I finally got my tickets for Opening Day today. Either the mail got misdelivered or someone swiped them off our porch, because I had to call last week and find out why I had received my season ticket holder ID cards, but not the tickets themselves. The good folks at the ticket office, however fixed the problem. Not as smoothly as I would have liked, but I have all the tickets I paid for, and that is all that matters. I cannot fault them for not working on my personal timetable. I would, however, like to punch to sleep whomever decided that stealing my mail was a good idea. But never mind that – there’s regular season baseball to talk about!
Yu Darvish’s first inning did not go well; nor did his second or kind of his third. A series of walks and runs, a wild pitch, and a lot raised eyebrows from the Arlington fans later, the Mariners were up 4-0 fresh out of the gate. The first inning lasted around 40 minutes (41 or 42, depending on which media source you ask), the Mariners batted around (literally and figuratively) almost twice, and Darvish came out of it having thrown over 40 pitches and allowed us our 4 runs. The Rangers pelted Hector Noesi around enough to accomplish two runs of their own, pulling up a little slack. I had that familiar sinking feeling that I get (and I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with it, too) when the Ms blow someone up and then get a little revenge meted out, but at least I figured I’d see an interesting game. I was not wrong.
In the second inning Darvish got Dustin Ackley to ground out, so I figured he had settled down and was about to demonstrate why Texas had paid into the three-digit millions for him. Then Ichiro hit a double, and then Kyle Seager hit a double, so that was exciting, right? Michael Saunders was called out on strikes shortly thereafter, however, so Darvish managed to save himself. I’m sure Rangers fans were thankful. I have been somewhat pleased about the way the Mariners have been hitting so far. I know we’re only three games in, and two of those games have been against the A’s, and this one was against a guy who will likely improve quickly so that the next time we face him we won’t have it so easy so early on, but I’ll take what I can get.
What I got next, however, was a Nelson Cruz three-run bomb on a 93MPH fastball to tie the game at 5-5. I have nothing creative to say about that at all. Nelson Cruz is a monster, and he’s always going to be a monster until he’s not anymore. I didn’t see where the pitch landed in the strike zone due to attempting to answer an email, but it doesn’t matter. Cruz is just a Mariners killer. Noesi’s pitch count was starting to elevate, and I can only imagine how nerve wracking this game must have been for him. His final line was not pretty, either; three full innings pitched, 6 hits, 7 earned runs, 3 walks, and 2 home runs. Game Days says ERA is 21.00. I wish they would use FIP instead, but it’s not like that number would probably be any better, so I’m not going to think about it just now.
Mitch Moreland got hold of a Noesi fastball that was up and in just a little, pulled it over the right field wall with Mike Napoli on base, and Noesi was the first of two pitchers having a bad night to be pulled from the hill. Righty Erasmo Ramirez, sporting the high socks, came in to face Ian Kinsler with no outs and nobody on base. Kinsler hit a liner to Kyle Seager at third and was thrown out easily at first. Those pesky changeups, they’ll get you! Ramirez wasn’t so lucky with Josh Hamilton, though; Hamilton put his bat on a ball up and in as well and took it into the berm over center field. As Michael Saunders jumped up to try and grab it, it landed easily in the hands of a fan who had hopped the fence, caught it, and then proceeded to do The Sprinkler for a few seconds before running back to his seat. I could have gone without that last bit, but who knows what I would have done in the same position; though I think I can safely say not a dance from the early 1990s.
With the score sitting at 5-8 Texas in the top of the 5th, Darvish was set to face the lower middle of our order. He struck out Michael Saunders, and took out Miguel Olivo and Munenori Kawasaki with a ground out and fly out, respectively. I put the laptop down for a little while, until Alexi Ogando was brought into the game to spell Darvish in the 6th, and the crowd at Arlington gave Darvish a standing ovation. I can understand some applause, but a standing ovation for that performance seems kind of unnecessary. Had the Rangers not been up by 3 runs, Darvish gets a few applause and a cup of Gatorade in the dugout. I have no major feelings on this one way or the other, it just seemed overly enthusiastic for a guy who kept them quiet for the first three innings of the game. I suppose I can just acknowledge that the team support is a positive and leave it at that.
Ramirez had a better inning in the 6th, getting the top of the Rangers batting order out with help from his defense rather quickly. Munenori Kawasaki made a nice play on a grounder off the bat of Josh Hamilton, twisting around to throw to first, where Justin Smoak scooped it up just before Hamilton reached the bag. Kawasaki made Ogando work a little during his at bat, too. All the pitches were 4-seamers, and all in the mid-high 90s, but Kawasaki took his time before finally grounding out to end the top of the 7th. This is the first game I have really tried to observe Kawasaki, the player who had a crush on the Seattle Mariners and presented no problems to us should he not make the team. Now that he’s on the team, I think I really like him. This is his first-ever stint in Major League baseball, in a new country, and he acts like he’s been to the rodeo before. He seems very relaxed and full of concentration, not nervous or rattled at all. I am so far very happy he’s here, and I’m looking forward to seeing him play in person.*
Steve Delabar lasted three batters before he was pulled so that George Sherrill could deal with right handed pinch-hitter Craig Gentry. One of Delabar’s batters was Nelson Cruz, again flaunting his power, but with a comebacker that Delabar was barely able to deflect with his mitt before it was planted in shallow center field for a single. Delabar came off the hill looking remarkably calm for a guy who had almost just been accidentally murdered, but maybe you just don’t have the time to think about stuff like that in the heat of the moment. Sherrill took Gentry out with ease, a simple ground out to first.
The game pretty much ended for real in the bottom of the 8th inning when Ian Kinsler took an 86MPH pitch from Sherrill and turned it into a screamer over the left field wall. Since I know my Mariners, this is where my post will be ending. One could make the argument that the game ended for real in the bottom of the 4th, but generally speaking, I try to stay upbeat until the 8th inning.
Tomorrow is another day. Blake Beavan faces Neftali Feliz. It hardly seems fair, but it should be over around 8pm, which allows me some time to polish a post and maybe watch an episode or two of Deep Space Nine. I was going to complain about the odd schedule this year, and the increased number of day games, but I want to make a concerted effort to spend more time outside this summer, and the day games will help me do that.
Oh, and how about that Kyle Seager? This season may actually be a little bit of fun!
*I was told by fellow fan and excellent bowler Daniel Carroll via Twitter that while the team was in Oakland, Kawasaki would run out in between innings to help Ichiro warm up in the field. Kawasaki needs a “Like” button so I can press it a lot.