Monday, June 04, 2007

Game Report: Mariners vs. Rangers - There is Nothing To Fear But Feierabend

I'm sunburnt and exhausted and really should be sleeping instead of going over photos and writing a game report, but dang, today's game was really pretty cool. Well, or hot. It was something like 80 degrees and sunny the whole time. I lasted approximately one inning before moving back several rows into the shade, and still got baked a nice shade of red.

Of course, I also had a pretty fantastic pre-game, getting autographs from CJ Wilson, Akinori Otsuka, and Joaquin Benoit. That was pretty awesome. I also took about ninety thousand photos of Ryan Feierabend warming up. He rocks the high socks.

The Mariners winning the game brought my personal record for the season up to 8-3, too!

Ryan Feierabend
The few, the proud, the young, the left-handed.

"Short version": Victor Diaz hit two home runs for 5 RBI and Mark Teixeira hit one solo home run, and that pretty much sums up the Rangers' offense. Ryan Feierabend stayed out there for seven-and-a-third innings, and basically threw a whole lot of strikes, and occasionally some of them got pounded. Jon Huber actually gave up Diaz's second home run in the eighth inning, as he finished out the game.

The Mariners, on the other hand, managed to capitalize on poor pitching by Robinson Tejeda and poor fielding by most of the Rangers' infield (which had Matt Kata at third and Ramon Vazquez at short, as Blalock is out with a rib operation and Young was DHing) and despite no home runs still scored 11 runs along the way.

Jose Lopez scored a run in the first inning after a throwing error by Tejeda and an RBI single by Guillen. With the score 4-1 in favor of the Rangers in the fourth, the Mariners batted around the order to remedy that. Ibanez singled, Broussard walked, and Willie Bloomquist was hit in the back by a pitch. Jamie Burke "singled" to Matt Kata, who dropped the ball, scoring Ibanez. 4-2. With the bases loaded, Tejeda walked Ichiro, bringing in another run. 4-3. Jose Lopez then hit a scorching line drive that nearly cleared the left-field wall, scoring everyone else, and reaching third base himself on the throw. 6-4.

Yuniesky Betancourt led off the 6th inning with a double, and stole third, and THEN DID A SQUEEZE PLAY, taking off for home as Jamie Burke bunted. It was awesome. 7-4. Ichiro walked, and Tejeda walked off the mound and into the dugout. Sidearmer Wes Littleton replaced him, giving up an "infield single" to Lopez when Kinsler overthrew, and then Jose Guillen doubled both of them in. 9-4. Ibanez singled in Guillen, before accidentally getting himself caught in a rundown. Whoops. 10-4.

The Mariners added another run in the 8th off lefty CJ Wilson, who was all over the place, walking two, striking out three, and giving up one hit. Unfortunately, when Ibanez struck out with the bases loaded, catcher Chris Stewart didn't get the ball, and so everybody advanced, which brought in another run, a run that was neither earned nor batted in. Either way, by then Diaz's second home run had happened and this cemented the final score with the Mariners winning 11-6.

Akinori Otsuka
Akinori Otsuka!

Okay, so I wasn't originally going to show up early because I knew it was a Little League Day and so that meant there'd be tons of kids out in a parade and no batting practice or even much of any sort of practice going on. Also, the Rangers are a notoriously bad team for signing anything. For some reason I decided to show up around 11:45am anyway. If nothing else, I figured I could just do some more food price research, and at least that'd keep me out of the hot hot sun.

But when I got there, much to my surprise, the Rangers bullpen guys were all out there with a trainer doing exercises! Whee!

So I took some pictures, and then followed them back towards the dugout, where some people were getting CJ Wilson to sign stuff. I've been following CJ's blog for a while and think he's pretty neat, and so as he turned to go into the dugout I yelled "CJ!" and he looked up, and some other people were like "Hey CJ!" and so he ended up signing some more stuff, but when he got to me I smiled huge like "I love your website! It's so awesome!" He signed my ticket and was like "Hey, thanks."

I guess I could have stopped there and been happy enough, but then I remembered that I brought the tickets from the other two Rangers games I'd gone to this year, and Joaquin Benoit was over by the first row fence, so I caught him too and got him to sign my ticket, and then a couple of little kids who were part of the Little League parade were all sad that they didn't have a pen, so I let them borrow mine and he signed their stuff too. I know, the kids just love me for my Sharpie.

And I could have been happy enough then, except I noticed that AKINORI OTSUKA was signing stuff for a couple of Japanese people about halfway up the infield line!

Let me stop and explain for a second that I was actually wearing a Chunichi Dragons Kawakami #11 t-shirt, because I thought it'd be funny, especially since Otsuka pitched for Chunichi for a year before coming to the MLB. Yes, I actually sort of intended to try to find him, even though I didn't really expect to. So, imagine my surprise when I go up to him and he signs my ticket, and continues talking in Japanese to this other girl (who had a CD and some other things for him), and suddenly he looks up like

Otsuka: "OH! Chunichi!" [points at my shirt]
Me: "Hai... er... yeah! I remembered it was Otsuka-san's old team."
Otsuka: "You from Nagoya?"
Japanese girl: "You like Chunichi?"
Me: "No, er, umm, I was in Nagoya last year, went to a Dragons game..."
JG: "Wow! Can I take picture of you?"
Me: "Errr... sure?"
JG: "Hai... cheeeeezu."
Me: [poses and smiles, remembering I'm supposed to do that]
Otsuka: [signs for a few more people, then walks off, shakes hand of Japanese girl, waves at me]
Me: [notices Chunichi jersey in Japanese girl's bag] "Oh, you have Chunichi shirt too, what player is yours of?"
JG: "Ochiai. Number 26."
Me: [looking confused, thinking Ochiai is the manager, forgetting about Eiji]
JG: "The pitcher, he retired last year."
Me: "Ohhhhh. So you ARE from Nagoya?"
JG: "Yes, I am from Nagoya. Do you like Kawakami?"
Me: "Actually my favorite Dragons player is Morino, but I have the Kawakami shirt... Kawakami's pretty good though."
JG: "Kawakami, Kenshin, he is very nice pitcher, he is our ace."

About half of that was in Japanese and half in English. I swear I felt like such an idiot trying to talk to Otsuka in Japanese that my brain just sort of melted. I'm pretty bad at speaking any language at all when I'm nervous, I guess.

But still, I was pretty happy about it. After all, I can't remember the last time, if ever, that I managed to get any Rangers to sign anything, and today I got three. Sweet.

I went and got food and tried to hide out in the shade for a while, since it was so hot and sunny out. Eventually I headed back out to catch Robinson Tejeda's warmup, but then got out of the sun yet again and went down to the bullpen, where I took about a bazillion pictures of Ryan Feierabend.

Ryan Feierabend
Ryan Feierabend rocks the high socks.

Seriously, just wait until I put up my photo set from this game, I really did take a ton of pictures of him. Much like last year when I felt there weren't enough pictures of Eric O'Flaherty around, I seek to remedy the deficiency of Feierabend photos as well.

In the meantime, George Sherrill was also doing his normal routine of amusing the beer garden kids by flicking sunflower seeds, and Sean Green was watching him, while Brandon Morrow was acting amused but mostly yawning. Suddenly, George got choked up in a bear hug from behind by somebody, and I was confused for a second, until suddenly I realized that the bear-hugger was actually someone quite familiar...

Arthur Rhodes
Look, Arthur Rhodes came by to say hi to everyone!

Funny part is, when I think about it, Rhodes was last on the Mariners in 2003, and the only players left from that year now are Ichiro, Willie, and JJ Putz.

Still, it was neat to see him, though a lot of the fans around didn't actually seem to have any idea who he was, which was sort of odd to me, given that I keep seeing lots of throwback old player shirts most of the time at the stadium. Heck, today I even saw a "Joey Cora Memorial T-shirt". I'm not making that up.

While I was watching the antics in the bullpen, I saw Eric O'Flaherty walk across the field. It appears that he was carrying the pink backpack today:

Eric O'Flaherty
Rookie Of The Day, Eric O'Flaherty

I fail to understand why Jon Huber or someone else more recently called up was not carrying the bag, though.

Anyway, that was enough adventure and excitement for me for one day, so I made my way to my seat, at which point I realized I hate sunlight. But, I did at least stay there long enough to see Jose Lopez hit the grounder back to the mound which Tejeda booted into Mark Teixeira's foot, allowing Lopez to get to third. Maybe it's just me, but Jose Lopez seems to really kick butt on Sunday afternoon games.

I moved back to row 30 or so to be in the shade after the first inning. I sat down saying to the people around me that I already felt burnt (which I was, though it hadn't reddened yet) and then literally a moment later Mark Teixeira launched a home run onto the Mariners bullpen ramp to lead off top of the second. Sheesh. To lead off the bottom of the second, a bunch of ladies behind me were singing Happy Birthday and giving flowers to one of their friends, during Ben Broussard's at-bat. That was sort of surreal.

"Ask the Mariners" today was "What video games are you good at?"

Reitsma: "None, I'm not very good at video games."
Jose Lopez: "I like soccer."
Sherrill: "I play the football games."
Raul, Ho, J-Rod: "Madden football."
Jeff Pentland: "The only video game I ever played was Donkey Kong..."
JJ Putz: "Navy Seals!"
Bloomquist: "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out. Yeah. I did beat Mike Tyson... regularly..."

The third inning ended with Jose Guillen hitting the ball to Matt Kata, who sort of sucks at the whole aiming-at-first-base thing, and overthrew. Guillen took off for second, except Gerald Laird had actually astutely been counting on Kata screwing up and was running around to back up first, and recovered the ball in time to get Guillen in a rundown, Kinsler eventually making the tag. The people across the aisle from me saw my scorecard and were like "Uhh... how exactly do you score THAT?" I was like "I dunno, I'm just going to write down what happened. E5, 2-4?"

The Safeco scorers were really pretty generous with not calling an error an error, though, since Kata booted a play in the 4th inning as well, and then in the 6th Betancourt hit the ball to center, and Marlon Byrd lost it in the sunlight and that was called a double. And again, I have to stress that it was pretty super awesome seeing Betancourt take off for home plate with a pitch to Burke. I can't remember the last time I've seen a squeeze play like that at Safeco, but two things are notable to prove that it's the kind of thing that happens when Hargrove goes away for the weekend:

1) Betancourt's a fast runner, so he's one of the sorts you'd try it with
2) Burke is a decent hitter but Bloomquist is not, and they tried it with Burke after Willie struck out

If Grover was doing a squeeze play I'd almost expect Vidro to take off from third with Bloomquist at bat. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but you get the idea.

Ian Kinsler and Willie Bloomquist
Bloomquist: I'm scrappy and white and everyone in the Mariners blogosphere hates me.
Kinsler: I'm scrappy and white and everyone except Deanna hates me too.
Bloomquist: I wonder why? We are both fantastic major league baseball players, aren't we?
Kinsler: No, I rock the high socks. You need a shave.

I guess Kinsler had to atone for forgetting how many outs there were at a point in Friday's game, where he could have gone for a double play but just went for the force-out. This time, he booted a throw into the stands, turning the third out into a runner on third base. Whoops. And yes, I still like Ian Kinsler, even if Jeff will pick on me forever for it. I also like Jose Lopez, after all.

Victor Diaz's second home run actually went into the concourse in left field and was measured at 428 feet. You have to understand that getting a home run into the concourse on purpose would actually be a fairly tough task for a hitter; if the home run has any arc at all it's either going to land in the bullpens or in the left field bleachers. So this was a line drive that flew out fairly flat with a slight rise, and didn't bounce on the scoreboard or the front of the bleachers or anything, just shot into the concourse. It was pretty cool. I bet it was even cooler for those in the concourse.

The AM-PM "Too much of a good thing" was 112 bags of potato chips.

Okay, and well, this is the last part of the post, and completely silly (not like the rest of this isn't completely incoherent as well), but when going through my pictures I came across this one I'd taken of Yuniesky Betancourt in the second inning and couldn't help but think it lends itself well to a "baseball macro" sort of Photoshopping...

I can has doublez plz? DO WANT.

Real photo set will come along in a day or two. I'm going to tonight's game though for the Revenge of Lookout Landing Night, so if you feel like sitting up in section 340, row 15, come join us! It'll be King Felix pitching vs. Erik Bedard (who is, sadly, another one of my All-Cute All-Stars). It should be an interesting game nonetheless, though I also believe it's supposed to rain, which kind of sucks. It's better than more sunburn, though.

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