Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Game Report: Mariners vs. Angels - Mojohjima

I swear to god I did not make that word up. Much like last year's "Beltremendous!", I do believe this will be this year's name-mangling that will cause me the most pain.

However, it would be a mild understatement to say that Kenji Johjima is kicking butt so far. Seriously -- I've come to terms with the fact that now that he's not on the freaking Fukuoka Hawks, I'm actually allowed to like him and cheer for him.

Short version of tonight: Pineiro went further into the game than we originally hoped, Johjima hit another home run which jumpstarted a 5-run rally in the second inning, Putz and Guardado were duking it out to see which one of them could actually give up the huge lead they were handed, the Angels suck at fielding, Tim Salmon pulled a Petagine, and Big Richie finally stuck it to the Angels for walking Ibanez to get to him. When the dust cleared, the Mariners won the game 10-8.

It's all about the red glove, you know.

The Mariners have a "2sday 2 for $22" deal going. All home games on Tuesday, in addition to the excessively dorky "Super Tuesday" giveaways, will have this deal where you can get two seats in View Reserved for $22. At least, it looks like that when I do a cursory sampling of the ticket-ordering on the Mariners’ website.

Problem is, unlike at the supermarket where a "2 for $N" pricing means you can get 1 for $N/2, in this deal, you couldn’t just get one seat for $11. So I conned Gomez into going with me, and we were able to show up at 6:30pm and still get front-row seats in section 339 (well, row 9, which is the front of that seating area). The View Box section in front of us literally had people only sitting in the first row and the last row, it was that empty.

Empty Stands
I took this picture at 7:05 as the game was starting. No, really.

Before the game, I went down to the bullpen, ostensibly to take pictures of Pineiro warming up, but what happened is, Johjima came out and stood around for a while in the bullpen, eventually just throwing the ball against the wall while waiting for Pineiro to be ready. So I, and a bunch of Japanese fans, were all standing at the wall taking pictures of him and shouting things like "home run, omedetou!" (congratulations) or "johjima-san, ganbatte!" (good luck) and whatnot. So in the end I ended up a whole bunch of Johjima pictures, though a lot of them ended up blurry because of the angle. I did manage to take a few of Pineiro and a few of John Lackey as well. I watched Lackey warm up last year a few times too and I like the way he throws -- he makes it look so easy.

Bullpen pictures and some extras!

Okay, anyway, the game. The first inning was fairly uneventful on either side, although Ibanez hit a single off Lackey's leg which might have thrown him off stride a bit later.

The second inning went fairly quickly for the Angels due to Richie and Joel pulling off a 3-6-1 double play off Kotchman. Though while Rivera was up to bat, there was this pretty funny moment when Pineiro threw the ball in the dirt, and Rivera took a gigantic hack at it. The guy sitting next to me yelled, "IT WAS A STRIKE!" and as we all started laughing, he's like, "HE TOOK A SWING AT IT, DIDN'T HE?"

The Mariners led off the second with Carl Everett, who hit a nice liner into left field, to be fair, but Garret Anderson caught it. Then Johjima was up to bat, and again, he took a pitch or two, fouled off a few, then got ahold of one. It sailed into left field... we stood up to watch it go, and it was obviously out of the park, but from our angle, we couldn't tell if it was fair or foul, until it landed in section 151. Woohoo! Johjima's second hit of the year was his second home run of the year, a 398-foot shot. (♪レフト越えフェンス越え!♪)

Gomez remarked at this point about how crazy it'd be if he hit a home run every day for the next week to tie Griffey's record, at which point I went off on a pedantic rant about it being Dale Long's record in 1956 originally, and Griffey (and earlier Mattingly) only tied it. Maybe this is why nobody ever wants to go to games with me.

But, I digress. I stopped rambling when Jeremy Reed punched the ball through to left for a single, making the present matters much more interesting. Betancourt, bless his soul, hit a clean single to right, at which point two people screwed up - Jeremy Reed rounded second and kept going, and there really was no way in hell he could have beaten Vlad's throw to third, except Vlad threw slightly off his mark and drew Figgins away from the base, so Betancourt and Reed were safe at second and third. It was the first of four Angels errors for the evening. Then Ichiro was up, and Lackey threw what looked like a wild pitch at first, and Reed and Betancourt tried to advance, only it was noted that the pitch actually hit Ichiro on the foot as he got out of the way. Bases were loaded with one out, and Lopez took the first pitch he got and sent it into left field as Reed and Betancourt ran home, making it 3-0 Mariners. Ibanez advanced the runners while grounding out to first, and Richie Sexson went out with a bang by hitting the ball into center for a single. Lopez and Ichiro scored easily, but Big Richie tried to stretch the single into a double, probably assuming Erstad would throw the ball home. He didn't, and so Richie was greeted at second base by Adam Kennedy and the baseball, ending the inning. Still, 5 runs is a rather nice way for things to go. I said to Gomez while I was scribbling my scorecard, "Hey, would you notice who the only player was that didn't actually contribute to the rally? Would it perhaps be... Carl Everett?"

The bottom of the third was probably Pineiro's finest piece of work all evening, as he struck out Kennedy, Figgins lined out to third, Cabrera walked, and Vlad struck out. Figgins's liner was a spectacular grab by Beltre, spurring Gomez to think of this year's Mariners commercials, "Maybe he DOES have a wall behind him!"

They had a gag going this year, during the early-middle innings, when the Mariners were up to bat, they'd display their favorites of random categories. So I wrote down a whole bunch of them:

Mariners Favorites
Jose Lopez - Childhood hero - Superman
Jose Lopez - Movie - 4 brothers
Raul Ibanez - TV Show - American Idol
Raul Ibanez - Food - Japanese
Richie Sexson - Band - Pearl Jam
Adrian Beltre - Snack - Cashews
Carl Everett - Movie - Scarface (ahahahaHAHAHA)
Carl Everett - Road City - Chicago (I think it'd be funnier if this was his movie)
Kenji Johjima - Snack - Toast (this led to people calling him "toast" later on)
Jeremy Reed - Actress - Jennifer Aniston
Yuniesky Betancourt - Road City - Miami
Ichiro - Music Artist - Snoop Dogg

The fourth inning was sort of ugly in both halves. Erstad hit a ball down the right-field line, which was fair, but went foul, eventually bouncing off the fence at a crazy angle, and poor Ichiro had to go hunt it down, though it ended up being a double. Fortunately, this happened with two outs, and Kotchman bounced the ball back to Pineiro, who didn't throw the ball to first, but rather ran in front of Kotchman and tagged him out directly. "Gotcha!" Those always amuse me for some reason.

While the Mariners were up, Betancourt hit a ball towards Figgins which caused the second Angel error of the night, and the first of the "Wherefore art thou, Casey Kotchman?" throwing errors. Ichiro singled, Lopez bunted, and for whatever unknown reason, they intentionally walked Ibanez, resulting in Richie Sexson coming to bat with the bases loaded and one out. But, as I said, this inning was ugly. Richie struck out on three straight pitches. Beltre, on the other hand, struck out after a whole bunch of pitches, one of which looked like it had been the third strike in the dirt, and Molina even tagged Beltre out, but the umpire called it a foul tip. Mike Scoscia came out there and had his own foul tip off at the umpire for a while, but to no avail. It didn't matter as Beltre legitimately struck out on the next pitch anyway. Whoosh.

The Star 101.5 song of the day was "Our House" by Madness. ("1982?" I said. "You sure?" said Gomez. "1983!" I said.) Naturally, since I was actually at a game of the 1983 World Series (the Phillies lost to the Orioles), the question was about which Mariner debuted in 1983 - Ken Phelps, Harold Reynolds, or Alvin Davis. (The answer? Harold Reynolds, on Sept 2.)

The 5th went quickly and painlessly for the Angels. The Mariners, on the other hand, scored another run off Lackey's replacement Hector Carrasco, and Carl Everett even scored it, after walking to get on base. Johjima popped out, and then Reed hit into what should have been a 3-6 fielder's choice - Kotchman ran in to get the ball and threw it to second, only Cabrera forgot how to catch a ball, so not only was Everett not out, he advanced to third. Betancourt hit into a fielder's choice after that, scoring Everett. When Ichiro grounded out to end the inning, the score was 6-0.

As the 5th inning slid into the 6th, Gomez said, "Do you think Pineiro could actually go all the way in this game? He's only thrown 63 pitches in the first 5 innings." I said, "Nah... sooner or later they're going to figure out how to hit him, and eventually Hargrove will notice and actually take him out." Shortly after that, Cabrera smacked a double, and Vlad immediately followed it up with a single. "I was just kidding about them figuring out how to hit him!" I said as Garret Anderson got his first hit of the year -- a 393-foot home run over the right-field wall. It was one of those huge blasts where you know it's a home run not by the way the ball sails, but by the way Ichiro starts to back up and then just gives up, knowing he has no chance to get it. That brought the score to 6-3. However, Pineiro was allowed to pitch himself out of the jam, and he retired the next three batters, even.

Pineiro finally came out in the top of the 7th after giving up consecutive singles to Kennedy and Figgins, who were just smacking him around. ("Remember what I said about them figuring out how to hit him? Think Grover's noticed?") Rafael Soriano came in then (yay!) and Orlando Cabrera hit a really high pop foul along the left field line. By all rights, it should have been fielded by the left field ball girl, but since she wasn't on the roster or officially in the game, it was up to either Ibanez, Betancourt, or Beltre. The funniest part is, the guy who actually caught it was Beltre. You'd have to see how utterly ridiculous this was, but suffice it to say that Beltre had twice as far as Ibanez to get to the ball, and still beat him there.

Then the best thing happened! Just like yesterday, before Vladimir Guerrero's at-bat, Johjima went out to the mound to talk to Soriano. They both spoke into their gloves and communicated some secret Vlad-killing strategy, and then again, just like yesterday, Vlad took two ridiculous lunges at the first two pitches, ultimately fouling a ball straight up so high it would have hit the roof, and Johjima caught it for the third out.

For god only knows what reason, Hargrove put J.J. Putz in to pitch the top of the 8th inning. I mean, there was a 6-3 lead, how bad could it be, right? Garret Anderson took one look at Putz and smacked a single into right field. "At least it wasn't a home run," I said, as Juan Rivera came up to bat. I still have to wonder about a team that has Juan Rivera as its DH, but with guys like Putz, it must be easy -- Rivera watched a few balls go by, saw one he liked, and WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH, that ball was POUNDED 411 feet, over the center field wall, bringing the score to 6-5.


Amazingly, after that, Putz struck out Erstad and Kotchman and got Jose Molina to send his bat and the ball out towards the mound, which Putz got and threw to first. Seriously, maybe Putz should just always come in and tell himself, "Oh crap, I just gave up a homer, I better bear down on these guys" -- because, damn, those were actually pretty sweet strikeouts.

Fortunately, Esteban Yan had decided that the crowd at Safeco hadn't REALLY seen a relief pitcher implode yet tonight. So, Ichiro singled (amidst yells from the drunk guys behind us about some polish dude named "Suzuski"). Lopez bunted him to second, and for whatever unknown reason, they INTENTIONALLY WALKED RAUL IBANEZ AGAIN -- this is almost as dumb as Dan Appreciation Night last fall when Dobby the Bench Elf got intentionally walked twice, but I digress. Anyway, Richie Sexson wasn't about to take any more of this crap. He swam the Nile with a crocodile and he hit that ball a country mile. No, really, it was a huge home run, 413 feet, hit way into the Mariners bullpen (and as I was informed later, Eddie Guardado was apparently warming up and promptly caught the ball).

Beltre hit the ball to Kennedy, who was plagued by the evening-long curse of not being able to throw a ball to Casey Kotchman, so Beltre reached base safely. He advanced on a wild pitch, and then Johjima, who had basically only gotten two hits so far this year, both of which were home runs, and now singled to center, driving home Beltre. The scoreboards flashed, "MOJOHJIMA". I was at a loss for words with that one.

Now the score was 10-5 going into the 9th inning, so Hargrove brought out... no, not Jake Woods. No, not Julio Mateo. No, not even Jeff Harris. He brought out Teddy Beardado. Gomez was like, "Dude, does he realize that this is not a save situation?" Mike Scoscia brought out Tim Salmon yet again. Salmon thought that Petagine's 9th-inning pinch-hit homer yesterday looked really, really cool, especially because getting around the bases is a lot easier on your knees when you can just jog, y'know. So he got one of his very own! Go Timmy go! Fine, 10-6. I remarked, "You know, if Eddie gives up another run, it *will* be a save situation..." and he walked Chone Figgins, who promptly stole second base. Fortunately, Eddie managed to strike out Cabrera, but Vlad wasn't having any of that crap, singling in Figgins. Alright, now it was 10-7. Dear god. Okay, Anderson grounded out. That was good.

"UP ON YOUR FEET!" said the center scoreboard, as it has so many times when the Mariners are winning and it's down to the very last out. But this at-bat was one hell of a fight. It got up to full count, and then Juan Rivera fouled off the next pitch. And the next pitch. And the next pitch. And the next... may I mention that Eddie ended up throwing FORTY-ONE PITCHES that inning? Yeah. Anyway, amidst cheers of "ED-DEE! ED-DEE!" Rivera doubled to deep right-center, and Vlad Guerrero skipped home. 10-8. Thank god Erstad popped out to Ichiro next, or the remaining fifty people at the game might have stormed the field to kill either Eddie, Grover, or both of them.

Mariners win. Angels lose. It was a fun game, but for the love of God, isn't Safeco Field supposed to be a pitcher's park that stifles righty power hitting? And yet, in the last two days, I saw 8 homers launched out of there, 6 of which were by right-handed hitters.

It was pretty damn cold out, too. By the end of the game I had on two shirts and two jackets and was still cold. And then I ended up walking a mile to catch a bus home. If you don't see any posts from me in the next few days, it's because I caught pneumonia and died. Well, either that, or Washburn managed to pitch well against the Angels and I went into catatonic shock.

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