Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Game Report: Mariners vs. Devil Rays - Japan Night, or An Evening At Camp McClung

I was supposed to go to tonight's game as part of Japan Night; Kiyoshi from had ordered a ticket for me. Unfortunately, he called at like 5pm saying that he was going to be stuck at work until at least 7:30pm-8, and the tickets were in his name at Will Call. That was a shame -- I was really looking forward to having someone to geek out with about Japanese baseball in person, but alas. Since I was already prepared with my camera and my scorecard book and my Nippon Ham Fighters jersey, I headed down to the stadium and bought a bleacher seat for the game, which I actually did sit in this time.

I missed most of BP, but Tim Corcoran was still signing stuff when I got there, so I ran down there and got him to sign my ticket. Rather than doing the typical scrawling that most players do, Corcoran was actually writing rather nicely on stuff. I got him to sign my ticket, and when he handed it back to me, I said, "You have the nicest handwriting of any baseball player I've ever seen, Mr. Corcoran!" He absolutely beamed at me and said "Thanks!" I guess I got double points for 1) complimenting his writing and 2) actually knowing who the hell he was. A lot of the other people were getting him to sign stuff and then asking other people "Hey, do you know who that is, anyway?"

I watched Jae Seo and King Felix warming up in the field. That was a lot of fun. In the meantime, they started the Japan Night festivities, with a taiko band playing drums in the outfield. I headed down to the bullpen around then, though, so I didn't catch most of the performance.

They're goin' DOWN!
Felix says, "The Devil Rays are goin' DOWN, yo!"

"Short Bus" Version: This game was extremely frustrating for people like me who have Felix Hernandez on their fantasy team, because he was owning -- he really was -- but the Mariners weren't scoring any runs for him, and so he did post a great WHIP/ERA for the game, and tons of K's, but no win. So between Felix kicking butt and Jae Seo acting like a Korean Rodrigo Lopez, there's not much to mention about the first several innings, and the game actually moved incredibly fast, and I barely have any game notes until the 7th inning.

In the 3rd, the Devil Rays managed to score a run. Russ Branyan singled to the ball girl in right field, pretty much, and then Ben Zobrist walked (right after the kid behind me was like, "How does he have a .200 average and only a .192 OBP?"). They pulled off a double steal during Rocco Baldelli's at-bat, and Branyan scored when Baldelli grounded out. Crawford flew out foul to "shortstop", by which I mean, "about two feet short of landing in section 141", and then Cantu grounded back to Felix.

Then there was a lot of people striking out or grounding out for a while, and an occasional ball to the outfield. Honestly, Seo and Felix have almost the same exact line, save Seo's 7 IP to Felix's 8 - 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K. In the 7th, Ben Broussard struck out, except the ball bounced into Dioner Navarro's chest and rolled towards third. So Broussard took off for first, and Navarro threw the ball after him, only it missed Travis Lee and went towards the stands, so Broussard ended up on second. Johjima singled to left, and Broussard managed to score on it. To try to push ahead another run for Felix, they sac bunted Johjima to second and then put Adam Jones in to run for him, but alas, Willie popped the ball straight up for an easy out, and then Ichiro hit a low liner to short for which Ben Zobrist happened to make a beautiful diving catch.

Felix managed to finish the 8th inning, but the same couldn't be said for Seo. Jose Lopez got on base via a throwing error, and then Seo seemed to be having trouble pitching to Beltre; a whole bunch of people came out to the mound to talk to him, and he shook them off, but after walking Beltre they pulled him and put in Jon Switzer. Switzer struck out Ibanez on three straight pitches, and his reward was getting pulled so Shawn Camp could pitch to Richie Sexson, who popped out, and then Broussard grounded out.

George Sherrill (!!) came out to pitch the 9th, and threw 8 straight strikes to strike out both Travis Lee and Greg Norton. Then he walked Dioner Navarro on four straight pitches, so Julio Mateo came out to replace him, and fortunately, he got B.J. Upton to ground out. Sadly, though, the Mariners couldn't put a dent in Shawn Camp in their half of the 9th, and at 9:32pm the game went into extra innings. Damon Hollins struck out, and then Ben ".192 OBP" singled... and was caught stealing. Rocco Baldelli struck out too.

Ichiro hit a ground ball along the line to left field to start off the bottom of the tenth inning, and just ran and ran. Crawford fielded it pretty well and threw to second, and it got there around the same time Ichiro did, but either Cantu was off the bag or Ichiro beat him there, so he was safe with a double. At this point, the Rays brought out their SECRET WEAPON -- Seth McClung. Hmm. Lopez sac bunted Ichiro to third, and then McClung intentionally walked Beltre and Ibanez to get to Richie Sexson with the bases loaded. You'd think people would have learned their lesson about doing that by now, and Sexson, in his "Big Richie Big Swingie" style, took the second pitch he saw and cranked it 423 feet into the people drinking beer behind the centerfield wall, and thus the Mariners won the game 5-1. I guess that's definitely more exciting than something like walking in the winning run, that's for sure.

I love my new camera. I really, really do.

Speaking of the camera, I got mixed results trying to shoot stuff with the zoom in the lower light conditions. Since I'd managed to snag a row 1 seat in the LF Bleachers, I tried using the wall and metal rope in front of me to stabilize the camera at times. One part that was fun was leaning over the wall to take pictures of the bullpen, and I have several interesting shots from that, which I'll hopefully put up at some point soon if I have time.

Gil Meche was warming up in the bullpen in the 10th inning. I'm not sure why. I saw him walking out to the dugout before the 6th inning and wasn't really sure what was up with that, since he just started on Sunday. Weird.

There were these teenage guys sitting down the row from me, and once it came out that I have way too much baseball in my brain, they started asking me random questions about players and whatnot (and also things like "Where the heck is Nagasaki?"). In the tenth inning, when we saw Seth McClung warming up, they were like, "Is this guy any good?" and I told them the entire saga of Seth McClung, and how he sucked, and sucked some more, and was sent down to AAA to stop sucking, and apparently stopped sucking enough to come back up, but I wasn't going to believe it until I saw it. We couldn't see the scoreboard, but I mentioned his 7-ish ERA and his 2-10 record (okay, actually 3-11) and all. Well, after he had the bases loaded, I said, "Get your glove out, 'cause Richie's going to hit one right to us." I was half right, I suppose.

Japan Night, for those of us not in the special sections, was pretty lame. There was no general giveaway this time, though I hear people in the Japan Night sections got special hats. They had these little "Japan Night Language Lessons" up on the board from time to time, with things like "Kenji wa tsuyoi - Kenji is Strong", except, well, you wouldn't really actually refer to him as Kenji if you were speaking Japanese. Then, for "Fact or Fiction?" they said, "We're going to list some team names, and you try to guess if they are actual team names in the Japanese Pacific League". Well, uhh. Yes, team names like the "Hamamatsu Stinging Jellyfish" or whatever aren't real names to begin with -- but when they put up stuff like "Yakult Swallows", I was like "That's a real team, but it's NOT IN THE PACIFIC LEAGUE GODDAMNIT," and they said "fact" anyway. Of course, they put up "Nippon Ham Fighters", and I stood up, wearing my Fighters jersey, and turned around like "THAT BETTER BE A FACT!", and a bunch of people laughed.

Still, it's just one of my pet peeves, and I'm surprised that on freaking Japan Night they couldn't be bothered to get the terminology right. (For the record, there are two six-team leagues in the NPB, the Pacific League and the Central League. They have different rulesets, similar to the AL/NL differences with the DH and lack thereof, though in Japan it also extends to scheduling and playoffs and other things. At any rate, if someone says "the Japanese League", they probably have no clue what they're talking about.)

Anyway, whatever. I'm currently watching two of my favorite young lefty pitchers in the world face each other as the Fighters' Tomoya Yagi is pitching against the Hawks' Tsuyoshi Wada. It's a Hawks home game, so it's being broadcast on Yahoo, which is great, except it also means I'm up way too freaking late yet again. Ex-Mariner and current Hawk Jolbert Cabrera hit a home run a bit ago to tie the game at 1-1, but now my favorite Fighter Michihiro Ogasawara just hit another home run to put the Fighters ahead 3-1. Woo! I should sleep.

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