So, I’ll be honest with you for a second. I clean forgot that the M’s game was a 10:15 start, and it wasn’t until about 10:14 that I discovered that it was. Fortunately, I got everything fired up for watching just in time to watch Ichiro take the third pitch of the ballgame into the left-field stands in New Yankee Stadium, and the game was on.
The Mariners simply battered Javier Vazquez, the Yankees’ starter, in his three-plus innings of work. Two batters after Ichiro’s graceful leadoff shot, Russell Branyan got a pitch belt-high right over the heart of the plate and swung at it for all he was worth. All he was worth, it turns out, was the upper deck in right field, and it was the first home run ever hit all the way up there. Branyan already owned the record for the longest home run ever hit in New Yankee Stadium at 449 feet; this one is reported to have traveled 512 feet. Five hundred and twelve feet. Yikes.
Unfortunately, Jason Vargas started out just as rough as Vazquez did. It took him 27 pitches to get out of the first inning, and it cost him four runs along the way, including a Jorge Posada two-run homer. Vargas’ command was not good in the first inning, as he couldn’t hit his spots to save his life. On the pitch he gave up the homer on, Josh Bard was set up for a pitch low and away, and the pitch wound up over the heart of the plate an up in the zone. Fortunately, after the first Vargas settled in and pitched much more like the Vargas we’ve gotten used to seeing, and held the Yankees to those four runs through the sixth.
The M’s would equalize in the third, on another Ichiro leadoff shot (hit in nearly the same spot as the first), and an RBI single by Casey Kotchman. The game would stay knotted at four runs apiece until Vargas started to wear down a bit in the seventh, and gave up a run on an RBI single by third baseman Eduardo Nunez (which was apparently also Nunez’s first big-league hit). That would be the end of Vargas’ day, lasting 7 1/3 innings despite his rough first.
Jame Wright would come in with runners on first and second, and promptly gave up an RBI single to Derek Jeter, then walked Nick Swisher to load the bases for Mark Teixiera. He would induce a lineout to Ichiro, but the ball still went deep enough that a run would score easily. Fortunately, that would be the extent of the damage as Robinson Cano would fly out harmlessly to end the inning, but the score still stood at 7-4 in the Yankees’ favor.
The M’s would threaten in the eighth inning, getting runners on first and second with nobody out, but Yankee manager Joe Girardi brought in Mariano Rivera, who did what Mariano Rivera does. Michael Saunders worked an admirable at-bat against the venerable closer, working a full count, seven pitch at bat before flying out in foul territory.
The Yankees would play add-on in the ninth, scoring two runs in the frame to extend their lead to 9-4, and partly at the expense of a remarkable record. Casey Kotchman had entered the game having not committed an error in 274 games, and over 2,300 defensive chances, the longest such streak in Major League history. That ended in the bottom of the eighth when Curtis Granderson hit a sharp grounder that Kotchman just couldn’t field cleanly. The ball kicked off his glove and into the outfield, scoring Jorge Posada. Defensive records like that are not talked about nearly enough, but what Kotchman did was very special and it’s a shame that the streak had to come to an end.
The M’s managed another threat in the ninth when both Ichiro and Chone Figgins got bloop singles with one out. Curtis Granderson slipped when trying to field Figgins’ hit, and Ichiro was able to scamper to third on the play. Ichiro would score on a Russell Branyan groundout, but the game would end on the very next pitch when Jose Lopez chopped one right back to Rivera for the final out.
A fairly remarkable game, really. Shame it couldn’t have come out better for the Mariners.
One last reminder: Megan and I will be heading up to Everett tonight to watch the Everett AquaSox. We have again been generously invited to take in batting practice from the field, and to watch the game from the press box. Major thanks to Pat Dillon and everyone else in the AquaSox organization for the opportunity. Hope to see you guys there!