If the circumstances were different – something that has been said often in the pandemic-shortened baseball season of 60 games – the doubleheader Monday between the Mariners and A’s at T-Mobile Park might not have been played in acrid haze that offered an uncomfortable reminder of when smoking still was allowed in airplanes and establishments.
But because the two seven-inning games were scheduled as part of the way to make up a three-game series postponed in early September due to a positive COVID-19 test from A’s pitcher Daniel Mengden in an already condensed season, the possibility of postponing them again seemed unlikely if not impossible.
Despite air conditions considered unhealthy for physical activity for any person, even professional athletes, the two teams played through a smokey haze for 14 innings to finish the two games.
With wildfires raging in California, Oregon and in the state of Washington, a massive cloud of smoke infiltrated the Puget Sound and beyond Friday and stayed there through the weekend. Combined with the usual marine layer, it has made the air quality in the area escalate from unhealthy to hazardous in places.
Using the Air Now website, which relies on government monitors for air quality readings, the Air Quality Index for the area around T-Mobile Park was at 220 around first pitch. It was around 220 to 224 in the two hours leading up to the first game.
The AQI Scale measures from 0 to 500 with 0-50 being considered good and 50-100 being moderate.
Anything over 200 to 300 is considered very unhealthy to all individuals with recommendations to avoid strenuous outdoor activities, keep them short or rescheduling them.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said none of his players had any issues or complained about the conditions after the first game.
“It’s one of the reasons you know you got the roof on so you get some backdrop there and you can see the ball when it goes up in the air,” he said. “So no issues there. It’s certainly a little bit different than what you’re used to, but nobody had any problems.”
Kyle Lewis had no complaints.
“It was OK breathing,” he said in a postgame video call after Game 2. “We definitely noticed that the sky was all foggy and and smokey. It definitely wasn’t a normal situation, definitely a little weird. It’s kind of hard for me to speak on it because I don’t really understand the nature of the smoke in the air and whatnot and how that works. It was just kind of weird, definitely a bizarre day.”
In the other clubhouse, A’s starter Jesus Luzardo said he did have problems with the conditions.
“I mean when I came out I think it was at 284,” Luzardo said. “I’m a healthy 22-year-old, I shouldn’t be gasping for air, or missing oxygen, when I’m getting to the line. So I’ll leave it at that.”
Luzardo’s teammates didn’t seem to have as much trouble with air quality. With no on-field work or batting practice, most of them still were on the field in the hours leading up to the game, playing catch and participated in spirited games of hacky sack and also a modified soccer game.
To be fair, periodically checking the nearest AQI monitor to T-Mobile Park through Air Now, located at 10th and Weller, the index never got above 230 during the first game. The Mariners used that monitor, which is also located 350 feet in the air and not on ground level, as well as other website data and information from two local meteorologists when determining the AQI for a game and how they should proceed.
A spokesman for Major League Baseball confirmed there is not a set AQI index threshold where a game would automatically have to be postponed, saying, “We advise clubs that they should speak with their local health departments and any other relevant local agencies for guidance on how to proceed.”
*** The Mariners were without shortstop J.P. Crawford for another day. Crawford was placed on the bereavement list Friday due to a death in the family. He’s now missed five games.
While the bereavement list has a seven-day limit, Servais didn’t expect to see Crawford until the weekend series with the Padres.
“He’s working through some things at home, back in California with his family,” Servais said. “I’m expecting he could be back here in the next few days, but do not have an exact time yet. When he does come back, he’ll have to go through the (COVID-19) intake testing and things like that to get cleared.”
*** The Mariners activated right-hander Erik Swanson from the injured list and optioned left-hander Aaron Fletcher back to the alternate training site in Tacoma.
Swanson went on the IL on Aug. 20 with a forearm strain after making six relief appearances.
“The reports are Swanny has been throwing great,” Servais said. “The velocity has been up, and secondary pitches are very good. But he’ll be limited. He can probably give us an inning and we’ll see how he looks.”
*** A moment of silence was held before the game at T-Mobile Park to honor legendary high school basketball coach Ed Pepple, who died cancer at age 92.