baseball

About Last Night: Jarred Kelenic, Return of the Jarredi

Game 149

It is a period of mass unrest! The Seattle Mariners, fighting for their playoff lives, are being attacked on all fronts! Suffering loss after loss to weak teams, and injuries to key players, the mood is somber among the fandom.

Desperate for a kickstart to their offense, Mariners leadership send a desperate plea to Tacoma, hoping to awaken a spark from the past…


Somehow Kelenic returned.

A long time ago (yesterday, around 2:00ish), in our galaxy (more specifically Oakland, California), Jarred Kelenic stepped into the batter’s box for his second at-bat of the day, and as many since being recalled from Triple- A Tacoma on Tuesday and beginning his third time up with the team.

In the last few days, there had been some clambering to see Jarred return to the club for a myriad of reasons. Some hoped he could recapture the lightning in a bottle from his performance last September. Some hoped he could boost the production out of the left field. Some simply thought he was ready for another chance after going on another torrid stretch with the Rainiers. Yet some us just wanted to see our baby boy again, longing for the days when his near-overwhelming intensity felt charming in a perverse “thank god he’s a baseball player not the commander of the Imperial Starfleet” kind of way.

Stepping into the box for this at-bat, Kelenic settled into another new-look stance, bat rested comfortably on his left shoulder, with a slight but noticeable roll in his shoulders and his front heel gently tapping as he waited for the first pitch.

The mood had shifted drastically since Jarred’s first at-bat. Back in the first, Jarred eagerly accepted a walk, quickly discarding his bat, and spinning to trot up the baseline, clearly content with his contribution to the Mariners’ inning that eventually allowed Jesse Winker to come up and take a walk of his own to push the Mariners’ first inning lead to 3-0. In the fourth, Jarred was looking at a two-run deficit rather than a two-run lead.

The mood was grim before Jarred hit the first pitch of the fourth inning 108 mph into the right center field seats. A five-run swing is liable to do that. The possibility of being swept by the 2022 Oakland Athletics was suddenly looking more than your average amount of potential. Since the first, the Mariners had been retired in order, a return to an uncomfortable new norm of the Mariners offense. His presence authoritatively announced, but there was work yet to be done.

Sparkplug. You may have seen that word thrown around in connection to Jarred lately. What people remember him as during last season’s ill-fated playoff run, but also what they thought he could be after getting the call to come up this season. The guy who snaps the rest of the guys to attention by basically saying, “I can do it, so we can do it.” With two swings, Jarred undid the A’s lead, giving us a brand new ballgame. The offense took that energy and ran away with it, avoiding a potentially backbreaking sweep in the process, and providing to us all that we could have what we wanted. We could have our improvement out of left field, Jarred might be able to recapture last September, and he showed us how much we missed him, even when he treats the celebratory Gatorade bath like he just got swirlied.

But perhaps most importantly, Jarred showed that he might be ready to stay this time. It’s hard to ignore the Jarred we had all seen before today, and how stark the contrast it is to the Jarred we thought we were getting. I don’t want to think about that Jarred Kelenic anymore, and he doesn’t either. He can’t undo what’s already happened, but he can play the best baseball he can from now on. It might not be the kind of joyful, vibes-based fun we’ve seen from this team so far. It’s less podracing and more “I hate sand.” But there’s room for that here too.

That is just who Jarred is. Jarred doesn’t want to celebrate now; he wants to celebrate in two weeks because he was able to do what he has wanted to do since he got to Seattle: push us into the playoffs. There is more on the way from him, and we should all buckle up now, because Jarred has got a lot work to do, and he’s going to go at light speed to do it.

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