Saturday, April 08, 2006

Game Report: Mariners vs. A's - Willie Baseball!

I have to admit, I don't feel like writing about this game. I've been home from the game for three hours already and have been goofing off doing other stuff instead, like trying to come up with good questions for Book Club. It's probably partially because I have no good pictures to show off, but also partially because, well, the game just wasn't that great. It's been a while since I've seen such a depressingly sparse set of markings on the Mariners' side of my scorecard.

On the other hand, I went to Safeco tonight to watch a bright young pitcher throw an excellent game, and I got to see that! Unfortunately, the bright young pitcher who threw an excellent game was Oakland's starter, Joe Blanton.

Not to say Felix didn't do a good job -- because he did, for the most part. The A's got only two hits off of him, but one was Kotsay's RBI double which scored Kendall who was on base from a walk. Walks were Felix's real nemesis tonight, as he came out of the game in 5 innings having walked 4 and struck out 4, throwing 44 balls and 56 strikes. That's just not what I'd want to see from The King. Anyway, because he gave up the first run, and the Mariners never scored a run on their side of things, Felix was tagged with the honor in an eventual 5-0 loss.

The stadium had a weird aura to it today. It was certainly more crowded than it had been for every other game this week aside from Opening Day; the official attendance tonight was 30,612. I didn't even bother going to watch Felix warm up because I could see a pretty big crowd gathering behind the bullpen area. Instead, I watched Bloomquist, Reed, Harris, and Ibanez warming up on the sidelines, running back and forth, throwing a ball around, etc. I tried to take a few pictures, but the light was pretty bad.

As the players were going back to the dugout, and I was getting ready to go back up to my seat, Willie Bloomquist waved at me -- at first I didn't realize it was me he was waving to, except that there wasn't anyone else around in the first few rows of section 118 -- and he threw me the baseball they'd been playing catch with! Wheeee! So yeah, even though it's a Willie baseball, and even though it's only a practice ball (no, really, it even says "Official Training Ball" with a Selig signature stamp on it), that's still pretty neat! I haven't gotten a baseball at a game since I was about five years old, so in retrospect, that was probably the highlight of the evening.

I went up to show it to the guys I went to the game with, saying "Look! Look! Willie Bloomquist threw me a baseball!" and they were like "Oh, that's cool! Wait. Um, does that mean he's playing today? Nooooooooooooooo..."

So, the first four innings could probably be summed up like this: Felix walked a few guys, struck out a few guys, and got a whole lot of guys to ground out or pop up foul to Adrian Beltre. Blanton struck out a whole lot of guys and got a whole lot of guys to pop out and didn't walk anyone.

In the meantime, we learned some more Mariner Favorites:
Ichiro - Pre-game meal: rice balls
Bloomquist - Band: AC/DC
Ibanez - Road City: Chicago
Sexson - First job: construction work
Everett - Childhood heroes: mom & dad
Johjima - Actor: Jackie Chan
Reed - Ice cream: Mint chocolate chip
Betancourt - Actress: Cameron Diaz

We also learned what some Mariners dressed up as for their first Halloween:
Lawton, Sherrill: Batman
Pineiro: A pumpkin
Washburn: A ghost
Putz: A ninja
Bloomquist: A Crayola crayon
Moyer: Peter Pan
Sexson: A bumble bee (?!)
Ibanez: Claims he put on a jacket like a trenchcoat and went around telling people he was an inspector. Or something.

The Mega Moose also came out in the middle of the 4th inning. I think the Mega Moose is retarded, but he seems to amuse people anyway. (The Mega Moose is this gigantic inflatable moose that dances around to techno music. It's really bizarre looking and spends half the time bouncing on its head.)

The music trivia song was "Jump" by Van Halen, in 1984. There was no "you sure?" today, I got that one in about three seconds. Unfortunately, the part I didn't know was that Alvin Davis was rookie of the year in 1984. I wasn't here back then. In 1984, I probably thought the best player of the year was Von Hayes.

Anyway, okay, fine, much as it pains me, I'll talk about what actually happened in the game. So in the top of the fifth inning, after Perez struck out, Jason Kendall got walked, and rather than striking out, Nick Swisher popped a foul that almost went into the stands, but Beltre managed to get to. I mentioned how I have Swisher and Kotsay both on my fantasy team, so they were obviously both doomed, right? Wrong. Kotsay got ahold of a pitch and hit it good into right center for a double, and that was good for a run for Kendall. Felix was getting up past 90 pitches anyway, and there was a mound conference, and he finished out the inning by hitting Mark Ellis and by striking out Eric Chavez. But still, the damage was done.

Also, nobody had K signs out for Felix today, at least none that I could see.

The Mariners went down meekly in their half of the 5th, and their half of the sixth, and their half of the seventh... heck, Blanton only threw six pitches in the entirety of the seventh inning. Seriously, let me sum up the Mariners' offense for the whole game like this. Reed got a legitimate single to right field to break up the perfect game in the 3rd inning, but it was nullified a minute later as Betancourt hit into a double play. Ibanez got an "infield single" in the 4th, where he essentially hit it pretty hard at Perez, who got it, dropped it, got it, and didn't bother throwing because it was too late. It also didn't matter as Sexson ended the inning by striking out. Then in the 8th inning, Beltre was walked ("My god, was that Blanton's first walk of the night?"). Everett followed him by grounding to Mark Ellis, who threw to Scutaro for the easy out there, and Scutaro would have followed that by throwing to first base to get Everett as well, except when Beltre slid hard into second, he apparently got his arm in the way of Scutaro's throw, so the umps called Everett out on interference. Whoops.

And that, my friends, is the summary of the THREE WHOPPING TIMES THE MARINERS REACHED BASE TONIGHT. All hail Joe Blanton and his 8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, all on 98 pitches.

Anyway, Julio Mateo came out to pitch for the Mariners in the 6th, only there was a teeny-weeny problem: he seemed to have forgotten how to throw strikes. You know that scene in the movie Major League where Bob Uecker's like "Ball four... ball eight... ball twelve... And Vaughn has WALKED THE BASES LOADED!"? Well, that's exactly what this was like. He walked Frank Thomas and Milton Bradley (the former on five pitches, the latter on four). Dan Johnson didn't even bother swinging at the first four pitches that came to him, as Mateo's pitch count was 12 balls and 2 strikes by then. He took a big chunk of the next one, which Ichiro managed to catch, thank goodness.

Perez, on the other hand, wasn't content to just let the pitches go by, so he came up hacking, and went down hacking. The third strike got away from Johjima. Perez couldn't run because there were guys on first and second, but said guys both advanced a base on it. Not that it mattered, because Jason Kendall walked again to load the bases.

Nick Swisher was up, and this is where the craziest part of the game actually happened, I think. So Swisher hit the ball beautifully; it almost looked like a homer, but then hit the wall in the gap in right center. Frank Thomas, who started on third, scored easily. Milton Bradley got to third (and apparently missed the base and had to return to tag up). Jason Kendall rounded second and ran towards third. Jeremy Reed threw the ball home, figuring that, you know, when you have so many dudes running on a double, at least one of them's going to get home, right? Bradley was heading back to third, which was a problem, because Kendall arrived there. So *then* Bradley broke for home, and Johjima threw the ball to Beltre, who tagged out his former teammate in a rundown. "Dumbass. What kind of idiot forgets to tag third?" So again, with the oh-so-common 8-2-5 play, we end the inning, though Swisher's hit and RBI stand, which is good for my fantasy team, I suppose.

The 7th goes quickly. The 8th does not. The 8th, infact, involves the A's batting around the order, and another pitching switch. First Frank Thomas popped up to shallow center, which of course meant Betancourt got the ball. After that, Mateo forgot how to throw strikes again, and walked Milton Bradley, who promptly stole second. Johjima threw to second, where Betancourt was covering, only the ball got away from Betancourt. Willie recovered it and then slipped and fell. Fortunately, Bradley stopped at third base in all the ruckus. They intentionally walked Dan Johnson to get to little Marco Scutaro.

I have to take a second out and remind you all that I like Marco Scutaro a lot. He's a funny little dude who's always smiling, and he has a fun name to say. Hell, he has a fun name to sing. Just say the word, oh! Scu-scu-scutaro.

But I digress. The point is, I had just been mentioning how they're always underestimating fast little guys like Scutaro, and all of a sudden, BLAM! Scutaro *pounded* the ball to deep right center. Bradley scored. Johnson scored. Scutaro ran and ran and ran and by the time Reed finally got the ball back in, Scootch was over at third base with a triple. And here's Jason Kendall at bat -- near and dear to my heart, JK has been hitting like crap -- so, they have Mateo intentionally walk him too, and bring in George Sherrill.

Swisher, predictably, strikes out. Kotsay, predictably, gets an RBI single to center. Ellis walks, but Sherrill manages to strike out Chavez to end the inning at long last with a score of 5-0. Yeehaw.

Jeff Harris pitched the ninth inning for us, and he looked pretty good. I guess I'm happy for that, at least.

In the meantime, remember how I was joking about the Royals beating the White Sox today? Well, it happened. Fortunately, the Lotte Marines managed to NOT lose a second game straight to the Rakuten Eagles, but that's just because they managed to tie it up in the bottom of the 9th and then have Benny Agbayani hit a 3-run homer in the 10th.

And here's the part that really pains me. Take a look at these standings. Or don't. You'll notice that there are only two teams left in Major League Baseball that have yet to win a single game this year -- and you'll also notice that they're both my former home teams. Did someone just put a big baseball hex over Pennsylvania or something?

Tomorrow (really "later today" now), Ryan Madson will save us all, as the Phillies play the Dodgers. Oliver Perez will kick a laundry cart into the Reds. Other cities will be enjoying lefty battles galore, as Dontrelle Willis and Tom Glavine face off in New York, and Jamie Moyer and Barry Zito face off here in Seattle. Chris Shelton is currently on par to hit 202 home runs this year, so we'll see if he can smack another few tomorrow, although Kevin Millwood will do his best to stop him.

Tomoaki Kanemoto of the Hanshin Tigers matched part of Cal Ripken's Iron Man record by playing in every single inning of 903 consecutive games. Assuming he starts the game tomorrow, he will break it.

Personally, I'll be showing up at Elliott Bay Book Company a bit before 4pm. I'll be wearing a Jason Kendall #18 Pirates t-shirt, which should be pretty hard to miss. Come chat about books. It'll take your mind off of wondering who's going to implode worse in the CRAFTY LEFTY STEEL CAGE MATCH that evening.

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