I went to Safeco tonight and saw an awesome game. Team Capital beat Team City, 3-2. It was a very compelling game. I am pretty sure that batter Michael St. John (pictured at the plate above) will surely be called up to the Mariners in September when they expand the rosters - just look at his form!
Yeah, okay, Special Olympics pre-game softball exhibitions aside, I did see a fairly awesome game tonight, or at least I had fun overall.
Scot Shields is the nicest baseball player in existence, as far as I can tell. When the Angels came in from their batting practice, not only did Shields specifically call down two little kids and give them baseballs, but he stuck around signing stuff for people and chatting for like ten minutes. It was really sweet of him. After the game, as well, I saw him come in from the bullpen with the rest of the pitchers, and he came over to the stands and gave another baseball to a little boy, and said, "Did you have fun at the game, kid?"
We cornered Adam Kennedy to sign a few things, and Jeff Mathis too - there was this one chick in an Angels jersey who was like "Hey, Jeff baby! Who's down again so you're up?" He sort of laughed it off like "Oh, it's JP," but he had a pretty funny expression on his face as he said it. Ah well, I've now managed to get seven Angels signatures on my poster - Shields, Kennedy, Mathis, Gregg, Quinlan, DaVanon, and Benji Molina. Wonder if I'll pick up any more this weekend.
I decided to go watch Jarrod Washburn warm up after that. The guys in the Angels bullpen are a bunch of goofballs, or maybe they were just acting silly because there was this pair of blonde women somewhere between the ages of 18-21 wearing Angels t-shirts with slogans on the back like "Vlad Impaled Me!" and whatnot, who were giggling and calling out to the players in the pen. Washburn himself seemed to be continually staring at them between pitches, too, which was pretty funny (he paused between pitches at one point to grin at a dark-haired lady who had a cellphone camera). One of the guys behind the bullpen said something like "You checkin' out the babes, huh, J?" and Washburn grunted something affirmative back.
I sort of hid behind the fence anyway, trying to take some good pictures, but in the end, as the crowd kept joking with the pitchers, I broke out laughing and only snapped a few. I ask you, though, does this look to you like the kind of man who thinks he is going to go out and win a baseball game?
Then again, I suppose neither do these guys.
I won't ruin the ending for you by telling you which one of these three got the win for the night, of course. Either way, it was a little odd because I realized that the players could actually see us behind the fence as well as we could see them, really... I'm not sure why, but in the past I've always sort of felt like I'm poking my camera through the fence to take pictures and they can't see me, but when Brendan Donnelly started making faces at me, I realized, whoa, holy crap, he can see me and my camera. Ack.
I had bought a single seat so that I could sit pretty close up (I was in section 143, row 9, damn good seat, although it was really terrifying when a ball was fouled literally about three feet from my head; usually I don't end up near line drive fouls) which can sometimes be a gamble, because you could end up sitting in the middle of a bunch of families, or between two couples, or what have you. This time it worked out well -- to my left there was a couple, and to my right there was a lady in her 50s (herefore referred to as M), and her son (R) who seemed about the same age as me. Cool. It also turned out that they were both huge baseball nerds as well, so we had fun baseball nerding out for a while.
It was a pretty tough homer day on Jamie Moyer; even weirder, it was a big homer day for the left field fence (maybe not too strange when you have two left-handed starters). Benji Molina started off the festivities with a 364-foot shot into the bleachers in the second inning, putting the Angels up 1-0. In the meantime, we were talking about the evolution of scorecards, with K being used for strikeouts instead of whatever S stood for, and how the system standardized using 6 instead of 5 for the shortstop in the 1890's. The Mariners came to bat, and Washburn walked Richie Sexson for his first time of three times walking the leadoff batter.
With Beltre up, they put up a stat on the big board: "Beltre hit 5 HR against Anaheim in 2004."
R says, "What, he must have only played like 6 games against them?"
I reply, "Yeah, but he hit 48 home runs all year, right?"
R goes, "Yeah, what's he got this year, 14? Geez."
I go "Well, maybe he'll hit one now."
Adrian Beltre sent the very next pitch 367 feet into the left-field bleachers. 2-1 Mariners. The crowd goes wild. M and R grin at me. I shrug and say "Did I call that or what?"
Inbetween innings, they do "Stump the Broadcaster" as their gag. And something amazing happens -- for the first time EVER, I swear, Dave Niehaus actually knew the answer to the question! It was, "Who hit the first ever home run in Safeco Field?" and Niehaus starts saying how great a game it was, etc, etc, Russ Davis on 7/17/99. Wow.
The Angels tie it up 2-2 in the top of the 3rd, but the Mariners manage to come out ahead 4-2 in the bottom of the inning on one of the weirder plays I've had to score. Washburn again walked the leadoff hitter Torrealba, and then Ichiro slapped a single to left. With runners on first and second, Willie did what a good little boy should do: he bunted. And like the adorable little boy he is, Jarrod Washburn picked up the bunt and fired it to first. Or more like, he fired it at first... or maybe he fired it somewhere slightly to the right of Darin Erstad? Either way, Erstad fell over trying to get it, so Willie goes "Woohoo!" and makes a run for it. Torrealba scores. Ichiro scores. In the meantime, Vladimir The Great comes down and gets the ball and throws it to third. The ball arrives in Chone Figgins's glove about the same time Willie Bloomquist arrives at the third base bag, and he's called out.
I personally write "ScB, E1-3, 9-5" on my scorecard. The center field scoreboard flashes: "Bunt Single, E2, 9-5".
This is clearly on crack, as
1) Willie would never have had a single in a million years if Washburn hadn't tried to throw the ball to some cute chick in the stands instead of Darin Erstad
2) Benji Molina never touched the ball, so how the heck could there be an E2?
Looking later, I notice that they at least have it clearly scored in the box: "E: Washburn (2, throw). Outfield assists: Guerrero (Bloomquist at 3rd base)."
I also notice that they correctly don't credit Willie with the RBIs for that play -- on the other hand, I also notice that Washburn only gets stuck with 3 earned runs instead of 4, which raises a funny question in my head -- if a pitcher makes the error that causes the runs to score, why are they still unearned? I suppose it's because they were then based on his fielding, not his pitching, for whatever reason.
Anyway. Vlad, pissed off that Richie Sexson has hit more home runs than he has, comes up and hits one of those balls where you can tell from the sound off the bat that it's a home run before even watching the ball fly. Sure enough, 431 feet later it lands in the left field bleachers, for Vlad's 24th of the year. The inning ends a few batters later at 4-3, still.
Beltre smacks another really hard hit to lead off the bottom of the 4th. It looks like a home run at first; heck, everyone is convinced it's a home run, including Steve Finley, who turns back with his head bowed for a second... and then the ball lands on the ground right where the center field wall fence meets the warning track. Finley thinks, "Whoops!" and grabs the ball and shoots it back to the infield, but Beltre is at second already. Now, this is the sad part. Reed bunts him to third, but then Yuniesky Betancourt strikes out swinging on a really super-high third strike. And guess who's up next? Scott Spiezio! Whee. You can guess how that ended up.
Alright, so somewhere around here I started really talking to the people next to me more and paying attention to the game less. I mean, I scored every play on my scorecard, but aside from Vladimir Guerrero's huge huge huge home run in the 6th, his second in a row, which almost looked like it was going to leave Safeco Field for a while there, I don't remember being engaged in the game again until the bottom of the 7th. I do remember talking about the old Brooklyn Dodgers, and new/old stadiums in California, and about oldskool game consoles, and about Quarters arcade in Kirkland, which closed down shortly after I moved to Seattle but where R used to work, and about Penny Arcade, and a bunch of other videogames and stuff. It was pretty cool. I should get seats next to random geeks more often.
Moyer and Washburn would both be out of the game by the end of the 7th inning. Since the game was still tied 4-4 by the end of the 7th, neither of them got the decision. In my mind that was kind of good -- the best outcome to me was for the Mariners to win the game but for Washburn to not get the loss. They spent a bit of time taking out Washburn with 2 guys on base, so people booed a bit then. Brendan Donnelly came in and struck out Dave Hansen, who was pinch-hitting for Torrealba. Then Ichiro was intentionally walked, which made people boo even more, and during Bloomquist's at-bat, Molina came out to the mound for a second to chat, which people booed as well -- but Willie grounded out to end the inning, and Brendan Donnelly reminded us what it looks like when a reliever comes in with runners on base and *doesn't* let them all score.
The Mariners bullpen imploded in the 8th inning. J.J.Putz walked Erstad and then Vlad, Garrett, and Benji got three consecutive singles off him, so by the time he came out it was already 6-4 Angels. We had a little bit of hope, for George Sherrill was in next, and he promisingly got Steve Finley to bloop up to him (I'm so confused about whether it's an out when a pitcher just catches a ball, but he didn't throw to first, so). Juan Rivera singled after that to load the bases. Adam Kennedy popped out to Ichiro, but that was enough to score Garrett Anderson. 7-4 Angels. Unfortunately, Chone Figgins and Orlando Cabrera (you know, I totally forgot he was even at the game until revisiting this inning?) singled after that to drive two more runs in, and also to force me to use an extra column on my scorecard, dammit. As it usually goes in that case, Erstad came up and struck out. Stupid waste of space.
With the score at 9-4, Donnelly was taken out in favor of Kevin Gregg. Beltre smacked another double in the bottom of the 8th, but to no avail as Jeremy Reed struck out.
In a strange "What stadium am I in?" moment, the loudspeakers started blaring "Sweet Caroline", that song by Neil Diamond which I sort of associate with the Red Sox for whatever reason. The thing here that I must note is:
1) Does some idiot in the music booth really like Neil Diamond? This is the second time in a week that something of ND's has been played and I've gone "WTF?"
2) Aren't you only supposed to play "Sweet Caroline" when the team is WINNING?
Well, anyway, Shiggy pitched a lights-out performance in the top of the ninth, striking out Vlad, and Jeff Mathis who went up and pinch-hit for Garrett Anderson. Molina popped out, and this girl down the row from us started getting ready to leave. R yelled out, "Fair weather fan, huh? It's time for the RALLY, where do you think you're going?" and turned his hat inside out.
Betancourt grounded out, though, and for some reason Hargrove didn't pinch-hit for Spiieeeeeezio, who predictably struck out. Wiki Gonzalez was up now, and he got a single, which was promising with Ichiro up next, but well, Ichiro struck out to end the game.
By the way, umm...