Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Game Report: Mariners vs. Angels - Return of the King!

A couple of days ago, I had this great idea that we should get a bunch of Lookout Landing folks together at tonight's game, because

1) Felix was going to be pitching again after his stint on the DL
2) EnglishMariner, a semi-regular commenter on LL, was going to be in town from England and going to the game
3) It was "BECU Family Night", meaning the normally-$18 tickets in View Reserved would cost only $10

In reality, #1 should have been all the motivation necessary to get people to come to the park, right?

The plan was to have people buy tickets in section 320, around row 15 or so, and we'd all congregate together. And fortunately, this plan even actually worked, except for one small detail -- EnglishMariner never showed up, as far as we know. Or at least, he never sought us out. My theory is that he did show up, saw our group, and thought "Oh my gosh, I don't want to be associated with those weirdoes!" and kept to himself.

We ended up with a group of around 15 people -- PositivePaul, Marc W, Gomez, me, Bretticus, Katal, Katal's girlfriend ("Chopped Liver"), Conor Glassey and his wife Cheryl, Robert-aka-KnightofKingK, Etowncoug, and Goose. Jtopps was also there with some of his friends, and Paul's brother was also sitting in our row, and Brett's dad hung out with us for part of the game too. And amazingly, we had a great time and didn't get thrown out of the stadium or anything.

I skipped batting practice and all of my normal pregame stuff and just came straight to section 320. Yes, that's right, I actually spent a game WITHOUT MY CAMERA, just keeping score and hanging out with people.

They announced the lineups, and we spent most of the Angels lineup yelling "WHO?" at half the players. It was half a joke, and half-serious -- I mean, come on, Reggie Willits? Tommy Murphy? I later joked to Gomez that Tommy Murphy sounds more like a type of alcohol -- "Can you gimme a 40 of Tommy Murphy and a pint of Kotchman?" I think we saw about 50% of today's lineup last time I was at a game with both Marc and Paul -- in Tacoma last April when the Rainiers played the Bees.

And of course, we instantly noticed one gaping hole in the Angels lineup: no Vladimir Guerrero.

I had joked that people should "BYOK" -- bring their own K signs to hold up when Felix struck out batters -- but only Conor actually did so. He and Cheryl had Kellogg's K signs, which were immediately put to good use when Chone Figgins, the second batter of the game, was struck out.

We were all sort of apprehensive about Escobar (and I think half the gang had started him on their fantasy team that day), but apparently he didn't bring his best stuff -- or really much of any sort of stuff -- to the game today. Ichiro led off with an infield single, and we all started cheering "LET'S GO TURBO!" for Vidro's at-bat. But Vidro hit a nice line drive single into center, getting Ichiro to third. Ibanez hit a big foul fly ball caught by Figgins, and then Richie Sexson struck out, at which point I got a text message from Jeff Sullivan that said "Hi guys. Richie blows."

Jose Guillen in his Rage Against The Angels routine singled home Ichiro after that, and Paul started singing "JOSE, JOSE JOSE JOSE. JOSEEEEEEE JOSEEEEEEE" to the Ole Ole tune. And after that, Beltre grounded to third, where Chone Figgins got the ball on a bounce, pondered for a second, and then threw it over Casey Kotchman's head, so Beltre was safe at first, and Vidro even had enough time to waddle home from third. And to add insult to injury, Escobar threw a wild pitch during Johjima's at-bat, so Beltre got to second and Guillen scored, meaning it was a nice 3-0 when Felix took the mound for the second inning.

The second inning was largely uneventful game-wise, aside from Ichiro getting his second single of the night and getting his 44th consecutive stolen base. Paul and Marc disappeared for the inning to go down to the bullpen to talk to George Sherrill, and the LL guys were basically having a game thread in real life, making inappropriate pink bat jokes and such. To change the subject, I spotted a woman wearing jeans with "10101010" printed on the pockets and said "Hey, does she have binary on her butt?"

The top of the third was remarkably lame. The first two outs came pretty quickly, but then Chone Figgins walked. Orlando Cabrera hit a semi-legitimate infield single, and then Gary Matthews Jr. hit a completely retarded "single" where the ball rolled weakly up the third-base foul line and eventually just stopped in fair territory, at which point Adrian Beltre angrily picked it up (and I made a comment about how the Safeco groundskeepers weren't doing their job properly). With the bases then loaded, Felix got two strikes on Kotchman and we hoped that'd be it, but no, Kotchman hit a grounder up the middle that was deflected off Felix and that Yuniesky Betancourt got and then dropped and completely couldn't make a play on it. The Safeco scorer ruled it a single, as Shea Hillenbrand followed it up with a grounder to third and Adrian Beltre fielded it and faked a rundown with Matthews and just tagged third base for the forceout.

The bottom of the third was entirely not lame, although Kelvim Escobar might see it differently. Ibanez led off with a single to right which was first ruled an error (as it went through Maicer Izturis first). Richie walked, although Ibanez had already advanced on a wild pitch. Jose Guillen then further Raged against the Angels and doubled into left, scoring Ibanez and getting Big Richie to third. 4-1. Beltre then singled to center, scoring Richie and advancing Guillen to third. 5-1. Johjima hit a sac fly to center, scoring Guillen. 6-1. Beltre had stolen second during Johjima's at-bat, and stole third during Betancourt's, sliding headfirst into the base, so I jokingly got everyone to yell "STEAL HOME! [CLAP CLAP] STEAL HOME! [CLAP CLAP]". Of course, that wasn't necessary, as even Betancourt could hit Escobar, and singled to bring Beltre home. 7-1. And that was it for Escobar, routed after only two and a third innings.

Hector Carrasco (whose name still invokes the Rakuten Golden Eagles mascot to me) came in to pitch after that, and Jose Lopez takes the first pitch he sees and wallops it into the Angels' bullpen. I mean, like, we all get up at the first crack of the bat and watch that ball sail out there, over Reggie Willits's head... and I'm just standing there in disbelief with my hand on my forehead like "I BENCHED HIM TODAY ARRRGGGHH", while everyone around me is celebrating as the first strains of Parliament Funkadelic come blasting down from the speaker right above us. Eventually I realize that it's okay to be an idiot in this case and we all start high-fiving each other (and virtual high-fiving guys like Jeremy and Marc and all who are sitting a few rows away). Besides, a 9-1 lead is pretty sweet.

Ichiro singled after that, making him 3-for-3 on the day, and at that moment Bretticus realizes that 1) there's only one out and one batter left before the Mariners bat around, and 2) he has one of the stupid vertical scorecard books where they don't have a tenth inning to extend into when your lineup bats around. So he's like "It's okay, Vidro's going to ground into a double play," but, no, Vidro walks. With Ibanez up, everyone's like "Well, maybe Ibanez will ground into a double play?" and then someone, I forget who, came up with the brilliant idea of The New Double Play Twins, Vidro and Ibanez -- that is, the Ground Into Double Play Twins.

Unfortunately, Ibanez grounds into what looks like a 4-6-3 double play, only it turns into a "4-6-E" play instead, as Orlando Cabrera basically eats the ball at second and makes a wide throw to first. Since a double play is not assumed, that's really not an error. Richie Sexson strikes out after that, though I wrote it down as "K?" because he pretty much watched that ball go by like "What?"

I helpfully point out that Brett doesn't actually have to worry about the scorecard not having a 10th inning, because there's no way the Mariners will lose this game at this point, so he doesn't actually need the 9th inning column for the home team. Then I realize that I've probably just jinxed the team horribly, and perhaps I shouldn't have said that, except the reply was "No, I mean, what will we do if they bat around again?"

We got All-Star Ballots sometime around then, which was of course a lot of fun to joke about with the group. Gomez was talking about the WPA All-Stars ("Does that mean we have to vote for Barry Bonds?"), while I was meanwhile filling mine out with various themes, such as "The 15 worst players on the ballot, and Sal Fasano", or "Names ending in -er and -y", which actually gets you a decent lineup.

The Angels did some run-scoring stuff in the top of the 4th -- Felix ended up loading the bases on an Izturis single and a Napoli double, then walking Willits after striking out Murphy. So he struck out Chone Figgins (as we're all yelling things like "COME ON, YOU CAN STRIKE OUT A GUY NAMED CHOWN-EE, GODDAMNIT"), but then Orlando Cabrera hit a single up through Betancourt's glove, scoring two runs, and Felix got taken out of the game after 78 pitches, with the score 9-3. We all got up and applauded. Sean White came in to pitch for the Mariners.

It was already quarter to 9pm at that point, and we hadn't even gotten through 4 innings, so I was almost worried that we'd all be stuck at the stadium until 11pm.

I shouldn't have worried.

Sean White literally retired 13 batters in a row. Infact, I sort of zoned out for most of his time pitching, because well, the Angels weren't doing much, and to be fair, neither were the Mariners. The LL crowd were using most of that time to actually just talk about random crap, as if we were in a game thread wasting time while a boring part of the game was happening. Which is exactly what we were doing, as it were. Infact, the most exciting thing that happened during White's turn on the mound was a Casey Kotchman infield fly to the mound, which White caught barehanded and threw to first. It was cute.

Meanwhile, Kenji Johjima served up another FUNK BLAST for us all -- I'm almost thinking we should rename Section 151, Row 35 as "Kenji's Korner", because goddamn, every home run he hits at Safeco seems to go to that very spot.

Ichiro got up to 4-for-4 during his next at-bat. Vidro walked. There was yet another wild pitch during Ibanez's at-bat -- the third one of the evening for the Angels, and at this point I was vaguely wondering whether some of those weren't really passed balls on Napoli. I don't really trust the Safeco scorers in general. Raul struck out and Richie grounded out to end the inning, and then THE HYDRO RACES STARTED OH BOY OH JOY! I hate the Hydros (Gomez noted, "It's Deanna's favorite part of the game!"), but Paul basically spent the entire race yelling "YELLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW" right in my ear. I don't even remember what won, to be honest.

The Angels and Mariners both swapped out most of their lineups between the 5th and 7th innings. The Angels basically put in the rest of the Salt Lake 2006 lineup in the bottom of the 5th; Willits moved to center, Erick Aybar came in at short, Robb Quinlan (!) came in for left field, and Kendry Morales replaced Kotchman at first. The Mariners followed suit in the 7th, with Ben Broussard coming in for left field, Jason Ellison coming in for right field, and a bit later, Willie Bloomquist replaced Ichiro in center field. (The speaker announced the "defensive replacement" and we all started booing loudly, much to either the complete amusement or chagrin of the surrounding fans.) Ellison and Broussard even actually got at-bats later on! Wow!

There was some more White ownage, and Chris "Booty Check" Bootcheck, another guy I was pretty familiar with from the Salt Lake team, came out to pitch, and he was just a strike-throwing machine in the 6th, though he started off the 7th by hitting Lopez with a pitch. A wild pitch during Ichiro's at-bat (Goose said, "Was that the FOURTH one tonight?") moved Lopez to second, where he scored when Ichiro singled, amidst our cheers of "FIVE FOR FIVE! FIVE FOR FIVE!" Vidro, the GIDP Twin, grounded into a fielder's choice after that, and some fly outs to Tommy Murphy's high socks in right field ended the inning. In the meantime, people had started doing the wave, and Conor, whose blog is called "Stop The Wave", made a point of sitting there very grumpily, as the rest of us were yelling things like "ANGELS FANS LIKE THE WAVE" and "JEFF WEAVER LIKES THE WAVE" and stuff like that.

Towards the end of the 8th inning, we all noticed there was a guy warming up in the bullpen, but we couldn't quite tell who it was. I have fairly good vision, so I was like "Huh... tall right-handed guy with a uniform number ending in 0?" But we knew it wasn't Putz -- too skinny -- so we figured it had to be the new guy, Jason Davis, just acquired from Cleveland. An 11-3 lead was a pretty good place to try him out, too. What was sort of surprising to all of us was that he was wearing #50, Jamie Moyer's old number. I think a lot of us have different ideas about which numbers are sacred on the Mariners -- like #11, and #24, and maybe even #14 -- but I guess if Dan Wilson's #6 could be re-issued, then so can Jamie's #50.

Either way, the ninth inning went pretty quickly. Napoli hit a pop fly out to first, and Tommy Murphy hit a "double" up the left field line, which basically barely bounced fair, then almost bounced into the stands, where a fan failed to grab it, and it rolled back on the field. I'm not sure whether it was called a ground rule double or not, but Davis struck out Reggie Willits after that, and I stood up.


Everyone's like "Oh yeah. Huh."

I mean, usually the last out of the game involves lots of music over the loudspeaker and a big "UP ON YOUR FEET!!" on the left-field scoreboard, but I guess even the scoreboard operators hadn't noticed. (They didn't actually reflect the defensive changes until a half-inning later earlier in the game either, so.) So we all got up and pretended to sing Zombie Nation, and then Chone Figgins grounded out to first, Davis covering the bag, which was about as anti-climactic an ending as one could possibly imagine.

But hey, the Mariners won 11-3, Felix is back, and we managed to get a whole bunch of Lookout Landing folks to the game and we all had a blast. A funk blast, even. The funny part is that we still have absolutely no idea what happened to EnglishMariner. But either way, we're surely going to do this again sometime, because it was a lot of fun.

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