Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Game Report: Mariners vs. A's - Behold Your AL West Overlords

Tonight, along with about 20 other people at Safeco Field, I got to see the Oakland A's clinch the AL West pennant.

Beware of flying Melhuses.

I'm not sure this game really needs a recap, in all honesty. Oakland won 12-3 as the Angels lost to Texas, and that's it for the American League pennant race, as it'll be the Twins, Tigers, Yankees and A's in the postseason.

The light was terrible at Safeco tonight, but I did take a bunch of pictures nonetheless. I got Brandon Buckley and Barry Zito to make faces at me at one point, and the pictures came out all blurry. Bleh. Swisher was taking fielding practice at shortstop as a joke for a while, though he kept falling over. He had a new facial hair pattern today, with these crazy thin long sideburns. We called him over to the stands eventually, and I got him to sign a baseball card with his completely weirdo signature, and said, "Swish, you're my favorite shortstop ever," and he laughed.

At the end of BP a bunch of guys came over -- Zito, Halsey, Blanton, a few more down by the dugout that I didn't see, so I got Zito to sign a baseball card as well (boy, I'm glad I remembered to bring them to work this morning), and then got Joe Blanton to sign my ticket. Wheee!

I took pictures of Harden warming up, too, though again, I got screwed over by the lighting. I sort of like this one where you can see his face clearly but his arm is a big blur. Unfortunately, due to the "bullpen tavern buffet" promo today, it turned out I couldn't just go to my normal spot in the tavern and take pictures through the holes in the wall. Grumble. So I went over to the Mariners bullpen instead, and got Francisco Cruceta to also sign my ticket. Bonus! I didn't think the players were supposed to do that, but maybe the "no autographs" sign is more so that people don't always pester the players, not necessarily that the players don't want to sign stuff.

Anyway, what can I say? Rich Harden is really good -- despite being limited to around 75 pitches (76, to be exact) -- and despite that he sort of seemed to be relatively sucking today -- he went 5 innings of 2-hit ball, striking out 5, walking Leadoff Bloomquist, and hitting Beltre. By the time Kirk Saarloos came in from the bullpen, the A's already had a 6-0 lead, with Swisher hitting a solo homer to lead off the second and Milton Bradley hitting a 3-run homer which I thought was almost going to reach the Hit it Here Cafe. I suppose it's fitting that the first runs the Mariners scored were when Beltre and Ibanez hit back-to-back home runs in the 6th off Saarloos, Beltre's being a huge shot into the fifth row of the left field bleachers, and Raul's going a few feet past the FSN sign in center field (but somehow being called 389 feet).

I think the M's pretty much decided not to bother trying to win this one once Woods had given up 6 runs, and instead turned it into an episode of American League Idol, running a bunch of young pitchers and hitters and fielders through a bunch of auditions to see who will get a major league recording contract next year. We got to see Jorge Campillo pitch, of all people, and Emiliano Fruto, the pride of Colombia, and then Eric O'Flaherty, the only Mariners pitcher to NOT give up a run. By the end of the game, almost every starter had been replaced with a callup player.

As a side note, neither Ichiro nor Johjima played in this game, making it the first one in I-have-no-idea-how-long that I didn't write a single player name on my scorecard in Japanese. I guess Hargrove noticed that the stadium was practically empty and figured he'd play a joke on any Japanese tourists who were dumb enough to come out for the game, by playing Bloomquist and Rivera instead. But the starting lineup was Bloomquist, Lopez, Beltre, Ibanez, Sexson, Broussard, Betancourt, Snelling, Rivera, and the lineup at the end of the game was Bloomquist, Lopez, Bohn, Jones, Dobbs, Perez, Navarro (!!), Morse, Rivera.

By the end of the game, the only people left in the stadium were the A's fans, pretty much, and when Kielty caught the final out, a spontaneous party erupted down by the A's dugout, both by the players and by the fans. Up where I was sitting, there was a guy who'd brought an A's flag and was waving it every time the A's scored a run (it reminded me of being in Japan again), and a bunch of A's fans rallied up there as well before running down to join their green-and-gold compatriots.

I keep not paying attention to writing this while I listen to the Nippon Ham Fighters vs. Softbank Hawks game, and I really should be sleeping instead, so I'm going to cut this entry short. I'm a little sad that Zito isn't pitching tomorrow -- they've changed the page to say that Jason Windsor is -- but maybe we'll get to see some players we wouldn't otherwise, like Jeremy Brown or Hiram Bocachica. And maybe Eric Chavez will finally get some rest.

Congratulations to the Oakland A's. I think it's shaping up to be a fun set of playoffs, and at this point I'm not even sure who I'll root for anymore.

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