An exciting (and cold) night for the Everett AquaSox

Driving to Everett, Washington on a mostly overcast day, I had a few doubts as to whether or not we’d actually be able to see any baseball tonight. The team put the pitchers on the field around 3pm, but the position players took BP in cages, which was kind of a bummer, as I’d been hoping to take some pictures before the game. The grounds crew had managed to decorate the field to show a little home town pride, however:

As the time drew towards gates open, Conor and I wandered down to the concourse to find some food, but were denied. Walking back up to the booth, we ran into Tony Blengino, here to do a little single A postseason scouting. Introductions proceeded thusly:

  • Conor: Hi, Mr Blengino, I’m Conor Dowley from ProBall Northwest.
  • Blengino: Hi, good to meet you (or something similar – he then turns to me and extends his hand, which I shake).
  • Me: I’m…Megan.

Yeah. I’m so not that person in these situations. Conor and Blengino then proceeded to talk about all the playoffs and various movements that had been made within the lower ranks. As they were doing this, I noticed a wasp on Blengino’s shoulder, and pointed it out. I had nothing to wave it away with, so his wife assisted with her Mariners blanket from the other night’s game. I AM A HERO!!! Sort of. After the wasp was dispatched, Conor and Blengino stood around for a few minutes talking some more, and then we allowed him to get back to business.

A few corn dogs and nearly an entire bag of popcorn later, the stands started to fill up and both teams arrived on the field to take part in their various warmup rituals.

As all of this was going on, and it became closer to gametime, the clouds to the northeast started to gather for what would eventually become a bit of a downpour:

Members of both teams were announced and lined up on either side of the field, both countries’ national anthems were sung, and then it was time to play ball.

Huh. So that’s what the aperture priority setting does…

The game took an instant turn for the terrifying when Sox pitcher Anthony Fernandez managed to load the bases with one out in the top of the first inning. With the bags full of Canadians, Fernandez struck out right fielder Doug Landaeta, then catcher Ryan Lipkin to escape what could have been a very bad situation. In the bottom of the first, Robbie Anston started everything off with a double over right field, and was moved over to third by a Terry Serrano sac bunt. Kevin Mailloux helped get him in with a sacrifice fly to right. The inning ended with a flyout off the bat of Kevin Rivers, but an early run is an early run, and I’ll gladly take it.

While all of this was going on, I had MLB.TV fired up on the laptop, and the Mariners were pounding – yes, I said pounding – Dallas Braden. 5-0 by the second inning, I figured Braden was probably simply having a really bad night, preferring to not give our offense any sort of credit. And as I wrote that sentence, Kalian Sams beat out a single to left field, sending Evan Sharpley home for our second run – and I was already losing the sensation in my fingertips, as the temperature dropped and a light rain started to fall on the field. Then Robbie Anston hit a single and sent Steve Baron home with a sliding close play at the plate that the crowd audibly thought was an out, but the home plate umpire declared a safe run with grandiose arm waving. The crowd rejoiced; I rejoiced as quietly as possible so as not to disturb those around me.

By the top of the 4th the rain had let up a little, but the small crowd of around a thousand people had gotten soaked already. A few decided to leave the stadium, but the majority of them stayed put, donning plastic bags or umbrellas or rain gear as they had it. Some just suffered through everything, far braver than I – I was grateful to be sitting in the booth for this one. I am a native Pacific Northwesterner, and I never used to mind the rain – but in recent years I’ve become a total wuss about it.

While the rain continued to fall and the crowd got a little saucy from being out in the cold and wet, the AquaSox bullpen stood around waiting to warm up:

That’s Willy Kesler second from left. Still messing with my camera settings. I really need a new SLR.

The crowd continued to get more crazy, with dueling chants of “Let’s go AquaSox” and “Let’s go Canadians”, which eventually turned into a small but loud contingent of people simply yelling “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Fernandez had been struggling a little in the 5th, but finally managed to end it by striking out AJ Kirby-Jones. The group in attendance went crazy.

The top of the 6th came up, the score still 3-0 in the AquaSox favor, and some folks simply couldn’t deal with the weather any longer, and left the game. But there were still a fierce number who doggedly persisted, keen to see the Sox defeat their Canadian rivals. The grounds crew descended on the field with bags of Diamond-Dri and rakes as the Sox took the field and kept trying to stay warm.

Fernandez throwing a pitch to Canadians DH Josh Whitaker for the last out of the top of the 6th. Whitaker went down swinging:

LHP Jake Brown replaced the Canadians RHP Nathan Long in the bottom of the 6th, and promptly gave up a double to Kalian Sams; we didn’t do much with it, however, as Anthony Phillips popped up to first – the grounds crew once again flocked to the field to take care of the areas around second and third bases. When they were done, Willy Kesler took the hill and threw some warmup pitches to Steve Baron, one of which knocked Baron’s glove off of his hand. Other pitches also gave Baron trouble. After what I’ve seen from Baron this year, it is interesting to be reminded that he was invited to Spring Training with the Mariners earlier this season. I’m sure someone who pays far more attention to Baron’s numbers could give you a rundown on why he might not make it to the majors. I cannot; all I can say is that he is definitely a fan favorite, and he had a lot of trouble tonight keeping his glove on the ball – maybe a touch of the Rob Johnsons.

Kesler didn’t pitch as well as I’ve seen him in the past, but seriously, I’m not going to hold any performances tonight against anyone very hard. It was cold outside, the ground was wet, the crowd’s heckling was extremely audible, and the umpires seemed bent on making both teams finish the game. I certainly wouldn’t want to be out there doing what they were doing, so I can’t really criticize all that much. AJ Kirby-Jones sent a liner back to Kesler who fumbled it for a moment as he defended himself, then picked it up and got Kirby-Jones out at first for the end of the top 7th.

Willy Kesler, getting Tony Thompson to fly out to Sox center fielder Robbie Anston:

Kesler was replaced in the top of the 9th with Tyler Burgoon, who walked onto the field to the strains of George Thoroughgood’s “Bad to the Bone“. Burgoon took his practice throws with Steve Baron, then took out Jeff Burcume swinging. Canadians center fielder Michael Choice managed a single off Burgoon, but that was all the farther the Canadians would get – Burgoon struck out both AJ Kirby-Jones and right fielder Doug Landaeta swinging. Everyone ran out onto the field, a short celebration was had, and the fans, seeing their chance to escape and glad for a victory, vacated the stands probably more quickly than I’ve ever seen this year.

I also managed to get this great play by Kevin Mailloux, who saved Steve Baron some embarrassment earlier in the game:

All in all, despite feeling like I was living in a Slushy for a few hours, this was an excellent game. Both teams gritted it out and did what they could do. The AquaSox advance, the Canadians go home. The AquaSox are now Western Division Champions, and will play the Spokane Indians in Spokane this Thursday. They will come back home for a possible final game on Saturday, and, if necessary, the final game on Sunday, both in Everett. Unfortunately, I cannot be at either of the home games, but Conor might be, so follow him on Twitter if you’d like updates. He got a request from Matt Pitman of ESPN to give a call in to the Mariners post-game show, which he did to give a brief recap of the evening. Very cool.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention, of course, that the Mariners won today. Brandon League very nearly gave it all away to Oakland, but David Aardsma came in to take care of the last out, and the Mariners emerged victorious, 7-5. I also watched a little bit of the Orioles pelting CC Sabathia for their 6-2 victory over the New York Yankees. It’s the little things…

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