Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Game Report: Mariners vs. Twins - Bret Boone's Birthday!

Today I started off the day with even more bad timing. I meant to go to GI Joe's in Northgate and get a scorecard book, and then take a bus to Safeco from Northgate, and get to the game a few hours early and photograph batting practice! Then two things happened -- one, I forgot the battery for my camera and didn't notice until I was at Northgate -- and two, the GI Joe store didn't actually have a reasonable scorecard book. Grr. I drove home, seeing the 5 bus up Greenwood, and when I got back, I realized that I could either go straight to the bus stop and catch that bus, not grabbing the battery, or I could grab the battery and probably miss the bus. I chose the latter. It's okay, it was a gorgeous, sunny day in the mid-60's; not at all bad for standing outside or walking.

It all worked out okay, I guess. I ended up getting there early enough to be one of the first 20,000 fans, and got a calendar. I was too late to see batting practice, but I was early enough to get pictures of Bobby Madritsch and Carlos Silva warming up. I also ended up getting a seat in section 106, in the right field stands. Usually, these are good seats, except I had the fortune to be sitting between an extremely loud drunk mulletted guy, and an extremely stinky and large teenage boy. The joys of the game started when the team had barely taken the field and the drunk guy yells out, practically in my ear, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRET!"

Yeah, okay, it's Bret Boone's birthday, but can he really hear you from across the field, jerk?

The first inning goes by fairly quickly, from the playing standpoint. The twins are 3 up 3 down, and the Mariners are almost so, save Beltre smacking a line drive through Castro's glove for an infield single.

In the second inning, Cheering Drunk Guy (henceforth referred to as CDG) feels that it's necessary to shout "WAY TO GO, BOBBY!" after every pitch. It is, infact, even necessary to yell "WAY TO GO, RANDY!" after Randy Winn catches a ball that pretty much came right at him. Bobby Madritsch gets the only Twins strikeout of the game, fanning Jacque Jones on a 75 mph changeup.

Bret Boone, Birthday Boy, comes up first in the bottom half of the inning. He watches a few pitches go by, even fouls off a few, and then really lays into a 1-2 pitch, blasting it into the left field bleachers for a 387-foot home run. Not a bad way to start off your 36th birthday. 1-0. Everyone goes wild, including CDG, who's up to a 3-0 count on his beers, and knocks the current one into the row below us. It spills all over some poor lady's jacket, who freaks out, and CDG doesn't even lose his cool, he's just all like "Hey, ah got so 'cited by the home run that ah couldn't hold mah beer!"


The rest of the Mariners' hitting in this inning is entirely handled by Juan Castro and Justin Morneau, as Ibanez pops up to Castro, Winn grounds to first for Morneau's unassisted putout, and Wilson grounds into a 6-3 play. At this point I discover that CDG has a daughter or two sitting further down the row -- as they come up and ask him for money to go get ice cream. CDG gets his buddy, ODG (Other Drunk Guy) to take one of his daughters up for ice cream ("Hey, gemme another brewski while you're at it?"). He bounces his other daughter on his knee like "You thirsty, punkster? We gonna win? We better! We didn't drive no 500 miles to see them lose!"

Hmm, that explains it all, although I'm vaguely doubting this guy can actually count to 500. I start scouting out seats nearby; there's like five empty seats in the row right behind me. CDG yells "GET EM, BOBBY!" in my ear as the third inning gets underway.

Valdez decides to prove he can, infact, play shortstop, as he snags some pretty good grounders for a set of 6-3 plays. The Mariners don't manage to do much in their half of the inning. Between the third and fourth innings, I hop up a row into an empty seat, asking the nice couple sitting there whether anyone's been there. They say no, and commend me on my fine choice of escaping CDG. Wheeee.

The game gets a lot better for me at that point. Well, no. It gets quieter. The fourth inning is when the Twins start blowing apart Bobby Madritsch, which is decidedly not better.

Stewart sends a long pop fly into Jeremy Reed's glove, a routine play. Then it all starts. Nick Punto bunts past Madritsch, and Boone falls flat on his face trying to field it (flat enough that Richie has to help him stand up). CDG starts yelling, "YOU'RE A BUM, PUNTO! YOU SMELL! P-U! PUNTO!" Hmm, that's almost clever. Hunter flies out to center, and then Punto and Morneau execute such a perfect hit-and-run that I can't help but break out into a grin. Punto starts running as the pitch comes in, and is already halfway to second by the time Morneau hits the ball out to right field, getting to third before even Ichiro can throw it in. I'm still admiring the beauty of the perfectly played hit-and-run when LeCroy, one of the Twins's spare catchers who happens to be playing DH today, whacks a nice home run into the Twins' bullpen. 3-1.

Boone makes a nice spinning catch to retire Jones and end the inning, but the damage is done.

Between halves of the 4th inning, the music trivia song for the day is "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads, which came out in 1983. The music trivia on Monday was "Tell Her About It" by Billy Joel, which also came out in 1983. Yet there was no mention of the 1983 World Series in the sports trivia half of either of them. Grr! 1983 is the only year I got to go to a World Series game! (Orioles vs. Phillies) Yet, they ask questions mostly about Gaylord Perry. What, am I in Seattle or something?

The bottom of the fourth has the Mariners basically get a few singles and then ground into a double play, looking like the 2004 Mariners again.

The top of the fifth is where things get really weird. First Cuddyer hits the ball to Madritsch, who fields it to Sexson, but is a little bit off with his throw, and Sexson has to jump in the air to get it. "I THINK WE NEED A TALLER FIRST BASEMAN!" yells a guy in front of CDG. Richie Sexson, at 6'8", three inches taller than John Olerud, is easily one of the tallest first basemen currently in the game, if not in all of MLB history. Well, it's still sort of amusing. Mike Redmond, born in Seattle (what an unfortunate last name), hits a double. Juan Castro comes up to the plate, and something's kinda off with Bobby, as he works Castro to a 3-1 count. After he throws a ball, Madritsch motions for Dan Wilson to come out to the mound, and next thing you know, the whole dugout, and the pitching staff, and the grounds crew, and the ushers, and everyone and their mom are out at the mound talking to Bobby. He gets pulled with an injury, though no details are given, and Ryan Franklin is put in, in the middle of the at-bat.

Franklin is given a while to warm up, since he pretty much was called in out of nowhere. He pitches a fourth ball to Castro, who walks. Stewart singles to load the bases, but it works out okay as brilliant-hit-and-run-man Punto grounds into a double play.

In the interim, while we are all wondering what on earth happened to Bobby, we get today's Ask the Mariners, which is "who would be most likely to end up on the cover of GQ?" The overwhelming response is for Ichiro or Pineiro. Oh, and Shiggy, of course. Personally, I'd go with Gil Meche, but I've got weird taste in looks, I guess.

After the startling top of the fifth, the Mariners attempt to start some offense, as Randy Winn leads off with a double. Unfortunately, he gets caught stealing third on the very first pitch to Dan Wilson. We are all, of course, wondering "WHAT? Dude, you were already IN scoring position!" Two 6-3 plays later the inning is over.

Ichiro leads off the bottom of the 6th with a really sweet single. Have we mentioned that he's still batting .500 overall? He's well on track for getting 300 hits this year! This would be, again, a great start to an offense, if Jeremy Reed hadn't dribbled the ball into a 3-4-3 double play, which I haven't seen in a while. (For those who don't know what that means, it means he hit the ball to the deep-playing first baseman, who threw to second base rather than tagging first base. Having successfully gotten the forced runner at second out, the second baseman throws the ball back to first base, since the first baseman has run back there in the meantime, and they get both runners out.)

At 5:06pm another train goes by while Castro is at bat. The lady in front of me, who is wearing a hat adorned with years of Mariners pins, writes "5:06 Train" on her scorecard. I am stymied by this and make a note. Unlike Lew Ford, Castro hits a single during the train horn.

The Mariners start looking even more like last year's team when they hit three consecutive singles in the 7th inning. Boone (who is now 3 for 3 on his birthday, and will ultimately end up being 3 for 4), Ibanez, and Winn, all in order. Winn smacked a good single into center, and Boone could have maybe possibly scored on it, but he ended up staying at third to keep the bases loaded, and Wilson hits into a double play to end the inning. If you're counting, this is the third inning-ending double play against the Mariners.

I guess desperate times call for desperate measures, because Hargrove pulls Franklin with a walked Punto on base and one out in the 8th. He brings in Ronnie the Bear! Oh, how we all just love it when Ron "What's a strike? I've heard of those" Villone comes in. Soon the count is 0-2 on Morneau, though, amazingly, and we're again wondering how Villone suddenly has come to pitch strikes, when he beans Morneau in the head, who crumples to the ground. I think everyone in the stadium cringed -- it looked almost as painful as the rest of the game combined. Again, the dugouts, medical staff, grounds crew, ushers, bat boys, beer sellers, and scalpers all run out to home plate to crowd around the fallen form of Justin Morneau. The stands are silent.

After a few minutes, Morneau stands up, and is helped off the field to applause from the crowd. Luis Rivas goes in to pinch run for him.

Villone is so shaken he promptly walks LeCroy, loading the bases. Unlike the Mariners, the Twins manage to score someone with the bases loaded, Jones hitting a long sacrifice fly to right field. Villone gets pulled at this point and WHOA NELLIE! Jeff Nelson comes in to finish off the game for the Mariners. Cuddyer grounds to first, and the inning's over.

Juan Rincon strikes out 2 Mariners in the bottom of the 8th, except Ichiro, who gets another wasted single, bringing the Mariners' run-hit count to 1 run, 10 hits, as opposed to the Twins' 4 runs, 7 hits. Hmmmm.

It's time for a new gag on the big screen, apparently -- "Spot the Moose!" The Mariner Moose is hiding behind a newspaper up on the right field deck, so most of the people sitting in the outfield bleachers notice the Moose way before the video crew finds him. Or is it a conspiracy? Who knows. Who cares. The Mariners are losing and we're coming up against Joe Nathan. I'd like there to be a happy ending to this story where the Mariners blow Joe Nathan apart like a printer in Office Space, but alas, it is not to be.

The game ends pretty much exactly at 6pm, and the 25,580 fans who came out slowly filter back to their cars and buses. The bus driver downtown sees my shirt and asks me who won. I say "Twins," and he says "Who wins?" And I'm like "THE TWINS", and he's like "Oh, not the Mariners, huh."

Dave Cameron points out later on that day that we really shouldn't be bummed that the M's dropped 2 out of 3 to a team that has essentially made it to the postseason every year for the last 3 years. Now if we drop the weekend to the Rangers, then it might be cause for worry. It'll all depend on our pitching, I think -- our defense has looked really solid.

I did actually try to take a bunch of pictures, but I really wasn't sitting in an ideal spot. Hopefully I'll get better ones this weekend. Yay for having a new camera.

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