Thursday, September 29, 2005

Game Report: Mariners vs. Rangers - It's not his destiny to be the King of Pain

(another late game report. I apologize. This is about the game on the evening of September 27th)

You know, there's precious little to be excited about on the Mariners in these waning days of the 2005 season. Namely, we have "King Felix and the Curveball of Doom", and we have "Yuniesky Betancourt and the Arm of Darkness". And yet, only 22,739 people came out for the game yesterday. Not that I really blame anyone, after all. Texas is long out of the running, and we're even further out.

Me, I was attending the game with my mother and my stepfather, who are both in town this week. Now, I have learned precious few life lessons from my mother -- but for the first fourteen years or so of my life, my mom had Sunday season tickets to the Phillies, and I learned a very important skill then: how to sit through tons of agonizing sucky home games with a pathetically bad team, and still enjoy it for the sheer love of baseball.

Unfortunately, in the last ten years, my mom has gotten slightly senile, and she's also gone slightly deaf, which means that not only does she talk a lot, but she repeats herself constantly, and says a lot of stupid things. Loudly. Things like asking me ninety times how to pronounce "Beltre", or "Teixeira", or "Yuniesky", or even "Ichiro", which she pronounces like "Itch hero".

But, this is a blog about baseball, not a blog for whining about Deanna's mom, so I'll stop there.

Firstly, I just want to congratulate Jimmy Rollins for now having the all-time Phillies hitting streak. Jimmy is rolling at 33 games as I write this, but note: despite this, Jimmy's line for the year is still only .288/.335/.429. Now, Michael Young is having a heck of a year. By going 2-for-5 last night, he upped his current hitting streak to 23 games (and now 24), with his line for the year standing at .334/.388/.521, for a full 150 points higher on the OPS scale than Jimmy. Hmm.

I digress. The Rangers actually got off to a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning with a single, a double, and a grounder, but that was it for them for a very long time. Felix settled down and started striking them out, picking them off base (Matthews in the third, caught sleeping), etc. Although he hit Hank Blalock with a pitch - and I can't imagine getting plunked in the shoulder by a 97 mph fastball can be much fun - he was doing pretty well placing his pitches, and even, dare I say it, pitching to contact, making the guys hit those grounders.

Fortunately, Yuniesky Betancourt was, as always, up to the challenge of making sure those grounders were fielded properly. I mean, even when he doesn't have it, he has it. It's crazy. On one play in the 8th inning, the ball was hit hard towards second base, a hit which would normally go into center field for a single. However, Betancourt dashed over, dove into the ground to stop the ball, spun around slightly, and then hesitated on his knees for a second as Rod Barajas barrelled towards first. It seemed he wasn't going to throw the ball - but then, BOOM! still kneeling, he fired it to Richie Sexson just in time for the out. Buck Showalter came out to argue about it for a while, and the umpire ejected him. My stepfather came back up the stairs shortly after that -- he'd been outside smoking or something -- and he says "By the way, he WAS out. Not by much, but he was. They showed it about ten times on the TV screens back there."

Now, the Mariners did manage to get a few hits in edgewise, don't get me wrong. Jose Lopez was 4-for-5 on the night, and Betancourt was 2-for-3 with two walks. Ichiro was 0-for-3... with THREE INTENTIONAL WALKS. The crowd booed louder and louder with each subsequent one. It was almost like having A-Rod at the park.

Rangers leftfielder Jason Botts really must like the Mariners, since he gave us a ton of help. First there was the time that Jeremy Reed was standing on second following a ground rule double over the Nikon sign. Ibanez came up to bat, and he hit the ball to left field. It was a clean single, but as it rolled to Botts, he couldn't quite get his glove on it, so in the meantime, Reed managed to score. Then, a few innings later, Jose Lopez hit the ball out towards left field as well. The ball flew, flew, flew... and Jason Botts leaped up! And caught it! Wait... no he didn't! The ball fell out of his glove. Lopez stopped at second. There was some argument over whether it should have actually been a home run, but apparently the umpires decided against that. (It makes sense to me. If the fielder managed to get the ball back into the park, they should get some credit for that.) Not that it mattered, as Ichiro was intentionally walked and Jeremy Reed struck out to end that inning. (This is also what happened in the 9th. It's sad.)

I went up and watched the bottom of the 5th and top of the 6th innings from my usual seat (this game was on my season ticket plan, but I'd traded in my tickets to get 3 seats together with my parents), so I could say goodbye to the guys I have season tickets next to. It turns out the reason they hadn't been at the games in a few weeks was because one of them went off to Italy for a month to finish his degree in some UW exchange program. How cool is that? Anyway, they're talking about switching seats next year, and I'm thinking of switching too, so I may never see them again. Weird.

By the time the dust cleared at the end of the 5th inning, the score was 2-1 Mariners, where it would stay until the top of the 9th inning. Felix came back in for the 9th, having thrown 95 pitches so far. And he was still pretty good - it was down to two outs, with a guy on second, and Kevin Mench was up to bat, and they put the usual "UP ON YOUR FEET!" thing on the board. I pondered standing up -- since there have been so many heartbreaking times where I've stood up only to have the game get prolonged past that at-bat, or worse, have the game tied up or something. But, I stood up anyway, figuring, what the heck, it's Felix, no problem, right?

Wrong. Mench hits a single to left, and Esteban German, running for Hank Blalock, dashes home as Ibanez can't quite throw the ball in quick enough. The game's tied at 2-2 as Adrian Gonzalez strikes out.

We did manage to load the bases in the bottom of the 9th -- I'm sure the entire team wanted to score a run for Felix, they really did - but again, like I said, Ichiro was intentionally walked yet again to more booing, and then Reed came up to bat and struck out. Now, at least this time he fouled off like five consecutive pitches before doing so, but still. Actually, I didn't realize Brian Shouse pitched sidearm, but he was pitching lefty sidearm to Reed, which was kind of cool. I suppose what was even sillier was how they brought in Dave Hansen to pinch-hit for Torrealba, so the Rangers switched pitchers from Joaquin Benoit (my mom COULD pronounce that name) to Shouse. So Hargrove had Rene Rivera (!) pinch hit for Hansen.

Anyway, if you were one of the 300 people who actually stayed until the end of the game, or were watching it on TV, you know what happened. It went into extra innings, Mateo came out to pitch for the Mariners, and the Rangers pushed ahead a run in the 11th to make it 3-2. Their Cordero (since my mom was wearing a Nationals shirt, she thought it was absolutely hilarious that some other team has a closer named Cordero) came out to close. And while Jose "On Fire" Lopez got a nice double, and Yuniesky "Glove 10, Bat 3" Betancourt hit a single to put him on third... they had Shin-Soo Choo come in to hit for Rivera. And I swear the guy acted like he'd never seen a 98 mph fastball before, as he struck out on three of them in a row. With two outs, they actually pitched to Ichiro, and he grounded to first, and they came out to tag him. He dodged the tag for a bit -- and Jose Lopez ran home -- but then Teixeira stepped on first base, and the game was over.

It was pretty disappointing.

By the way, if you care, the Rangers have a 13-5 win-loss record against the Mariners this year. I'm not kidding. That's terrrrrible.

I'm sort of torn about this whole season-ending thing. On the one hand, what am I going to do for the next 5-6 months? On the other hand, I'm really running out of momentum here; while I had some personal goals about attending games, writing game reports, seeing some new stadiums, etc this season, I'm sort of looking forward to a break in the off-season. I have various things to review, and Blogger stuff to play with. Also, who knows, the postseason could be pretty entertaining, and there'll be lots of stuff to discuss once the winter contract fun begins.

Though to be perfectly honest, right now, I actually couldn't care less for offseason speculating... and sadly, that seems to be what everyone wants to do these days, which is understandable, since the season's been effectively over so long and they want to look to next year. It's interesting if people have any real scoop on who the front office is going after -- and that's why USSM can be fun -- but I personally just don't feel like making the effort to try to guess about who or where the Mariners will be spending their money in the off-season. And it's not like they'd be listening to a nerdy baseball fangirl like me anyway, so why waste my energy hoping or dreaming? I'm sure Bavasi has some good ideas and will do the best he can. Besides, any speculation I would do would undoubtedly be things like "We should sign Jarrod Washburn, because he has dreamy blue eyes. And Kevin Millwood, because he's my hero. And trade for Eric Byrnes because he's so hyper-dorky-cute." You know, high-quality evaluations like those.

There's this great scene in Fever Pitch where Ben is telling Lindsay why he can't come see her family at the end of March, and her reaction pretty much sums up exactly how I feel these days every time I see another post about free agent signings or offseason trades:

Ben: I figured it wouldn't matter, but every year during Easter vacation, uh, me and my friends, we go down to Florida.
Lindsay: You and your buddies go down to Florida for spring break? At your age?
Ben: No, no, no, not spring break. Spring training with the Red Sox.
Lindsay: Oh, you get to train with the Red Sox? Are you allowed to do that?
Ben: Well, we don't actually - we watch the games.
Lindsay: Aren't those just practice games?
Ben: Yeah, yeah, but there's more to it than that. We scout the players. We.. We say which players they should keep... and which they should get rid of.
Lindsay: And the Red Sox ask your opinion?
Ben: Well, not yet! But if they ever do... uh... (is at a loss for words)

Anyway, that's beside the point. I looked at my scorecard and figured out that I have three pages left in it. Which means that I'd like to try to get to all three A's games this weekend to fill it up. We'll see if it happens.

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