In honor of Noche de Béisbol, Steve Finley will be playing the part of the piñata.
My friend Nick was visiting Seattle this past week, since he'd never been out here before. We'd gone to a bunch of Mets and Yankees games in New York back over the Fourth of July, so I owed him some Mariners games. Would you believe, he didn't get to see the Mariners actually win a damn game until his last night in town? (Though, we only went to three games.) If I had said, "We're seeing a Jeff Harris start, a Felix Hernandez start, and a Ryan Franklin start," would you have picked the Franklin one as the only winning game? Yeah, neither would I.
I got to the game during Angels batting practice, and hoped to get some of them to sign my poster (it's been a goal all year for me to try to get Donnelly or Washburn, but oh well). Of course, most of the guys that actually came over were people I already had on it, like Bengie Molina and Scot Shields... but then Tim Salmon came around signing things! I didn't even know he was doing well enough to work out with the team, so it was good to see him. Final poster signature tally: 9 - B.Molina, Shields, Gregg, Mathis, Bud Black, Salmon, Kennedy, DaVanon, and Quinlan.
(Something I noticed: Shields signs stuff with his left hand, but he's a right-handed pitcher...? I wonder if he has a story behind that like Billy Wagner does?)
I saw the crazy Mariners stalker lady I met at the airport a few weeks ago. She was sitting with her other crazy stalker friends, and she waved me to come over and chat, so I did. They were actually pretty funny to talk to. After BP ended, I also ran into Conor and his dad yet again. I swear, Conor goes to more games than I do!
There were a bunch of pre-game things for Latin American night. There were various bands and dancers, most of which I missed while waiting in line for food. They sounded pretty good from where I was, though. And then throughout the night, they had an announcer who would introduce all the players in Spanish after they were introduced in English. There was also a small baseball card giveaway with a set of 9 cards in English and Spanish - Beltre, Betancourt, Eddie, Felix, Ibañez, Lopez, Mateo, Piñeiro, and Torrealba. I studied Spanish back in highschool a billion years ago, and I'd never learned words like "campocorto" for shortstop, "lanzador derecho" for RHP, etc. So that was kind of neat.
The game started at 7:05pm. The 9th inning started, I kid you not, at 8:54pm. And to be fair, I could sum up the first 8 innings by saying: Franklin pitched to contact, didn't walk anyone, and Jeremy Reed and Yuniesky Betancourt stepped up to the challenge and did a SUPERB job of backing up a Franklin start. Of course, the run support was a problem as always, but it worked out okay.
Betancourt was just all over the place, starting with an awesome barehand 6-3 scoop to end the first inning, all the way to a bucket catch of a foul ball that almost landed in section 147 in the seventh. He makes the most difficult plays look so totally easy and graceful. And for once, he also hit well enough that I didn't feel I had to defend his lousy bat with his awesome defense, going 2-for-3 with a run scored.
And Jeremy Reed got himself onto a bazillion highlight reels by making this huge running diving catch of a Garrett Anderson drive into short center. It looked like there was no way he'd be able to get there and then WHOOOOOSH, he leaped and dove and slid and THUNK, there was the ball. He was also 2-for-4 on the day, screwing up one bunt early on (it popped so far up it was caught by Chone Figgins), but he got on with a bunt single in the 9th and scored the game-winning run.
So, yeah, that 9th inning. Franklin and Byrd were both still in at that point, with a 1-1 tie game, and neither of them being over 90 pitches. Franklin kind of lost it there in the 9th, but the team totally saved his butt. Orlando Cabrera led off with a single to left that literally shot into Adrian Beltre's glove and then deflected hard into the outfield. Then Garrett Anderson hit a ball that I still didn't quite follow - to me, it looked like it went up the first-base line and Richie Sexson didn't quite snag it, but I thought it was foul. Next thing I know, Anderson's on second and Cabrera's on third. I guess the ball must have bounced into the stands on the foul line for a ground rule double? Laaaaame. Anyway, Franklin intentionally walked Vlad Guerrero to load the bases, and then Hargrove pulled him for Sherrill.
I kind of expected Franklin to go ballistic at this point, since all three of those runners would count for his ERA if they scored, *and* he'd get the loss, but then most of the people in the stadium stood up and gave him a huge ovation, and he just kinda walked into the dugout and high-fived everyone.
Anyway, the coolest play of the game happened right after that. Darin Erstad hit a grounder straight to Adrian Beltre, who was about five feet from his bag, so he ran over and tagged third, getting Anderson on the force-out, and then he threw the ball to home plate, also snagging Orlando Cabrera in a rundown for a double play. It was pretty damn awesome. J.J. Putz came in to pitch to Bengie Molina and got him to ground into an inning-ending 5-3 play.
Paul Byrd also stayed in to pitch the bottom of the 9th inning, which started at 9:07pm. Jeremy Reed led off by hitting a bunt single between Byrd and Kennedy, which he easily beat out, making up for his bunt blooper in the 3rd inning. Ibanez singled to right, advancing Reed to third. At this point, Scioscia came out and did a bunch of managerial hocus-pocus. First, he pulled Byrd and put in Scot Shields. Second, he pulled Finley and put in Maicer Izturis... as an extra infielder. The weird thing is, I swear to god I didn't even notice. It looked to me like there was some weird shift going on, but I didn't really see what it was, so when Richie Sexson grounded into a double play from what looked like short to second to first, I wrote it down as 6-4-3, but later on I discovered it was actually the oh-so-common 4-8-3 double play. I looked up at the lineup on the board like "Where'd Izturis pop out of?"
With Jeremy Reed standing on third, Shields got up to a 2-0 count on Beltre and gave up and intentionally walked him... to get to Dobby the Bench Elf? Hmmm. Well, okay, whatever. Beltre "stole" second. Well, wait, is it stealing if the guy just kind of runs to second base and nobody covers or seems to actually care? I suppose not -- Gameday has the play marked as: "With Greg Dobbs batting, Adrian Beltre advances to 2nd on defensive indifference." Nice. Anyway, Dobbs hit a single into center field after that, and you know the rest. The entire team erupted in celebration, which was actually pretty damn cool. The moose ran out with the big Mariners flag, the Mariners all jumped around hugging and high-fiving and stuff, and they flashed the big "MARINERS WIN!!" all over the place.
I was wearing a Phillies shirt, a Burrell #5 one, and a Mariners hat. In the middle of the game, shortly after the Phillies winning score became final, a beer vendor in our section yelled "YEAH PHILLIES!" and came up and high-fived me and stuff. Said he was from Norristown, has also been out here for three years or so, is going back east for an Eagles game in December. That was pretty funny.
The last time I attended a Mariners game where they won was on August 15th, when Felix beat the crap out of the Royals. Heck, aside from one AAA game, I hadn't seen a team I was rooting for actually win since then, either. In the last month, I'd seen the Rainiers pound the Grizzlies, the White Sox pound the Mariners, the Yankees pound the Mariners twice, the Nationals beat the Phillies, the Astros beat the Phillies, and the Orioles beat the Mariners twice. I was beginning to feel like a bad-luck charm.