Brian and I went to the game today. He showed up at what would usually be the ungodly early hour of 10:30am to get me, except I was actually already up. We bussed from Northgate and got to the stadium around 11:30, which meant... batting practice was going on! Wheee! I have never seen batting practice before (well, not in this country. I had seen batting practice at Chiba Marine stadium in Japan).
It was pretty exciting, kinda. I mean, I got to stand there looking at the outfield and point out all the pitchers shagging fly balls... well, actually, mostly, they were just standing around. Like I saw Shiggy and J.J.Putz, and Gil Meche and Eddie Guardado, and a bunch of other random pitchers just standing there. Some other people went out to practice fielding, like Scott Spiezio, who really needs the BATTING practice, not FIELDING. We got to see Ichiro take a few swings, and Bret Boone came out for a while to sign autographs for people. The autograph thing is kind of confusing to me... it seemed like not many players actually came out to the stands to sign anything (well, none except Boone), and then when the players came in to the dugout from batting practice, people would hand stuff to the ushers like "Can you get [player] to sign this for my kid?" and such. Actually the weirdest was, one girl asked Miguel Olivo as he was coming in for a signed bat... he kinda nodded... and came back out and handed her a signed bat! The usher was like "Do you know him? Are you related?" and the girl's like "No, I just asked him for a bat" and the usher says "That's REALLY abnormal! You're a lucky gal!"
After that, Brian and I grabbed lunch and sat in the seats for a bit. I'd picked up these tickets after the game on Wednesday.. a season ticket holder returned them... so we were in section 116, row 8, seats 15-16. That's like, 2 sections into field seating, a couple sections beyond first base... and fairly close. Very good seats. I decided I wanted to wander over and take some pictures of Jamie Moyer warming up in the bullpen, because the game wasn't starting for another half hour. So we did that.
For a while Jamie and Olivo were just tossing the ball back and forth in the outfield. I was worried they wouldn't actually come into the bullpen. So they did, and I got this great picture of Bryan Price blowing his wad. I took a whole buncha pictures of Jamie Moyer pitching, but they mostly turned out boring. A few: Jamie ponders. Jamie gets ready. Jamie goes into his windup! Olivo catches. Olivo throws!
Oh, I went over to the Texas Bullpen for a bit too. Here you can see the bullpen catcher, bullpen coach Mark Connor, and pitching coach OREL HERSHISER! I took that picture mostly for my mom, who adored Orel Hershiser back in the 80's. Hi Mom.
Well, so anyway, we had these fabulous seats, except for one problem -- the angle we were at, if anyone was standing in the aisle nearby, it completely blocked our vision of home plate. This became fairly obvious early on, as about ninety people walked down towards their seats during the first inning. When Moyer struck out Teixeira in the first inning, the only way I found out was because I heard the clang KO sound -- there was a guy standing right in my line of sight, motioning towards someone (and looking really mad at me when I waved him to sit down). The first inning was pretty typical Moyer -- Soriano led off with a double, and Blalock walked, but Young popped foul and Richie took a good run for it and caught it, and Moyer struck out Teixeira and Hidalgo. Fun stuff. Our side of the first inning was pretty bland though, three up three down. We noted that Ichiro entered the game batting .533, and batting second was Jeremy Reed, with his whopping .071 batting average. I suppose between the two of them they were hitting .300.
In the second inning, we get a few close calls. After a pop out by Mench, Allen, batting .000, comes up to the plate and whips a 2-2 pitch to the shortstop, who grabs it on the bounce and BARELY beats Allen to first base on the throw. Matthews hits a ball into Adrian Beltre's stomach, who looks none too pleased about it, and he's so pissed he fires the ball to first base for the third out. After a parade of cotton candy and soda vendors come by in our half of the inning, the most colourful vendor in the world blocks my vision as Ibanez is called out on strikes. At least, I don't think he swung. It was hard ducking my head around to try to see.
I noted that a train came by at 1:29 during Allen's at-bat, and a plane was flying very low at 1:30 during Matthews's at-bat. All we would have needed is a car to go across the field and we'd have a Steve Martin film!
The third inning is where Sandy Alomar started to have his great day. You see, he hadn't been in a game yet this season, so he came up to bat with a .000 average the first time, and he smacked the ball into center; both Boone and Valdez moved towards it, but were too far away, for his first single of the day. The cotton candy vendor blocked me from seeing most of Soriano striking out on a 73mph Moyerball. Blalock almost hits a home run into the right field stands, but is a few feet foul, and promptly strikes out on a speedy 74mph Moyerball right after that. As Young steps to the plate, we hear echoes of "Cold Beer Here!" from our section and the next one over. He eventually walks, only to have the inning end a little bit later as Teixeira grounds out to second. Our team, wonderful as they are, mostly strike out this inning. Winn strikes out trying to bunt. Olivo strikes out as a plane flies by AND a train goes by. Valdez comes up to bat with a theme that I swear they were using for Olivo or Cabrera or someone last year, and as a vendor marches down the aisle yelling "BEER TIME!", Valdez grounds into a 6-3 play.
The grounds crew puts on my-my-my-my-my boogie shoes.
Between the third and fourth innings, I get this great idea that I'd love to get a picture of someone standing next to Richie Sexson at first base who is considerably shorter than he is. However, all of the players on the Texas Rangers are over six feet tall; Kevin Mench comes in at the shortest at 6'0 exactly. So after Hidalgo grounds out to third, I'm all psyched to get a picture of Mench at first next to Sexson, which means that he pops out to second. Two outs and Allen comes up. Unfortunately, he is not particularly short, and he hits a single. Matthews doubles to right field after that. Ichiro zaps the ball to the infield, and Boone misses the cutoff, but Allen stops at third. With runners at second and third, Sandy Alomar continues to have a great day, banging a single to center. Boone dives for the ball and misses, and by the time Jeremy Reed retrieves it, Allen and Matthews have scored. 2-0.
Soriano pops out, and I have to settle for a picture of Boone and Sexson for my "picture of an incredibly short guy standing next to an incredibly tall guy". Appropriately, the music trivia song for the next inning is "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls, and they want you to remember that Junior was the AL MVP in 1997.
Ichiro doubles to left center to start off the next half inning. In true Ichiro form, the hit would have been a single for any mortal player, but as we all know, Ichiro is a demigod, who was already around first base by the time the ball was retrieved, and gets a stand-up double. He also, predictably, is the first Mariner to reach base, against Pedro Astacio's excellent pitching. Reed grounds to first, where Teixeira makes an unassisted putout, but in the meantime, Ichiro gets to third. As a guy walks down the aisle in front of me selling lemonade, and another train goes by, Beltre belts a ball to center to score Ichiro. 2-1. Sexson grounds into a double play to end the inning.
In the fifth, Moyer and Beltre run down and catch Blalock's third-base-side foul as a new vendor walks down calling simply "Beer! Beer!" I think he's run out of steam. A lady asks him, "When are you going to have some of that hard lemonade stuff?" and the guy explains, "Lady, I'm going to be selling ice cream after this." Young is walked, as the weird beer dude with the colourful hat and outfit comes back. Teixeira strikes out on a fast 79mph ball, and Hidalgo grounds out to second.
Brian keeps laughing; now that I've pointed out how short Bret Boone is, he can't help but notice Sandy Alomar towering over him during his at-bat. The "Cold Beer Here" dude comes back, and someone's like "Hey Lance!" at him, to which he replies, "Howdy, partner!" Must be special for the Texas team. This guy, however, has hard lemonade, and the people behind us are placated. During the intra-inning gags, the Moose puts pies into the faces of two supposed Rangers fans in the stand, but I'm fairly sure this is staged.
The sixth inning starts off normally, with Mench popping out to Ichiro (as one of his young fans stares on intently). Moyer hits 100 pitches during Allen's at bat next, who singles, and moves to second on a wild pitch. Moyer's starting to look tired, but we know he'd love to stay in in the hopes that the Mariners pick up some runs in their half and give him a chance at a win. Unfortunately, he promptly walks Matthews, which leads to a conference at the mound. Sandy Alomar, batting ninth, hits a single which drives in Allen. 3-1. Alomar is now 3 for 3, and Moyer is now gone for gonzo. Okay, not Gonzo, but Shiggy. Brian points out that I've already scribbled in the runs for Moyer on my scorecard, which I explain as "wishful thinking". The cotton candy guy blocks my view again of Ichiro running in to catch Soriano's shallow pop fly. Blalock grounds to Boone, who jump-fires the ball to first for the third out, and I don't have to scribble out my run tally after all!
The Mariners' half of the inning is mostly punctuated by vendors. First the parade of soda and water come by, and then frozen lemonade, and Valdez gets a single, finally having Ichiro up to bat with someone on base. However, the beer guy and the peanuts guy get into an argument as Ichiro pops out to right field -- an odd thing here, but Texas also has their team's #51, Richard Hidalgo, playing right field. Weird, huh? Over a case of peanuts, Cracker Jacks, and kettle corn, I see Reed hit into a 1-3 play for the final out of the inning.
Shiggy hustles for a nice 3-1 play on Teixeira in the top half of the seventh, and then there's a stretch which involves even more vendors blocking our vision, in addition to the folks sitting next to us, who came back from some silent auction thing where they won a Dan Wilson bat for $400. Yeesh. As the bottom half of the seventh gets underway, the beer vendors start coming out even more in force. Beltre singles, and then Richie strikes out and Boonie pops to right field. The cries turn to "Last call! One more out until no more beer!" I think, "Well, better not get another out, then!" Sure enough, Ibanez singles to move Beltre to third, and then Winn drives Beltre in with another single, moving Ibanez to second. 3-2! With two men on, and the start of a vague rally, Hargrove decides to pinch-hit Scott "Sandfrog" Spiezio for the low-hitting Olivo. Spiezio strikes out, ending beer time for all.
When the 8th inning starts, I see Ron Villone warming up in the bullpen, and I groan. Brian asks me why, and I point it out, saying "Please let Shiggy get through this inning so we can just go straight to Eddie." Unfortunately, the first thing Shiggy does is walk Kevin Mench, which looks unfortunate. But! All is not lost, as Dan "The Man" Wilson, who replaced Olivo as catcher after the PH, comes in to save the day, throwing Mench out at second when he tries to steal! Yay! After that, we get a ground to third and a ground to short and the inning's over. A lovely Villone-free inning at that.
Now here's where the game got better AND weirder. The bottom of the 8th inning, where the Mariners blew it all open.
Valdez starts off with another single to right -- great! Ichiro, being Ichiro, also singles to right. With men on first and second base, Jeremy Reed comes up -- and I make a comment to Brian like, "He might be a good fielder, but if he wants to stay up here, he's got to do something NOW." Brian replies, "I think he knows that." So Reed tries to do a sacrifice bunt. Everyone starts running before he hits the ball, and Shouse, the pitcher who has come in for Astacio, fields the bunt. He turns to throw to third, but is too late, so he decides to throw to first instead. Teixeira had run in to try to field the bunt, so Soriano is covering first. The pitcher's throw is wide, and Soriano moves to try to get it... into the basepath, which has a Jeremy Reed currently barrelling towards first base at full Jeremy Speed. Soriano gets knocked flat on his ass, the ball keeps going, and so does Jeremy Reed, running to second, as Valdez runs home and Ichiro runs to third. Shouse, predictably, gets pulled, having notched no outs, and inflates his ERA to 10.12. Brocail comes in to pitch, and Beltre also hits a single, driving in Ichiro, and putting Reed on third.
Now here's the weirdest at-bat of the game (Reed's not being weird enough). Sexson hits the ball, and technically gets a fielder's choice because the ball is thrown towards third instead. Reed starts running towards home, and gets into a rundown between third and home, which is a little odd because usually weird base rundowns buy time for others to score, but in this case he's the one trying to score, so instead, Sexson moves up to second during the chase, and Beltre to third, and eventually Reed is tagged out. Boone gets a double, which scores Beltre, and Ibanez grounds to second -- they throw him out at first, so Sexson scores on that. 6-3! What a great comeback by the Mariners! Everyone is feeling pretty happy about this, even as Winn lines out to Teixeira to end the rally.
Wouldn't it be great if I could say that we had our closer, Everyday Eddie Guardado, come in and finish off the game for a neat Mariners win?
Yeah, it sure WOULD be great. However, a few things happen at this point.
First, it starts raining.
Second, with one out, Soriano hits a routine ball towards second base, which on any normal day, Bret Boone would scoop up, fire to first, and Soriano would be out. However, this day is not a normal day, apparently, and the ball goes right through Boone's legs to center field.
So instead of 2 outs and nobody on, we have 1 out and a runner on first.
Then Hank Blalock comes up. He's been having awful luck hitting today, which has actually surprised me; I was expecting him to get a home run off Jamie Moyer. Well, he's never one to let me down, and instead he gets a home run off Eddie Guardado a few feet past the foul post in right field. This scores Soriano too, so it's now 6-5. I guess that's okay. Young gets a single, but Teixeira strikes out again after that as the roof is closing, making it two outs.
"Up on your feet!" cries the scoreboard, traditional for the last out of the game. So we stand up for Hidalgo's at-bat. And he takes the 0-1 pitch and BLASTS it to deep center field, way back. Jeremy Reed chases after it, but to no avail, as it goes over the fence for another 2-run homer. Goodbye baseball, and goodbye game -- it brings the score to 7-6 Rangers. And BOY does Eddie Guardado look pissed.
Mench pops out to end the inning, which should have been out long ago. Brian and I argue over which runs were earned and unearned, and I'm wrong - I counted 3 out of 4 as earned because only Soriano was an unearned runner, but Brian later points out that the inning should have ended with Teixeira's strikeout, and therefore Hidalgo's 2 runs are also unearned.
I get the hiccups at this point, which get in the way of me seeing the bottom of the 9th inning now that the vendors have all stopped coming around. It's pretty hopeless anyway. Dan Wilson strikes out, and Greg Dobbs strikes out for Valdez. Ichiro walks, and Jeremy Reed gets a single, sending Ichiro to third, but Beltre hits the ball hard and high, not hard and far, and it's caught for the third out.
It's such a heartbreaking loss. At least Jamie Moyer put in a good showing - I was feeling pretty good about the game even when he was still losing 2-1 for a while.
This is super-long, so I'm going to edit it down later, but for now I've got to get to sleep -- I didn't mean to spend 4 hours transcribing my notes and working with pictures. Tomorrow's game's writeup should be shorter.