off Seattle closer David Aardsma. Of course, this was after the Mariners scored two runs off Bobby Jenks in the ninth to take the lead. Paul Konerko came in early for the series finale, taking Brandon League deep in the eighth. Jenks made it hold up for the winning run.
Ryan Rowland-Smith is forced to wear it to the tune of 11 runs over five innings. He's the first pitcher to give up at least 10 runs in a start since Colby Lewis (then on Oakland) on May 22, 2007.
The Mariners led this one 5-1 after the top of the second, which is the biggest lead they've blown over this time. Juan Pierre scores the game-winning run after a walk, steal, sac bunt and a Rios single through a drawn-in left side.
In the ninth inning, League pitched a 1-2-3 inning. In the 10th, he started single-sac bunt-double-double before getting the hook.
Just your typical three-walk, one-run-saving-catch game by Brent Lillibridge.
In his 145th game with the White Sox, Adam Dunn finally enjoys his first multi-homer game, as well as his first five-RBI game. Dunn took Seattle pitching deep twice on Friday as well.
Philip Humber's perfect game might be the hardest thing to explain about this season when it's all said and done.
The Sox's ninth victory of the year was also their first come-from-behind win. Since then, 35 of the White Sox's 62 wins have taken place after trailing.
The Sox only let a 4-0 lead go to waste this time, but an Alexei Ramirez swinging bunt drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, and Alejandro De Aza added the insurance.
The White Sox victories tell most of the story, but the nature of the losses also shed some light on why the Mariners are so tormented by their South Side overlords. It's one thing to win four games over three years, but the Mariners couldn't even win any of them comfortably. Three went to extra innings, and the other was a one-run game.
(And if you dial it back to 2009, two of the last three games won by the Mariners went to 14 innings.)
Basically, it's been a long time since the Mariners were able to provide for their fans a thoroughly enjoyable game against the White Sox, which goes a long way toward explaining why Lookout Landing turns into a bunker for nine games a year.
Fortunately, they have no such problem with other teams in the AL Central, including one in particular:
- vs. White Sox: 1-8
- vs. Tigers: 5-1
Throw in your own favorite White Sox-Mariners memories below. There are plenty to choose from.