Sunday, October 02, 2005

Game Report: Mariners vs. Athletics - It's the End of the Year As We Know It, and I Feel Fine

Last night, I went to a videogames party, where the theme was people playing with their Nintendo DSes. Now, I personally don't have a DS (yet; I think this one might finally be the handheld system that breaks me of my consoles-only habit), and everyone said I should totally get one, so I could play Nintendogs.

Nintendogs, if you don't know, is this cutesy game where you basically have a pet dog, which you can call to, and pet, and feed, and whatever. I suppose this is a lot easier than having a real pet dog, especially if you live in an apartment. But, see, the catch is: this dog acts like a real dog. It needs attention. If you don't turn on your DS on a regular basis and feed your dog and give it attention, it will be very unhappy and pee on your virtual floor, or perhaps it'll run away and come back a week later with fleas, or what have you.

Well, you see, the 2005 Mariners are kind of like that, too. Despite that in your heart you realize that watching the Mariners is an unhealthy addiction, and that attending games on a regular basis is just asking for them to come pee on your virtual floor, you keep going back anyway. Why? Is it because they're so cuddly and cute? Is it because you enjoy seeing them roll over in the field? Is it because you like watching them run around trying to fetch baseballs?

Or really, is it because, once you've already bought your Nintendogs season ticket, you might as well play it until you've gotten your money's worth out of it?

Anyway, let me tell you about today's game, since that's what I'm here for. I attended it with Kai, a reader of my blog who was kind enough to offer me a ticket to today's game. So, that was cool. We got there early enough to witness all of the "Kids Appreciation Day" festivities, which is to say, we got to see MASCOT MAYHEM!

Among the bazillion mascots that attended today's game were, of course, the Moose, and Captain Plastic, and Chuck E. Cheese, the Ivar's Clam, Rhubarb, Gapper (the Reds mascot), Sluggerrrr (the Royals mascot), Flying Gherkin, Papa John's Mr. Slice, Squatch (from the Sonics), Harry the Husky (UW), Butch the Cougar (WSU), the Red Robin Bird, and... Smokey the Bear? Well, whatever. I kept hoping they'd have the Philly Phanatic, but now that he's all famous and stuff, I guess it's not so easy to get him to go places.

They had "Mascot Musical Chairs", where they had a ton of big inflatable chairs out on the field, and played musical chairs, with a bunch of mascots and one kid. It came down to a battle between the Moose and the kid, and the Moose cheated by dragging the chair with him, but then the kid struck back at him with a big 6-shooter of silly string, and won!

During Mascot Mayhem, some guys were doing pre-game field workouts, but they were mostly just sort of standing around. Bocachica came out and went up to Lopez and Betancourt; he and Lopez, former Rainiers teammates, exchanged hugs and stood there chatting for a while. Danny Haren had been tossing a ball around with another guy for a while, and Marco Scutaro came out and pantomimed being a batter as they tossed. Eventually Scutaro got bored of that and literally bounced over to Bocachica and friends, and also gave Jose Lopez a big hug for some reason. It was really pretty goofy. Scutaro is officially my favorite post-Byrnes A's player. (Jason Kendall doesn't count, he's a Pirate.)

A 15-year-old guy sang the national anthem, and then the game began. Things got off to a relatively slow start in the game itself; the most interesting moment in the first inning was probably when the kid announcer (named Favio Castro; we decided he must be an extremely fashionable future dictator) spent about a minute trying to figure out how to pronounce "Yuniesky Betancourt". The most interesting moment in the second inning was when they played the whole "Thanks for the Memories, Dan" thing again, and they showed Dan Wilson in the dugout -- except he was oblivious to the whole thing, and as such, he was just sitting there eating sunflower seeds and spitting, until someone elbows him and has him look at the screen. Everyone's up on their feet applauding, and Dan comes out and waves, with a sheepish look on his face.

We went into the fourth inning with the score still at 0-0, a pretty fast game to that point. Nick Swisher struck out to start the inning, but Mark Ellis got a single to left, and Eric Chavez got a single to right. Felix threw his second wild pitch of the day while Dan Johnson was up, advancing Ellis and Chavez to second and third, so Dan Johnson's long fly ball to left center was enough to get Ellis home. Jaime Bubela and Mike Morse had both run towards the ball, and Morse snagged it, firing it back to the infield, where Richie Sexson got the cutoff... and relayed it to Beltre, who caught Eric Chavez a few feet short of third, and they got into a goofy rundown. Woo, third out on the 7-3-5 play. Unfortunately, Ellis scored first, so the score was 1-0 A's.

The Mariners weren't about to take that lying down, though. Ichiro led off by grounding to Joe Kennedy, the pitcher, who threw the ball to first, but Dan Johnson was off-balance and fell over trying to field it, so Ichiro was safe. Betancourt hit the ball to short, where it deflected off Marco Scutaro's glove, close enough that he could recover it, but not enough to make the play. Then, with two men on, Raul Ibanez came up, and hit a really long fly ball to right-center. I mean, like, so far it landed a few rows back in section 107, about 388 feet from home plate. This was his 20th home run of the year, which was good enough for second on the team, one ahead of Adrian Beltre. (Sadly, after hitting 6 HR in August, Beltre hit only one in September.) With the 3-1 Mariners lead, Richie Sexson hit a single, but a few pitches later, during Mike Morse's at-bat, was tagged off first. It was pretty comical, since he really didn't get the jump back at all. Hargrove came out to argue the call, but honestly, if he was going to come out and yell at someone, he should have yelled at Richie for sleeping on the job. Beltre flied out to center field, the ball high enough to almost scrape the ceiling, and Morse struck out.

The A's couldn't leave the Mariners leading for long, and in the 5th inning, Scutaro hit a ball to Beltre that was almost like the ball Betancourt hit to him. The difference is, Beltre recovered it in time, but his throw to first was wild. Way wild. As in, over the gargantuan Richie Sexson's outstretched arm wild. So here's Scutaro on second, and Matt Watson, who came over to the A's from the Mets at the same time as Scutaro on waivers, hits a double out towards Bubela-Morse land, which gives Scutaro plenty of time to score. It's Bocachica time after that, but he grounds to third. And Freddie Bynum, whoever he is, strikes out for the second time. Unfortunately, with two outs, Jason Kendall comes through with a single to drive home Watson, and when Swisher grounds out, the score is tied at 3-3.

By the way, the people from were at the game again, with their banner up in the 300 level. (As it turns out, they are the same people trying to make an internet cult hero out of Ramon Santiago.) Bocachica himself didn't do so hot at the plate today (0-for-4, K) and didn't really have any fielding opportunities at third base. I still don't really get why he's not in the outfield, but whatever.

They had a Mascot Motorcycle Race in the 6th inning. It was Squatch, Sluggerrrr, Gapper, and the Seahawk bird against the Moose. Unsurprisingly, the Moose won. It was still definitely more interesting than the Hydro races.

By the 6th inning, you could also tell the announcer was getting bored with all the prize seat drawings, as he started saying things like "The next prize is a 26" mountain bike. You can take it on some SWEET JUMPS!" Or a bit later, "This next jersey is one that you'll have to run up to section 128 to redeem your ticket for -- signed by the speedy Yuniesky Betancourt. And this next one, you'll want to wear it every day -- a jersey signed by Eddie Guardado!"

Speaking of which, it was Eddie Guardado's birthday today, and a few people had signs for him, but he didn't actually come out and pitch.

The Mariners did something pretty funny in the bottom of the 7th. After Beltre and Morse had both grounded out to shortstop Scutaro, as a joke, I said "Hey, Lopez is a righty, watch him ground out to Scutaro too." Not ten seconds later, Lopez hits the ball to Scutaro, who throws it to first, and so I have an entire inning of 6-3 marked.

Felix was up to 98 pitches after 7 innings, so they brought out George Sherrill to pitch the 8th. Oddly, this backfired terribly. Infact, I'm not even really going to describe it, I'll copy the sequence of events for the next ten batters:

1. Swisher singles.
2. Ellis walks. Swisher to second.
3. Chavez doubles. Swisher scores (4-3), Ellis to third.
4. Johnson singles to the RF corner. Ellis scores, Chavez scores (6-3).
Mateo replaces Sherrill on the mound.
5. Scutaro doubles. Johnson to third.
6. Watson singles. Johnson scores. Scutaro to third (7-3).
7. Bocachica! pops out to second base. The crowd goes wild! (No, really. We're like "YESSSS! AN OUT!")
8. Bynum doubles. Scutaro scores (8-3).
Atchison replaces Mateo on the mound.
9. Kendall grounds out to third.
10. Swisher strikes out.

Well, umm... yeah.

Justin Duscschschschererererer comes out to pitch the 8th inning. Bubela pops out, and for some reason Dave Hansen pinch-hits for Torrealba, and strikes out. So does Ichiro. The A's add no further insult to injury in the top of the 9th, but the Mariners have no response in the bottom. Betancourt is called out on a third strike, Ibanez lines back to the pitcher, and then it's Richie Sexson, who works the count to 3-2. I say, "Here it goes." The ball comes to home plate. Richie starts getting ready to walk to first, and the umpire makes the strikeout motion with his hands.

And that, my friends, is the season. Oddly, it seems fitting that it ended with a Sexson strikeout, since it also pretty much started with a Sexson home run.

At least Felix didn't get the loss; that honour went to George Sherrill.

Also, Ichiro ended the season in true Seattle style: with 206 hits.

(breaking news: oh my gosh! Bryan Price resigned. I, for one, will miss BP. I always thought he was a pretty cool guy.)

Holy crap, I attended 40 Mariners games this year. On a 16-game plan. Someone shoot me. I saw them win 16 times, which I suppose gives me a .400 winning percentage, slightly under their actual season win percentage of .429. I'll have to go dig up my Perl script and re-evaluate the 16-game plans overall sometime.

What next? I'm not sure. The Phillies won their game today, but so did the Astros, so the season is over for them too. I'll probably do a postseason prediction post tomorrow or the next day, and after that, who knows.

While the season may be over, I at least plan to keep writing about baseball stuff regularly here, so if you've enjoyed any of my babbling so far this year, I encourage you to check back! I didn't think I'd actually write nearly so much, and I know I have to work on my reporting style, but it's been fun.

And in the meantime -- if you do have a dog, and you've been neglecting it all season, now would be a good time to go take it for a walk. If you have a Nintendog, any further recommenations for reasons I should buy a Nintendo DS would be gratefully appreciated.

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