Friday, June 01, 2007

Game Report: Mariners vs. Rangers - Baek and Call

I think the first thing I need to mention is that two Mariners-related things are going on this Saturday, June 2nd, which were mentioned at the game tonight.

First, there's a fundraiser for Esperanza at Bellevue Square in the morning. The website says there are sessions from 10-11:30am and 12-1:30pm; each session costs $50, which gets you an 8'x10" photo and autograph from each player in attendance. (It says the first session has Morrow, Putz, Reitsma and Washburn, and the second session has Batista, Betancourt, Felix, and Jose Lopez. I guess it's white boys vs. latino boys or something.)

Second, the evening's game is another Edgar Martinez Day, this time to induct him into the Mariners Hall of Fame. The ceremony starts at 6:30pm before a 7pm game, and the first 20,000 fans get a commemorative placard. Also, FSN will be showing various things on TV if you can't make it. 5pm is a rebroadcast of "Edgar: Before the Bigs", 5:30pm is a show called "Edgar Martinez: In My Own Words", and at 6pm the pre-game show will start and go on for an hour and include the ceremony.

Anyway, I went to tonight's game mostly because it was really nice out, sunny and 75 degrees. I went with my best friend, who spent half of the game hunting down the candy store and the other half correcting my kanji writing. I'm kidding, mostly, but I did miss a whole bunch of plays while we were talking and such. It's sort of a novel thing for me to go to a game without a camera and without the intent of really paying attention beyond keeping score. We didn't even get into the stadium until 7pm.

The scoreboard folks originally had the lineup as Victor Diaz batting 5th and playing right field, and Matt Kata batting ninth and playing third, and Marlon Byrd playing left field. It took them an inning or so to correct all of that -- Frank Catalanotto was actually batting 5th and playing left field, Byrd was in right, and Ramon Vazquez got the start at third. Me being unfamiliar with the current stRangers lineup, I didn't even know who #12 was, though I knew it sure as hell wasn't Matt Kata.

This game was definitely a product of "the big inning", as the Mariners batted around their order in the 1st and 3rd, and the Rangers almost did in the 4th, and both starters were victimized, Cha Seung Baek for the Mariners and Vicente Padilla for the Rangers.

It was Mark Teixeira's 500th consecutive game, apparently. And just as I was pondering that streak, Ichiro led off the bottom of the first with a single, a stooper to center, which extended his hitting streak to 24 straight games, tying Joey Cora's team record in 1997. I call it a "stooper" as in a "stupid blooper", where three fielders all run for it and it falls in the middle of them. Vidro grounded out, advancing Ichiro to second.

Then, about ninety years and two pitches later, Jose Guillen ran out an infield single and Raul Ibanez walked, and another fifty years later Richie Sexson was at the plate, and I'm telling my friend that "This is Richie. He's our 'big' hitter, by which I mean he's 6 foot 8," and Richie chose that moment to hit a single to straightaway center, scoring Ichiro and Guillen. We would also learn in the next inning that it ACTUALLY BROUGHT HIS BATTING AVERAGE UP TO .200 WOOOOOOO. Johjima also singled to center, scoring Raul. Beltre popped out to first in foul territory, and then Yuniesky Betancourt hit a hard grounder towards Vazquez at third, which bounced into his glove and then waaaay up in the air, and suddenly Vicente Padilla found himself stuck with the bases loaded again. Lopez hit a grounder off the third base umpire's shoe which was declared foul, and then ultimately grounded out to end the inning. By this point, 43 pitches of Padilla's outing and 43 minutes of the game had passed, and the Mariners were up 3-0.

Baek kept the Rangers hitless in the second and third innings, mostly by way of a fantastic play by Yuniesky Betancourt, where he was crazy deep in the hole and made a huge throw to first base to nail Gerald Laird by a few feet. It really does seem like Yuni's problem this year isn't the tough plays, it's the EASY plays that get him all messed up.

The Mariners hit approximately fifty singles in the bottom of the third to bring the game to 7-0. Some of them were kinda dumb and some of them involved Ichiro barely beating out a throw from Mike Young. And somewhere in there Kenji Johjima got hit by a pitch, which was sort of funny to me because I was like "Man, you've got to be a moron to be throwing Johjima high and inside, he pounds those over the scoreboard," but I suppose actually hitting him only limits him to getting one base at a time, and that's pretty standard fare for the Padilla Flotilla, especially now that he doesn't have to get up and bat himself.

Cha Seung Baek plunked Mark Teixeira to lead off the top of the 4th, right in the side, and the umpire came out to yell and wave and point voraciously at both dugouts. Unfortunately, things only got worse from there. Sammy Sosa (my friend said, "Hey, I know who he is!") even hit a weak single to center, and then Frank Catalanotto hit the ball up the right field line into the corner for a double which scored the aforementioned runners. Marlon Byrd popped out, but then Ian Kinsler drew a walk, and quicker than you could say "How the hell did Catalanotto get a double anyway?", Gerald Laird hit a ball right into the Mariners bullpen for a 3-run homer, scoring Catalahotornotto and Kinsler and bringing the score to a much closer 7-5.

"This is the part where the Mariners suck, right?" my friend asked.

Fortunately, no, it wasn't. Infact, despite the fact that only 4 innings had passed and it was already getting up towards 9pm, things actually sped up a lot at that point, as the Rangers called on their bullpen, bringing out Willie Eyre (which led to us debating which Bronte wrote Jane Eyre), Frank Francisco (at which point he left to go find the Sweet Spot), Joaquin Benoit ("Wah-what?") and then Akinori Otsuka (which led to an impromptu kanji lesson. Would you believe that I have been missing two strokes from his name and Tomokazu Ohka's when writing them? I am so terribly careless).

Of all those, only Otsuka really ran into any trouble. Betancourt almost led off the bottom of the 8th with a home run, but thanks to that meddling scoreboard in left field, it was only a double. Lopez bunted him up and then Ichiro brought his tally for the evening to 3-for-5 by singling, and stealing, because he's Ichiro and he does that. By then it was 8-5, and Vidro also singled, moving Ichiro to third, and BEN BROUSSARD came in and pretty much just hit a loooooong fly ball to left, allowing Ichiro to tag up and score, and the Mariners did ultimately win the game 9-5.

Baek eventually did end up staying out there until the 7th inning, coming out of the game after he hit Kenny Lofton in the foot. Brandon Morrow came out to replace him.

I have to stop for a second because you all know I'm a surprisingly big fan of Brandon Morrow, so what happened next was pretty sad. He threw a ball, and another ball, and a ball, and a ball, and a ball, and HEY, KID, CAN YOU SPARE A STRIKE? Michael Young walked on four straight pitches, and even the next two pitches were balls, before Kenji Johjima came out to the mound like "I would like it very much if you would please throw a fastball in the strike zone, okay?" And well, that's kinda what Morrow did, getting up to a full count on Teixeira, who flailed at fastballs and fouled them around before ultimately walking and loading the bases. Sammy Sosa, on the other hand, came up hacking, and went down hacking. I have to admit that it was pretty nerve-wracking for a bit there, and by the time Catalanotto grounded out to second, Morrow had racked up an even 10 balls and 10 strikes. It's crazy watching him pitch, and at the same time, I somehow know he's going to get out of these messes, and it's still crazy to think that a year ago he hadn't even been drafted by the Mariners.

Jason Davis came out and was kinda iffy, and then George Sherrill came out and TOTALLY KICKED ASS -- two batters, two strikeouts -- making it almost anticlimactic when JJ Putz came out with what was no longer a save opportunity at 9-5, and also got two strikeouts. I suppose that once upon a time striking out Sammy Sosa to end the game would have been a big deal, but alas, that time has passed.

I don't really have a lot to say about this game. Despite college night, it was pretty sparsely attended, and most of the student groups we saw were actually high schoolers, so I'm not really sure what was up with that. The weather was really pretty fantastic. The Rangers really kind of sucked. It brought my personal attended-games record for this season to 7-3 -- and I still have yet to see a game started by anyone other than Baek, Felix, or J-Rod, although that will change this Sunday when I get to see Feierabend and his high socks, which I'm looking forward to.

Padilla Padilla Padilla, that's all folks!

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