Friday, July 13, 2007

Game Report: Mariners vs. Tigers - Slide and Seek

It occurs to me that if I listed all of the players that I've seen JJ Putz strike out to end a game, it'd really be a pretty impressive list. Barry Bonds and A-Rod immediately come to mind, of course, and today Magglio Ordonez also joined that list.

Still, this was a pretty crazy game overall, and a good way to get back to Mariners baseball. Plus, now I'm 14-4 in games I've attended! It was also a fantastic night weather-wise, cool and in the 70's, especially after that 96-degree day on Wednesday. On the other hand, due to two extremely crazy plays, this may have been a better game to take in on TV, just so one could see replays and hear the commentators. I'll explain in a second.

I didn't show up for batting practice due to finishing things up at work -- my last day is tomorrow -- but I did show up to see Andrew Miller warm up. He's really tall, and his motion is pretty swift, it's hard to pick up specific parts of it at first glance. After watching Miller, I also watched field warmups from row 1, and what do you know, Curtis Granderson came over to sign stuff for some kids, so I went over too and got his autograph, and said "I really like your web page, Curtis!" and he smiled and said thanks. To be honest, I actually only check his blog out every now and then, but I know what a pain in the ass it is to write in a baseball blog all the time, and so I feel an obligation to let players who do it know that their efforts are appreciated. Curtis seems like a pretty decent guy.

Andrew Miller
Some tall lanky kid who's still almost a year older than Felix.

Short version: Curtis Granderson was batted in by Magglio Ordonez in both the first and third innings, but those were all the runs that the Tigers could get. The Mariners had trouble getting anything off of Andrew Miller, and scored all of their runs in the 5th inning on a play that people at the ballpark couldn't really make heads or tails of, but essentially Adrian Beltre managed a bases-loaded bases-clearing "single", and that gave the Mariners a one-run lead over Detroit, which they fortunately kept all the way until JJ Putz struck out Magglio Ordonez to end the game with the Mariners winning it 3-2.

Long version: Well, let's see.

Right before the game, there was a highlight reel shown of Ichiro's All-Star appearance on the big screen, and they had him take a curtain call for the Seattle crowd. I thought that was a pretty nice gesture.

There was a female announcer doing the game as part of "Girls Night Out", whatever the hell that means. Being as I don't come to the park to get my nails done or have a makeover or whatever -- I come to watch a goddamn baseball game -- I really have no clue what the promotion was, other than that they had some random women come out onto the dugout near the 7th inning like "Lookee at our makeovers wheeeee!" Whatever. I liked it better last year when Girls Night Out involved a free pastel blue Mariners visor, which was actually nice enough that I've worn it several times.

The Tigers got off to a hot start with Curtis Granderson singling, and running to second base on Thames's grounder, so that even though I have it as a 6-4-3 play, it wasn't a double play as Granderson beat Lopez to the bag. Gary Sheffield stole a base (hell, later he stole another base. I think he wants to prove that he's not old), and Ordonez grounded out, scoring Granderson.

In the Mariners' half of the first, Jose Guillen managed something that was scored as "singled to catcher", and my friends even asked me about it later since they were late to the game, and I had to explain that it meant the ball was on the ground and buntlike in front of the plate, but Andrew Miller fumbled fielding it. Not sure why they called it to catcher, honestly.

That error aside, Andrew Miller seems like a pretty good pitcher, with a nice mixture of 96-97 fastballs and lots of random breaking stuff. I see now why people made such a big deal about him.

Third verse, same as the first -- Granderson doubled, hitting a hard line drive to centerfield which Ichiro ran after and did a leap for but missed. Sheffield walked, and Ordonez hit a Baltimore Chop which bounced high over the left side of the infield, and by the time Beltre fielded it, Granderson had scored.

Beltre's first taste of the WTF factor surrounding the evening came in the fourth inning, when he first struck out, but the ball got away from Pudge and it was ruled that he advanced on a wild pitch. After Johjima struck out, Beltre stole second during Yuniesky Betancourt's at-bat. Or more like, they threw a pitchout of sorts, except Pudge Rodriguez threw the ball over Omar Infante, so Beltre was safe at second, and then also ran to third. Which would have been the end of it all, except that Pudge started arguing that Betancourt was in his way of the throw, and wanted the umpire to rule that it was interference, except the umpire wasn't having any of that and tossed Pudge from the game, and so Mike Rabelo had to come in spontaneously to take over behind the plate.

Mike Rabelo
When I took this picture I didn't know who he was.
Imagine my surprise when he ended up in the game.

Seriously, I had no clue who Detroit's backup catcher was, because Pudge is so well-known and plays in so many games anyway. I knew it wasn't Vance Wilson anymore, at least. Funny thing -- do you remember who Detroit's backup catcher was before Vance Wilson? He's definitely someone you've heard of, but you've probably forgotten that he was a catcher back when the Tigers were abysmal.

Rabelo came out and the rest of that half-inning passed without any further strangeness, and aside from Sheffield stealing another base, the top of the fifth passed uneventfully as well.

Then came the bottom of the fifth, which involved a lot of weirdness.

The fifth inning started off the same way the first and third had -- with Ichiro making an out and Jose Vidro getting a single and Ibanez making an out. Fine. But then rather than singling, Jose Guillen walked. And then Richie Sexson also walked (right after my friend asked "does he ever do anything besides strike out and hit home runs?"). So with the bases loaded, Beltre hit a single which scored Vidro, and Ordonez threw the ball home not in time to catch Jose Guillen scoring, and then all hell broke loose.

As far as I could tell, Rabelo threw the ball to second to try to get Beltre, who advanced after the throw home. Beltre, for his part, slid so far into second that he ended up almost in the outfield, and when Carlos Guillen came up with the ball, Beltre started playing a game of cat and mouse, evading the tag. In the meantime, Richie Sexson scored as well, making it 3-2. After Carlos Guillen failed to tag Beltre, who had been called safe at second, Beltre broke for third, and was called safe there for real. Which pissed off the Tigers again. Kenji Johjima started to come out to bat, but then Carlos Guillen went with the ball and stepped on second base and appealed to the umpires, saying Beltre never touched the bag. Which, on replays several hours later, I can totally believe. So the inning was over, but the runs scored. I gave up on trying to score it and just wrote a single to right and a "?!?!?!?!" for the out designation.

And yeah, that turned out to be the game. Miller came out after 5, and Felix came out in the middle of the 7th -- while a whole bunch of idiot fans were doing the Wave. I took great delight in telling my friends about Sean Green's Magical Sidearm, and we actually took some great delight and amusement in watching Macay McBride strike out the Mariners' side in the 7th for a 1-2-3 inning. I explained why we all think George Sherrill is cool, right as he got taken out after one batter due to Craig Monroe pinch-hitting for Sean Casey.

I also explained the bullpens, and one of my friends ran down there to watch; he got to see Zach Miner, Eric O'Flaherty, and JJ Putz warm up. Since he's a Yankees fan, he doesn't usually get to see pitchers warm up so close, so he thought it was awesome. It got me thinking about how there's a lot of things I really take for granted at Safeco Field, and that I'll miss once I move away.

JJ Putz pitched the ninth, and he rules, and that was that.

The buses got majorly messed up and we ended up waiting for a good 40 minutes for a bus back to Ballard -- yes, we took a shuttle uptown, before you say anything, I've been bussing to/from Mariners games for 5 years now, I know the routine. Either way, another thing I was thinking about was how crowded this game seemed -- all of Box was filled, most of Field was, the bleachers were sold out, so the only majorly empty area was in the upper decks. Pretty crazy. I know there are a lot of Tigers fans, sure, but you know, the Mariners are actually winning games, which means that a lot of people may actually start coming back to the stadium.

It's funny, because I actually like a nice empty stadium where I can run around and do whatever I want, and it's never tough to get tickets, and so on. So part of me is glad that I'll be moving away before the late-season crowd madness starts, especially if tonight's proliferation of loud drunken people and The Wave were any indicator. On the other hand, if the Mariners do make the postseason, it'll just prove once and for all that my presence in a city is ultimately death for a team. No, I can't really explain my 14-4 record there this year -- though even in the worst of their losing years, it's still seemed like my personal record's been over 50%.

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