SECTION 331

Like a Million Baseball Fans Cried Out, and Were Suddenly Silenced


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Cautious Optimism With The Mariners Until The Bitter End

As of this writing, the Mariners are two games back from the Wild Card. Which WC? I don’t know. If you’re reading this, you probably know more than I do; if I were to follow every little thing at this point, I would be a wreck. Yesterday in Toronto they could have been mathematically eliminated. They won instead, sealing the door tight on what has been a terrible road trip that frankly, I didn’t have any words for. It’s hard to write about the team when Felix gets lit up as badly as he did the other day at Rogers Centre. What am I supposed to say about Felix walking a run in. Felix Hernandez walked in a run! *twitch* It hurts me to write that. Hurts worse to have to italicize it for emphasis. This whole trip has been a disaster. I know we are at the mercy of MLB scheduling, but they could take it into consideration how far away we are here from pretty much everywhere else that has a major league team. No, I’m not going to be one of the people who will blame scheduling on the Mariners elimination (pessimistic? I don’t think so); but when the cameras panned to Kyle Seager in the dugout during the game the other night as the Ms were losing by one run, the guy looked far older than his 26 years. It shouldn’t be that difficult to maybe not have them sent to another country 6 hours away at the very end of the season; but I know I’m barking into the wind. MLB, like the honey badger, does not care.

One of the things that has made it particularly difficult to really get into the tail end of this season (other than the yo-yo win/loss that we have been dragged through), is the basic fact that Seattle just never seemed to care whether or not it had a winning baseball team. I work downtown. I walk from work to go see ball games. I ride the bus, and I have been out and about in my own neighborhood. You don’t see people flying flags with Mariners logos on them. Nobody wears jerseys unless they’re physically within three blocks of the stadium and it’s game day. No Mariners car flags flying, no compasses created in office windows using Post-Its. No “Blue October” or “True to the Blue” signs anywhere. It is as if the Mariners don’t exist to the city at large. Even when they were really ramping their season up after the ASG, people still seemed fairly indifferent. All I have seen all season is Seahawks logos everywhere; even when football was far from starting again. And y’know, that’s great. I get it. They just won the Superbowl, it’s been a long hard road for them, etc. But based on what I’ve witnessed this year, I’m not sure the city of Seattle would really care much if the Mariners went to the playoffs, or won the World Series. And it bums me out. We as a fan base have to do better.

To that end, I’ll be at all three games of this last series. I am absolutely prepared to watch the Mariners mathematically eliminate themselves from playoff chances. In fact, I’m prepared to have it happen tonight, as Iwakuma takes on Jered Weaver. I don’t want it to happen, but I am prepared. I am also prepared to stand up on Sunday and cheer them, win or lose, because this team has given us one of the best seasons since I’ve been a fan. Baseball has been fun this year. It’s been meaningful, it’s been exciting, it’s been interesting, and it’s been enjoyable, dare I say! With my early work schedule, I have watched far more games than I did last year, because I really wanted to see what was going to happen, rather than resigning myself to movies or outdoor activities because I felt like I knew what the outcome of the game would be already. I have enjoyed seeing Kyle Seager come into his own, transforming from an uncertainty to a hitter that pitchers on other teams may be kind of afraid of. His defense has been Adrian Beltre-esque, and he has the upside of a bit of power in Safeco Field. He made the ASG this year, for the love! It’s been fun to see Logan Morrison go from a guy throwing his bat into the dugout wall that comically bounced back into his own face (a very Mariners event, if you think about it), to a guy who has flashed some awesome moves at first and also at the plate. I haven’t witnessed Robinson Cano “not hustle”, either at second or on the base paths, so maybe it was you, not him, New York. Our defense and pitching, once again, has been great this year. The offense has increased. I feel like all we need to do is make one or two more trades this winter or spring to put us up over the top of a ledge we can just about reach if we stretch real hard. We are closer to the post season than we have been in a while with this lineup, and I hope we can work something into the little booster seat we need to make it into the postseason in 2015.

I have to be honest, I’m a little glad it might be over this weekend. I wouldn’t have any issues with the maybe/maybe not of this last month, if the maybe part had been a little more wide open than it was. I would be more excited if we were a few more games up in the standings, hadn’t done so poorly this year against teams like Jose Altuve the Astros, and I thought even remotely that we could handle maybe having to face this year’s Baltimore Orioles team. I will gladly watch a playoff game, if that is what is to happen in the very near future, but with a 3-game series against the AL West champs, and one game away from mathematical elimination, I harbor doubts. I’m supportive, but cautious. That may always be the way things will have to be for me and the Mariners. I normally only go to the last game of the season every year as a tradition; but this year, I felt like I need to see the whole series. This team has meant that much to me. I’m totally poor now, but it’s so worth it to me to be there this weekend. I want to be trolled with wins, Mariners. Make it so!

See you at the ballpark!

 


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The Mariners Have Exceeded Expectations

I was not able to watch either of the last two games in Anaheim, and particularly glad about Wednesday night’s. Whatever the opposite of enjoying seeing the Angels clinch the AL West is, that is what my experience would have been. I didn’t get to watch last night’s game either, and I am glad we split the series, but winning 3-1 on a day Felix is pitching against a bunch of LA’s scrubs…eh, it feels kind of hollow. Particularly because we tossed all our regular guys out there.

But a win is a win, and the Mariners are still hovering at a game back out of the Wild Card. I think the invention of the second Wild Card is what is causing me to shy away from watching these late season PST games. Not only is it that I cannot stay up until the last out anyway, (and I hate starting to watch games I can’t finish), but the up-again, down-again thing is killing me. I am glad that MLB sites have added the WCGB stat to their standings lists, but it is hard for me to deal with the yo-yo of the winning and losing. The upcoming Houston series should be much easier for me to watch, at least, but I can’t keep up/remember who else won or lost on any given night, and even though I love this game and love this team, I am experiencing copious amounts of not wanting to look. I think if we were doing much better, this wouldn’t be an issue. But this teetering on the edge thing is making me crazy. Especially with only a handful of games left. It has been far less anxiety-inducing to simply make checking the box score in the mornings a priority, rather than the three hours it would take for me to have an ongoing heart attack.

That said, I am very much looking forward to next weekend, and spending the last three days of the regular season at Safeco. I am not completely sure how I will make it work financially, but I will give it my damnedest. I am still milling over whether or not I will get a season ticket package for 2015 right now; it would grant me access to playoff tickets, but it’s also a lot of money I just don’t really have laying around at the moment. I don’t feel like I can give up the yearly tradition of attending the games at the very end of the season, especially not this year. I know that it is probably terribly boring for the five of you to read about my finances (or lack thereof), but this is important to me every season since I have been a fan. I don’t make a lot of money, and even the LF bleachers are rising in cost. I will take CF if I have to, but there are people on StubHub charging more than $30 for those seats as well. Basically, I’m going to have to spend a ton of money before I get priced out of the games. This is an expensive hobby; even just doing the home stand Fridays thing has been eating my wallet alive.

If you would have told me back in April that this would be going on, I’d have told you to stop huffing paint. Certainly, there have been some fairly bleak moments in this season, and we still need to work on building a far more consistent offense (I will probably harp on this until it happens) and we need to be getting our star pitcher runs effective immediately (I die a little inside every time Felix is left with a loss or a no-decision), but there has been a good vibe about this team this year, for sure. I have really enjoyed watching Mike Zunino become Mike Zunino. The guy’s average is terrible, but his defense is wonderful, his game calling is great, and his HR record this year has been a thing of glory. Y’know, for a catcher. I don’t worry when I see his name on the roster for the day. Kyle Seager has been a stellar surprise. I finally feel like we have another Adrian Beltre on the corner. And no, of course there can never be another Adrian Beltre, but what Seager may lack in defense (though I haven’t seen too much lacking this year), he certainly makes up for in offense. Beltre may be more suited for Arlington, but Seager is definitely home right here in Safeco.

I can’t go into many more, though I would certainly like to give others as much praise. Logan Morrison started out rough and became much better, filling a rather questionable gap at first, Brad Miller has been serviceable at SS, and I still am 100% comfortable with anyone Lloyd McClendon has tossed into the outfield this year. We need better offense, certainly, and we are getting there, but this year has been a great surprise, and it’s been a fun ride. Part of me (the anxious, wound-up part) wishes that the season was over next Sunday. The other part, like a gremlin, wants to see what kind of a wrench we can throw into the works into the post-season. I harbor no illusions that the 2014 Mariners are going to face whole series of really huge games after the last out is recorded next Sunday…but we could make it difficult for some other teams to go where they want to go. That’s baseball.

Bring it on, Houston.


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So This Is What Winning For Real Feels Like

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about this. I wish that I had been there, I wish I had pictures of something, but I wasn’t and I didn’t, and none of that stops me from being happy as a little clam about last night’s Orioles clinching of the AL East.

My trip to Camden earlier this year was just sort of a bucket list thing, something I had wanted to do from the minute I saw the field on TV, shortly after realizing that I wanted to follow the Orioles as a secondary team in the AL. I had a wonderful time, took lots of pictures, and can still remember very vividly how it felt to be there. For two days, I was on top of the world, and some time I do plan to go back. I wish that time could be this October, but money will not allow for that, so I need to really enjoy this season and the Orioles as much as possible.

Yesterday was an amazing sports day for me. I had been looking online for a place to watch the game all day long, assuming maybe it would be on ESPN or MLBN. But no; ESPN I can understand; they have a lot of games and teams of all sports to cover. But MLBN?? Baseball is your job; that’s what you do. There is a possible championship game on the line, but you’re playing four hours of Baseball Tonight or whatever it’s called. Four. Hours. Local news can cover four local big time teams in less than 15 minutes; what do you possibly have to say for four hours that trumps this very important east coast game?

But I digress, out of loyalty to my number twos.

It was suggested on Twitter that I go to a larger chain restaurant or sports bar, but I don’t like to frequent places like that; not really my thing, and I don’t live in an area where I can get to them easily, so I searched for local places, and finally, as a last ditch effort after finding out other bars didn’t carry extended cable packages, found the number for The Bridge, and called. I was lucky. The Bridge is about a half mile from where I get off the bus in the afternoons, and the bartender informed me that not only did they have extended baseball packages, but that it would be on in the bar by the time I got there. And it was! On three TVs even!

I nabbed a corner seat at the bar itself, and it was already the top of the 2nd and the score was 3-1 in Baltimore’s favor. Munenori Kawasaki was busy stealing second, and was soon scored at the last minute by a single from Jose Reyes. I know the Jays have been very good this year, so I was wary of them. I am also very used to the Mariners’ style of play, and it is hard for me to prevent projecting that on other teams. I shouldn’t, but I do. Plus, Ubaldo Jimenez was on the hill, and the last time I saw him pitch was in person at Camden; and it was not very pretty. That game was a blowout for the Jays, and left me feeling great about being able to attend, but still wishing that my Birds had won. Jimenez was visited on the mound, then gave a walk to Jose Bautista, but the Orioles pitcher managed the remainder of the now 3-2 inning with no more damage.

Jimmy Paredes smacked a 91MPH 4-seamer over the left center field wall for a 4-2 score, but that wasn’t quite enough for me. I found myself at this point, sipping my cider and twitching my leg around in a lot of anticipation. At this point, Tom joined me and ordered some snacks, and played on his phone while I sat in rapt attention to the TV, occasionally snickering at one of the bar staff, who kept walking around and checking the score while swearing under his breath. Jays fan, I guess. Or Orioles-hater, one or the other.

Jimenez pitched through 5 innings, keeping things nice and scoreless (and ridiculously fast-paced!), and was replaced by TJ McFarland in the top of the 6th. McFarland was replaced by Darren O’Day, which nearly made me do a cymbal monkey clap in public. O’Day has been a favorite for quite some time now. I got to see him in person in Camden, so to see him in such an important game was exhilarating. At this point, it was getting harder for me to sit still in my seat. O’Day used sliders and sinkers with impunity, and had a 6-pitch 7th inning. SIX!

The bottom of the 7th was where everything went incredibly wrong for the Jays and incredibly right for Baltimore. With Aaron Loup on the hill for Toronto, Jimmy Paredes hit a single, Ryan Flaherty reached on a fielder’s choice, and Paredes advanced to third on a throwing error. Then Nick Markakis got hit by a pitch to the shoulder blade. With ducks on the pond and one out, Alejandro De Aza stepped up to the plate and whacked a fastball to right field, earning himself a triple and clearing the bases. Score now 7-2. I ordered another cider, and now it was even more difficult to sit in my chair (and it is getting a little crazy right now typing this). O’Day continued until he got Edwin Encarnacion to strike out swinging, and was replaced by Andrew Miller, who took down the next two Jays swinging as well. In the 8th, the Orioles managed to load the bags again against reliever Daniel Norris. Nick Hundley sacrificed himself to score JJ Hardy.

By the top of the 9th, the score was 8-2 Orioles, but in my mind, I was thinking they could still tank it. I asked the bartender if she had champagne though, because I have never celebrated a victory like this with a team that I care about, and I wanted to do it right. By this time, the full house at OPACY was on their feet. I wish I could have had this game with sound, it would have chilled me to the bone. Tommy Hunter came in to shut everything down, and with a single, some “defensive indifference” (sorry, John Mayberry, the O’s just didn’t care enough to try and stop you from getting to second). I chatted briefly with another fellow at the bar, as the Ms game was starting on a different TV in back of us, and he was asking if I was from Baltimore. I explained my position on the team, and as Ryan Goins grounded out to first base, the guy paid his check, congratulated me, and left.

I ordered a glass of champagne, enjoyed watching the Orioles spritzing each other in the locker room for a while, and then we went home to watch the Mariners game, which started out poorly but ended very, very well, at 13-2 against the Angels (I could only stay up until the 7th-ish inning, when it was 10-2).

It took me a while to get to sleep last night. I couldn’t settle down enough to really be tired until about 9.30 ,and even then my mind was just going. I regret that I haven’t been able to follow the O’s as much as I might have liked to this year, but we just can’t afford to get extended ball channels. It means a lot to me that I got to see this game. This month has been a very rough one for me. Work has been very difficult, and we had to put our kitten down last week due to a very sudden illness. I have needed something to pick up my spirits. The Orioles provided that in spades, and now for the first time since I became a fan in late 2007, I am looking at a post season that actually means something to me, rather than simply having to pick the lesser of two evils. This is fantastic. I am still reeling from it, and plan to get my Orioles AL East champions shirt at my earliest convenience. With the Mariners still in the fight, this has turned out to be a wonderful baseball year. There may be playoff games that will still turn out to be a bit conflicting for me (the Tigers, for example, are still going pretty strong), but whatever happens, this is great. My heart is still beating, there is a bit more life in the air today than there was yesterday, I love, love, loooooove baseball right now.

If the Mariners make it to any kind of championship, I will probably have to take the next day off work. Probably two. Another half month of baseball left. Bring on the insanity!


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Me, The Mariners, The Red Sox, And Vegetables

IMG_2518This is a picture of about 2-3lbs of tomatoes, some kale, and two peppers from my friend’s garden. You see, my friends go to Burning Man every year, and they set up this glorious garden for the first time this season. When they left the other day, they told a bunch of friends that they could come to the house and harvest the stuff that was there; otherwise, it’d go bad. So I did. I love fresh tomatoes, and I am a sucker for free, fresh vegetables. Nothing says summer quite like fresh food.

But why? Why is there a photograph of vegetables on a baseball blog, you might be asking?

Well, the answer is annoyingly simple, terrible, and funny. Eh, maybe not so funny, though tonight was a very just my luck situation.

You see, these early games on Fridays have been great for me, because I can leave work, hop a bus, and walk down to a local pub (who won’t be getting any mention here, because even though I love them, they are indeed partially responsible for my evening going sideways), have a few pints and maybe a bite to eat, and watch the game. Then around 7pm or so, I still have most of my evening left to go elsewhere, or chill out at home. So you can imagine, perhaps, my excitement regarding tonight’s game being on a Friday, against the Red Sox, with Felix on the hill. That’s an imaginable thing, right? I mean, the radio has been talking about it almost all week, and every day that Felix pitches is a good day.

And I did enjoy my evening; I ordered some Zeek’s Pizza ahead of time, picked it up on my way to the pub, and met Tom down there, opened my tab, and we had some drinks. I spent time on Twitter. I watched Felix throw an awful 5 & 2/3 innings, but I was still enjoying baseball, and my Friday. Anything is possible in baseball, and even though around the 6th inning we were down 3-0, I had hopes that maybe the bats would wake up, and we’d be able to make a triumphant return. Not too hopeful, but hopeful nonetheless, because that is the spirit of the game. And this season has been all about hope.

But then the bar began to fill up with Seahawks fans. Seahawks fans who were there to watch exhibition football, a game being played live downtown against the Chicago Bears.

OK, I thought; surely they will allow us to watch the remainder of this game; there are three other TVs in that room, and all are easily viewable. They should allow us to finish the game, and then we’ll leave and they can turn this TV on to the Seahawks game. Fine. Done deal….right?

Not so much.

In the middle of the 7th inning, as game action was still happening, in an important game for the Mariners, the bartender walked into the room, and simply flipped the channel. He didn’t ask, he didn’t offer to switch maybe another set to the Mariners game so we could finish watching, he just…changed the channel to meaningless exhibition football and left the room. So I paid the tab and we bailed.

Figuring that perhaps it was the right thing to do, I decided that since we were losing so badly and there didn’t seem to be much hope of redemption, maybe I’d take my friend up on her offer, and go down to the farm off Rainier and grab some free veggies. I should make something out of the evening, right? If the Mariners can’t win, why not get some healthy organic food? I set the dial to 770AM (an absolutely terrible alternative to 710 ESPN, might I add. Everything sounds like it’s being broadcast out of a tin can under a bridge) because, once again, exhibition football apparently is far more important in this city than a long-struggling baseball team that is in a position to maybe do the playoff thing. We drove along I5, through slowing traffic and an accident, and arrived at the farm. I got a shopping bag out of the car, and spent about 20 minutes or so culling everything in the above picture, then watered the plants in their greenhouse since it didn’t appear that anyone else had since they left. I felt that I had done a good deed and had something to show for it (for those of you who don’t garden, picking fruit off of a plant allows more energy to go to unripened fruit and speeds up that whole process; nature truly is brilliant) and would listen to the rest of a losing game on the radio as I drove home to maybe make a margarita and drown my sorrows.

Except that the first thing that I heard when I started the car back up and turned up the radio was Rick Rizzs, reiterating the now 5-3 score in favor of the Mariners, and talking about how Koji Uehara just had a massive breakdown, and there was a ninth (NINTH!) Mariners batter at the plate, and the Ms had been running roughshod all over Uehara’s pitching.

You. Have. Got. To. Be. Joking.

And yes, Fernando Rodney came into the 9th inning and was a little wobbly but saved the game. And yes, we won. And yes, Uehara got the loss. But I didn’t get to see it, because someone I don’t know made that decision for me, and my past history and pessimism with the Mariners caused me to make the other decision to go harvest food.

I’d like to say that I learned something from all of this, and that it will never happen again; but I can’t make those kinds of promises, because things always come up and sometimes my skepticism outweighs what I probably should do. One thing is for sure; I will not forget this game, not ever, even though I didn’t actually see the best part.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to make a margarita and eat some tomatoes. I feel I have earned it.

 

EDIT: Anyone reading this post might have noticed I initially mentioned that the Hawks were playing Denver, rather than the Bears; that shows you exactly how much I care about football.

 


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Mariners Weekend in Review

If I had known at the beginning of the Mariners/Tigers series how ridiculous and crazy it was all going to be, I would have made more of an effort to drag my laptop around with me and try to write. But there is no way I could have known that…

-James Paxton would throw an amazing game on Friday. I don’t want to get too crazy too soon about this kid, but wow! Five hits and one run over 6 solid innings, coming out of the whole thing with only two strikeouts, but an ERA of 2.20 over three (three?) starts and a record of 3-0. I realize that  the word “amazing” might be inaccurate, particularly given the low strikeout number, but keeping a team with Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter and Ian Kinsler on it limited to 5 hits isn’t too shabby. I know a lot of people are excited for Paxton, but I still feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I need some more time to have that level of confidence in him; perhaps the product of starting being a fan of the team when I did. Whatever the case, the 7-2 score to start off the series against Rick Porcello was a welcome event, and made for a wonderful Friday evening.

-Felix would throw an awful game on Saturday. Over five innings, Felix gave the Tigers 7 hits, 2 runs, and a dinger. Meanwhile, David Price came as advertised and kept Seattle’s bats silent with three hits coming in over 8 innings, grabbing a standing ovation (and that well-deserved) from the sellout crowd present at Comerica Park. I haven’t seen our ace that frustrated in a long time. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again this year.

-The series umpiring crew would be absolute garbage. Saturday we had Tony Randazzo against us, with the most bizarre “strike zone” I have ever witnessed (if you can be worse than CB Bucknor, you’re doing something wrong). I lost count of how many times the pitchFX showed his calls were wrong behind the plate. It became obvious later in the game that he was penalizing Felix due to some childish beef he apparently has with Lloyd McClendon, which sent the lot of us on Twitter into a rage by Sunday. McClendon was pretty good about not going into whatever the problem might have been when he talked to the press, but Randazzo has not made any friends in Seattle, and I will be absolutely happy to boo him if he ever sets foot on our grass. And I’m not a boo person! I’m really not! Randazzo has earned it, though.

-The game Sunday would be almost even more ridiculous, with Randazzo ejecting McClendon while he was sitting in the dugout. I didn’t exactly see the exchange, but apparently someone waved a hand or made a non-obscene gesture, and Randazzo made the ejection motion toward McClendon as he sat on the bench with his arms folded. Who knows. I have to keep reminding myself that these men are grown adults, because that only makes their behavior more jaw-dropping. In spite of Randazzo’s best efforts, however, the Seattle Mariners came out on top and that was that.

-Chris Young and Robbie Ray would both do what I thought they might on Sunday, and by that I mean dominate and collapse, respectively. We would not have gotten 8 runs in against Max Scherzer. We might not even have gotten that many runs against Justin Verlander, regardless of how injured he has been lately. But the luck of the draw was that we didn’t have to face either of those arms, and the series schedule was to our advantage, even if the umpiring wasn’t.

-Hitting, hitting, hitting! 29 hits over the series against 23 for Detroit. We played like an actual  baseball team, and it was marvelous to see.

I always want a sweep, but our boys are playing well, and I will be happy with taking a series. Totally happy. I don’t know how the season will end. I have been wary of September due to the number of times we have to play both Oakland and Anaheim, but it looks like both of those teams are starting to come back to earth a little bit, so September might not be that bad. As it is, it looks like maybe the worst of it over the rest of the month will be the Washington Nationals coming at the very end of the month. Philadelphia, Boston, and the Rangers are all pretty far back in their respective divisions, and that is our next nine games!

I’m going to run right home after work. I am swamped but not staying any overtime this week; games start at 4PM today and tomorrow in Citizens Bank, and I plan to be planted firmly in front of my TV to make sure I don’t miss anything. Next week when they come back, I may just have to plant a tent out in front of the Team Store, as it looks like I will be at the park quite a bit then. I’m like Opening Day excited for the remainder of August and September. This has been quite a ride.


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Some Mariners Math

Due to some unforeseen personal issues, I wasn’t able to watch the game last night until about the 5th inning. The score was a bit closer than the previous games at 2-0, which I expected due to the mystery and flash of the knuckleball, but RA Dickey isn’t dealing with the  2010, 2011, or 2012 Mariners. We hit now. We show power. We have a higher degree of talent at baserunning. We got two runs against a knuckler and his relief corps. I will always love RA, and I figured if it turned out we couldn’t hit him, I’d satisfy myself with taking the series; but the Mariners said “We’re not your guy, buddy!” and swept the Blue Jays at home before their day off today. Fantastic!

I have been listening to ESPN all day today so far, and I have to admit, it is making me want to attend every single home game in September. I’m not sure if I can do that, or how I would be able to do that, but I’m going to spend the remainder of August trying to figure it out. As it is, I am already convinced that I’m going to be able to witness some in-person playoff baseball. That could come crumbling down on me after the mess of CA teams that is going to be this next month, but right now, it seems terribly appealing. I’ve been keeping my Twitter widget up at the side of the blog here, as it might literally be the only way I have to keep updates coming, especially at the rate things are going with the team. If I can’t make every game, I’ll suffer some sleep deprivation to at least watch them until the end. Either way, September is going to be very exciting and very sleepy.

A lot of numbers have been tossed around today, so I decided to look some things up and take a look at the overall picture as well. I am not an organized person, so in no particular order…. In Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Dustin Ackley, we have the three guys who have played in the most games this year. They have .867, .820, and .682 OPS, respectively. To make up for what Ackley lacks there, Chris Taylor fills in with 17 games in  a Mariners uniform, at .877 OPS. Three home run hitters in the double digits; Cano(10), Seager(18), and Mike Zunino(18). Doubles are also nuts this year, with Cano(28), Seager(26), Ackley(22), and Zunino(16), with an honorable mention for off-again, on-again Mariner Justin Smoak at 13. Batting averages are also at a high. We have two guys over .300 (Taylor, Cano), and seven players (seven!!!) over .250. Cano leads everyone in intentional walks at 15. Six Mariners have OBP numbers over .300. Kyle Seager clocks in at 73 RBI, and is followed closely by Robinson Cano at 66. The next two highest RBI numbers are Ackley(46) and Zunino(45). Mike Zunino also leads the team in strikeouts at 116, but we won’t talk about that.

In my short time as a Mariners fan, I haven’t really seen numbers like this. Every once in a while, a guy will show us some good math, but these conditions we are seeing have never applied since 2007/8. I don’t even have to go into pitching, because we all know how good our pitching is; it’s been good for a long time now. We are watching Felix make history, Hisashi Iwakuma is still performing in spite of staring off the season on kind of a negative note due to injury, and Chris Young has been a marvelous surprise. I can’t say enough good things about our ridiculous bullpen, and I’m writing on limited time now, so I’m not even going to try.

Playoff baseball. If we can hold our heads above water, it’s coming. I had made plans on Saturday, but with a Felix Hernandez/David Price matchup, I may have to cancel those. I can go kayaking anytime; but I cannot see sports history every day. I’m so giddy it’s ridiculous now. Usually I’m happy for a break in games like today; but I really want to be able to go home and watch a Mariners game. Baseball has been fun enough this year, but now we’re getting down to the wire, and I believe we have a month and a half more fun than we might even know right now. Tomorrow we start a three-game series with the Detroit Tigers. I do believe I’ll treat myself to some cider at the pub down the street after work and allow all of this to wash over me. I haven’t been this excited about the Mariners since I was new. It’s good to be new again!


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Mariners Used to Dark And Stormy Nights

I wasn’t able to watch last night’s game, but I am well aware of the box score; it was the first thing I checked when I woke up this morning. I didn’t watch the second game of the series because sadly, I was too tired from being at Monday’s game. So let’s talk about that.

So Monday morning I was listening to Michael Gray on ESPN talking about what a great game Monday night’s game was going to be, how Blue Jays fans would descend upon the stadium and were we, as Mariners fans, ready to drown out their annual migration? Blue Jays fans coming to Safeco are well-known for their noise, their intoxication, and general obnoxiousness. I can understand wanting to cut loose on your three-day visit to another country to support your baseball team, but I don’t find it any less annoying when I see people sneaking in booze, or leaving beer cans on the sidewalk, or unable to comprehend why their five year old kid can’t go into a bar. You know what I like to do if I’m going somewhere other than home? Make sure I don’t break a bunch of liquor laws.

But I digress…

The fact of the matter is, that I made this comment on Twitter the other morning, jokingly complaining because I couldn’t afford tickets to the game but after getting the ESPN pep talk, really wanted to go, but figured I’d have to settle for watching it at home. The link will show you the follow up conversation; an employee of Safeco Field not only heard me, but took me seriously, and transferred his comp tickets to me.  I spent the rest of the day scrambling to find someone to go with me, and finally my derby buddy Jeri took the second ticket.

It was hot Monday. If you’re not in Seattle, we have been having a pretty rough summer, by Seattle standards. It’s been very hot and humid and we have’t had significant rainfall since maybe June. Showering in the mornings usually makes you feel like you need another shower by the time you’re ready to leave the house. The city feels oppressive and dirty. I walked from work  in this, dressed in my typical black, foolishly thinking I’d be able to chill at Jimmy’s for a bit in their air conditioning; but they were already packed to the gills with Jays fans, and even walking in would have been pointless. So I stood in the shade of their awning, texting people and using Twitter to kill the time, being passed by Jays fans and a handful of Mariners fans, before deciding to wander down to the CF entrance, because there was at least shade down that way.

I waited in line for a few minutes, headphones in, surrounded by – yep – Jays fans. At one point, a group of younger guys started a “Let’s go, Blue Jays!” chant, which ended with someone yelling “Go back to Canada!” I laughed to myself, when the guy in front of me asked if I was a Jays fan. I had my earphones in still, so took them out to ask him what he’d said. He apologized, asked again, and my immediate reaction was “Oh hell no!” He and his friends laughed, and then we talked about Munenori Kawasaki and RA Dickey, who pitches tonight.

Everyone was let into the stadium, and I went to settle in at Edgar’s to get out of the rush. About a half hour later or so, Daniel joined me, and then a while after that, Jeri found parking and had made her way to us. We stayed down there until about 6.30 or so, then went upstairs to grab our seats in the 300 section. Daniel eschewed his own season seat to join us, high up in the 24th row over far right field. And the King’s Court filled in…

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 4.39.25 AMThis is from my iPhone. Since I didn’t start the day thinking I’d be going to a game, my camera was sadly left at home.

The game remained scoreless but exciting until the 4th inning, when Jose Bautista hit a home run off Felix. And while there was a lot of energy at the park from both teams’ fans, I have seen this far too many times over the past few years. Felix pitches a gem, and the bats stay silent, costing him the win or worse, a no decision. But then, in the bottom of that inning, Robinson Cano took a walk, and Kendrys Morales hit a double, and thus began the decline of a pretty good Toronto team. Two runs in that inning, seven in the 6th (Jeri was asking me how many runs in one inning I’d ever seen, and I believe it was 5; and never from the Mariners), and two more in the 7th, which set the crowd off something ridiculous.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 4.47.54 AMThis photo above, of course was taken much earlier than the 7th inning; but I was so in the game, taking pictures was not a priority later on. In any event, you can see how full the stadium is (“filled to the corners”), and the fact that people were waving their yellow King towels around.

The thing that perhaps made this a far more dramatic game was the fact that around the 6th inning, the rain started to fall. There was thunder and lightening, and rain so hard they had to close the roof. ROOT Sports was able to screen capture this shot from their broadcast. This happened after Robinson Cano’s at bat:

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 4.54.47 AM

We saw the strike from our seats, and I could have sworn it had hit the train tracks on the other side of the stadium. Of course, it didn’t, but it was so close and the thunder so loud, and then of course the good folks in the audio/visual box played AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” that by the time all was said and done, Mariners fans had been whipped into a cyclone of cheering and joy that I don’t think I have ever seen at Safeco Field with my own eyes. By the end of the 7th, a lot of the Jays fans were heading out of the stadium. They had quieted down considerably earlier anyway. A few of the loyal stuck it out, and kudos to them. I certainly would have, as well.

Felix pitched the top that magnificent 7th inning, then relinquished the mound to Joe Beimel, who was having no hitting from the Jays, no hitting at all for the 8th. Danny Farquhar came in for the 9th (I know it was not a save situation, but my night would have certainly been made 100% perfect if Fernando Rodney and all of his entrance music glory would have been thrown into the mix), and that was it. Bedtime for Blue Jays. Jeri and Daniel and I walked into the rain, absolutely satisfied with our night. Seriously; outside of the Rodney thing, it was about as close to a perfect night at the ballpark as you could get. I mean, a no hitter or CG or some other exotic feat notwithstanding, of course.

I understand that Rodney pitched the 6-3 win last night that I sadly had to sleep through (I was out like a light by about 6.15, if that is any indication as to how tired I was), and with that we at least take the series and tie for the Wild Card. Tonight might be a little more difficult; I am not sure how many of our guys have dealt with RA Dickey and the knuckleball, but we have Hisashi Iwakuma on the hill tonight, so it might even out a little. I really do wish I could go to this game too, but barring a miracle or a cash avalanche, it’s just not going to happen. I will be content to watch it on TV.

I don’t know what it is, folks, but ever since I watched Lou Piniella’s induction speech on Saturday, I have a really good feeling about the rest of this month and September. Lou gave the team and Lloyd McClendon a special nod at the end of his address, and while we lost that game, I have just had a rush of positivity about the Mariners the past few days. Like anything is possible. Am I still skeptical? Oh, absolutely; it’s the best way I know to shield myself from crushing failure and disappointment. But it’s amazing what winning a few games can to one’s morale as a baseball fan. I don’t know what will happen over the next 45 or so days, but for the first time since I became super cynical about the Mariners after losing yet another 101 games in 2010, I really and truly cannot wait to find out.

 

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