Seattle Mariners at Oakland A’s, finally, finally, finally

FedEx showed up around 1.30 or so today, and I probably scared the delivery man with my happy willingness to sign his little electronic box for the package of tickets. A short while after that, Conor showed up and we went to get some things for dinner, and somehow in all that mess, I wound up with a black baseball glove. Conor had brought over a bag full of baseballs, and his intent was for us to go to the park across the street and throw a while, but my hands are small, so I needed my own glove. I have never in my life wanted a baseball glove, but now that I have one, I love it. The weather vaguely cooperated with us and only sprinkled a little while we were outside, and I have a slow, pathetic two-seamer that I will be working on for a while. I have never played “catch” before. It looks absolutely dull – but it is loads of fun, and I plan to do it again as soon as possible. There is a little league diamond in the same park, and we finished up our pitching day by throwing at the wooden backstop, before both of us got too tired to throw anymore. I will definitely be feeling it tomorrow, but it’s worth it – how much fun, I never would have guessed! I made Cincinnati chili for the first time tonight, and it was delicious. With the weather outside turning badly as 7pm rolled around, it was good game food.

So on to the game, yes?

In the top of the 1st inning, Oakland starter Ben Sheets got Ichiro to pop out, then gave a single to Chone Figgins, who was able to steal second and then third on a throwing error by Kurt Suzuki. Casey Kotchman brought him home with a double. Milton Bradley walked on a wild pitch, moving  Kotchman to third, but Bradley was picked off at second by Sheets for the second out, and Ken Griffey Junior grounded out to finish our half. Felix Hernandez took the hill against the top of Oakland’s lineup. Rajai Davis sent a hopper back towards Felix, who caught it bare-handed, but could not get the out at first base. Daric Barton hit a grounder, and Davis wound up getting forced at second, while Barton wound up safe. Ryan Sweeney grounded to Figgins, who threatened to throw Barton out, but instead threw to first to get Sweeney while Barton continued to second, then halfheartedly to third. The situation was ruled a double play amid much Oakland disapproval, and got the Mariners out of the inning. Apparently, Barton had crossed the baseline, so the umps declared him out.

The Ms half of the second inning saw Rob Johnson hitting a home run over the back fence, score 2-0 Mariners. Oakland’s offensive game in the second was uneventful, as Felix worked their batters over. In the third inning, Ichiro slapped a single through the second base hole, and survived multiple pickoff attempts, stealing both second and third, where he was picked off by Kevin Kouzmanoff. Ichi argued his case briefly with the umpire, waving his hands and shaking his head, but swiftly accepted his fate and headed back to the dugout. Chone Figgins took a walk, and, with Casey Kotchman at bat, stole second and then third on an overthrow from Kurt Suzuki. Kotchman hit a sacrifice fly to get Figgins home, Figgy sliding into the plate and then spinning around on his back, safe in the knick of time. Milton Bradley struck out swinging, score 3-0. In the A’s half, Travis Buck grounded out to short, Cliff Pennington struck out swinging on a high 95mph fastball, and Rajai Davis struck out looking.

The fourth inning featured walks, flyouts and groundouts from both teams, with an almost slow-motion volley between Rob Johnson and Ben Sheets, before RJ finally grounded into a double play. The fifth inning went very much the same way – quick for both teams. In the top of the 6th, Sheets’ day was done at 94 pitches, with Jerry Blevins coming in for relief. Blevins took on four batters in the middle of our order, walking Milton Bradley, getting KGJ to fly out, and striking out both Kotchman and Lopez (not in that order, I just wrote it that way for convenience’s sake). Felix remained in the 6th, but was obviously starting to wear down a bit. Cliff Pennington managed a right field hit in front of Ichiro for a single. Rajai Davis grounded out to Jack Wilson, who didn’t have time to get the fleet-footed Davis, so opted for the force out at second on Pennington instead. With Daric Barton at the plate, Davis stole second base. Shortly thereafter, Felix tossed a wild pitch that Johnson couldn’t get to in time, enabling Davis to reach third. Daric Barton eventually wound up walking. Ryan Sweeney then came in and hit a liner up the middle right past both Felix and Jack Wilson to send Davis home and Barton to second, but that would be the only run they’d receive, as Kevin Kouzmanoff grounded out to third into a double play to end the inning.

Felix also remained into our half of the 7th inning, until he gave up a walk to Mark Ellis, the fourth he issued tonight. Rick Adair came out to have a word with him, but to no avail; Felix walked Travis Buck right after that, causing Don Wakamatsu to come out and take his ace off the hill and replace him with…Sean White. I was following people on Twitter during the game, and this replacement caused an uproar among a lot of the blogosphere, and others. The complaints were soon vindicated as Cliff Pennington singled to right field, scoring Mark Ellis, and then Travis Buck came home on a hit to left field by Rajai Davis, tying the game at 3-3.

There had also been a lot of Twitter complaints all game long about the umpiring, especially in regards to the strike zone, which seemed to alter depending on who was at bat and with which team. Strikes were given to Oakland that were not given to us. I’m not sour-graping this situation – FSN now places Pitch FX graphics on the side of the screen for every pitch, so you can watch it as it happens. Conor and I sat here on my couch and watched a pitch down the middle called a ball by the home plate umpire. And when Casey Kotchman faced reliever Craig Breslow and beat one out to Rajai Davis, where instant replay demonstrated Davis didn’t really make the catch, it was obvious that something was very wrong. If I made as many mistakes at my job as some umpires do at theirs, I’d be fired. Yet officials like CB Bucknor are allowed to run rampant over the rules and keep their jobs. I don’t get it.

Brandon League was sent in for White in the bottom of the 8th inning, where he walked Daric Barton despite throwing some really nice bendy pitches. League struggled a little, and the staff went out to the hill to calm him down a bit, and he got out of the inning without allowing any runs.

Then, in the top of the 9th inning, our moment of truth. Brad Ziegler was brought in to try and take care of us, and despite the fact that the game was tied, I was happy to see him, because ,well, sidearm/submarine guy. He struck out Franklin Gutierrez, walked Rob Johnson, and then Johnson was able to advance to second because he took off quickly and the A’s chose to throw Jack Wilson out at first instead. Ichiro was intentionally walked, and then Andrew Bailey (he of some very funny recent PlayStation commercials) was brought in to face Chone Figgins. Figgins spanked a hit towards third, and beat feet to first, ducking under the tag where the umpire called him safe. Casey Kotchman took a full count from Bailey, then socked one out to the hole in center field, sending both Johnson and Ichiro home, score 5-3. Milton Bradley was the last out for the Mariners, striking out swinging and then breaking his bat over his own knee(!!!) Better the bat than the officiating staff, I suppose. David Aardsma came in to mop up the A’s, and I was wondering if Good Aardsma or Scary Aardsma would show up. Turns out it was Good Aardsma, and he worked Oakland over quickly and efficiently, getting Eric Chavez to fly out to left field, and striking out both Mark Ellis AND Travis Buck looking.

This house…is clear.

It was strange to watch a game that finally matters; now that baseball is here, I almost can’t believe it, and I may actually be in a bit of shock right now, even still. But it is here, and it’s real, and I’m very happy about it. I’m so glad to have my “family” back. Next Monday cannot come soon enough!

Other revelations from today include the fact that SafeCo Field will be serving the Canadian…uh…delicacy poutine this year. I think I’ll be good for one round of french fries smothered in cheese curd and gravy. That shouldn’t cause my heart to stop too much, right?

Happy Opening Day, everyone!

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