In the war between me and work, work has been winning this week. This may continue for a while. We lost a department member, and the main office has no plans to hire a replacement; and if you sense any bitterness there, you’d be right. I love my job but it is mentally taxing and there is no relief in sight – I was lucky to get a moment of clarity the other day to slap up a mostly-written-by-someone-else post here. But tonight, the Mariners are in Kansas City, Hisashi Iwakuma is on the hill against James Shields at Kauffman Stadium, and I am only one glass of wine in at 5PM on a Friday night, so let’s see how this goes.
I have eventual plans to go on a Royals/St Louis trip, but I need to be honest; my impressions of both cities are tainted by previous trips taken while on tour, and those impressions are not good. Dirty, ill-prepared nightclubs and a pawn shop with Nazi memorabilia in it (yes, the real thing) are not my idea of a good time, and I have never been a fan of the midwest, which is why I live on a coast; too much flat, not enough salt water, and also tornadoes, tornadoes, TORNADOES! Not really my cup of tea; but I think Kauffman Stadium is just gorgeous and would really like to go sometime; and I cannot argue with the history of the Cardinals; it would be a treat to go to both cities for some baseball, I just need to look at the midwest as a “vacation”, and that is kind of difficult for me at the moment. I’ll get over it eventually.
The Mariners got a leg up early on in the top of the first, with Endy Chavez obtaining a double, and Robinson Cano driving him home. At some point during the first inning, the camera panned to the Royals dugout, where stood a neatly-uniformed and ever-stoic Don Wakamatsu, who is apparently their bench coach now. I thought he was still with the Blue Jays. I will spare you my tirade on how much I miss him here in Seattle; if you read stuff here, you already know he has been my favorite manager with the Ms so far, since I was not present for the Piniella years. It’s just nice to see him still active. He’s young, so hopefully he will remain working in the world of baseball for a long time to come. I can’t think of how his calm demeanor would not benefit any team he was working with.
T’was an 87MPH changeup that Mike Zunino sent sailing over the left field wall in the 4th inning. It took me a good 3-5 minutes to find that information, as GameDay has decided to make their layout more…uh…interactive…? I far preferred it the way it was before, but I’m sure I will adapt eventually to the new system. New to me, anyway. Zunino’s hit was a single, but a 2-0 score going into the 5th inning against the top-ranked team in the AL Central is better than the alternative. And seriously, I love Zunino. It’s been a while since we have had this degree of security behind the plate, and an even longer time since we have had any amount of talent with a bat there. I don’t fear for our safety when Zunino comes up to the plate, not like I used to. He’s also been hit by pitches 9 times this season so far, so he is either doing something wrong or very, very right.
In the top of the 5th, James Jones finally got the stolen base he had been trying so hard for against James Shields’ excellent pickoff skills. Jones slid into the 2nd bag just under the glove of Omar Infante, who did actually manage to tag Jones under his arm, but then lost control of the ball. The second base ump called Jones safe, and then he became our third run of the game, after Robinson Cano hit a double, giving Iwakuma a nice pad to work with. I swear to you, I said this before Logan Morrison smacked a two-run homer to bring Cano and himself home for our next two runs. Since playing UFC in the dugout with his bat and a wall a few days ago, it is clear that Morrison has been frustrated with his performance since being brought up from Tacoma. I am just glad that he now has such a dramatic hit to perhaps bolster his confidence. The Alex-from-Clockwork-Orange look with the bruise around his left eye is not working for him; more hits like tonight, less aimless frustration, please. Make no mistake, I am pulling for Morrison here; if I’m honest, regardless of what I think about his persona so far, he stills wears a Mariners uniform, and I want him to play, if he’s here to do so.
The Royals took a little chunk out of Iwakuma in the bottom of the 5th, the 8th homer he’s given up this year to catcher Salvador Perez, out over left. Even more of a chunk when Mike Moustakas hit a dinger to right, scoring himself and the already-plated Lorenzo Cain, score 5-3 Mariners; at this point, I’m switching tense to say that I need another glass of wine….
With two out and a 3-2 count against Omar Infante, Iwakuma gave a walk to Infante, to plate a second runner, and Eric Hosmer was up for the Royals. Hosmer was a relatively easy out, chopping one towards first to get Iwakuma back to the dugout and maintaining a two-run lead; but it was very clear that the 85F evening temperatures were not the only thing making Kuma sweat, so at this point I was hoping that maybe the bullpen was warming up to take over for the next three innings and give him a break.
Kuma came back out in the bottom of the 6th, but did not last long, and it was clear by the look on his face that he was none too pleased about his performance, but knew he had to go. He didn’t put up a fight at all with Lloyd McClendon, after allowing two guys on. McClendon replaced him with Dominic Leone, who I haven’t seen much of, in spite of this being Leone’s 27th appearance in a game. Leone, unfortunately, plated a run within moments of taking the hill, score 5-4 Mariners. Moments later, Leone blew our now one-run lead, and had the ball taken away from him and given to our Beard-in-Residence Joe Beimel, to deal with the remaining two outs of a very messy 6th inning. Or one out. McClendon went to grab Tom Wilhelmsen at this point, opting for a right-handed pitcher for the last out of the inning. Beimel remains a ghost to me; between this small glimpse tonight and the amount of playing time he doesn’t really see all that much (24 games is not much when you cannot watch all the time; playing TV tag with relief pitchers makes it pretty hard to get a feel for their performance), he remains a bit of a conundrum. I kind of don’t want to look up much about him; whereas I used to know a lot about our bullpen arms, the fact that I know nothing about our current corps lends an air of mystery that I kind of dig. Wilhelmsen allowed batter Alcides Escobar to make contact out over mid-right field, but Logan Morrison was having none of that, and ran out a little past his jurisdiction to make an incredible sort of backwards, sort of not, sliding catch to save the inning, keep the game tied, and get a hat tip from Wilhelmsen. Smiles all ’round.
It’s at this point where I just come out and admit I got temporarily distracted by this video of a baby duck…
Wade Davis came to pitch in the top of the 8th. Davis is apparently a force to be reckoned with, packing a horrifyingly high amount of strikeouts in the relative low number of innings pitched. He has not given up a home run so far this year. Logan Morrison made him work though, with Davis throwing 11 pitches before Morrison struck out swinging while Royals fans did The Wave. Davis took Dustin Ackley to the full count before giving him some more fouls and, finally, a base. With two out and one on, Mike Zunino stepped to the plate and eventually struck out swinging; but we made Davis work, and that was nice to see.
Things kind of went down the drain for the bottom of the 8th, with the Royals managing to get two men on during Danny Farquhar’s tenure on the mound, and a missed chance at third when a ball thrown by James Jones from right field hit runner Billy Butler on the left foot, ruining the Mariners chances for the out, and securing Butler at third. Farquahar then walked Lorenzo Cain to load the bases, which might have not have been the best idea, but I have to assume that it was guided by management, because when McClendon went out to change pitchers, Farquhar gave up the ball like he was expecting to have to.
Charlie Furbush was the next victim, and he got Mike Moustakas to reach for a pitch that wound up hit to Robinson Cano out past the second base bag for the second out. I don’t know if he has always done this, but Furbush has a set very similar to George Sherrill’s – that is, he appears to be almost completely backwards on the rubber right before he throws around, bringing the ball from the glove up near his face/behind his head, and then snapping it behind his shoulders before he brings it forward to the plate. Whatever he’s doing, it worked tonight; he took out Alcides Escobar with the bases loaded for the final out of the 8th inning.
Brad Miller sent reliever Greg Holland yard over left field, quite suddenly, in the top of the 9th. Five pitches and done, over the wall. Willie Bloomquist was easily taken care of for the first out. Endy Chavez was the second. I would like to take a moment to express how happy I am that Chavez has been able to continue his career after this debacle a few years back. Don’t watch that video, it will make you cry. For that matter, don’t even click on the link – if you were there, you know what happened, and the still frame is enough to bring back some pretty awful memories. Yuni is now in Japan with the Orix Buffaloes, and Endy stays here, once again with us. Nobody knows what kind of career he might have had if he had not been injured, but I am glad that incident did not end it completely. Chavez has proven quite handy; he’s one of those guys I just like, sort of like a Mike Sweeney but with a lot less hugging.
James Jones wound up with a single after Robinson Cano took a walk, and it was up to Kyle Seager with two out to get a hit; but he took a walk on Holland’s 25th pitch, to load the bases full of Mariners. Logan Morrison was then our guy, and he got some insurance for us with a base hit RBI to send the game into the bottom of the 9th and Fernando Rodney’s possession. This chapter started out with a very very close play at first between Rodney and Jarrod Dyson, with both mens’ feet hitting the bag at the same time. A review ultimately showed that the first base umpire’s call of safe was the correct one, but even slow motion replay made it very hard to tell. When I see things like that, I have to admire an umpire’s incredible sense of sight and rhythm; there must surely come a point where that is all they have to rely on, and the angle one is looking at a play can make the difference. I know I couldn’t do it.
Rodney got Omar Infante out for the first out of the inning, but with a man on, the Royals threat was not quelled. Eric Hosmer proved that with a single out to mid-left field. The Royals brought in Nori Aoki to pinch hit for Pedro Ciriaco. Aoki had quite a dramatic at-bat, acting as if he was hit by a pitch at one point (literally falling down at the plate), and swinging out far ahead of another. Aoki grounded out, and then Alex Gordon struck out swinging to end it, Rodney did the arrow thing, and that was all she wrote. I’m not going to lie, though, I was never comfortable with this one after the fifth. We did it against a first-ranked team, though, and that is alright by me.
Tomorrow, I have a very busy day. I will probably not be able to catch the Ms, as I am going to the charity game at Safeco, the All Star Softball Classic for Homeless Youth. I don’t care who wins, I just want to have some fun watching athletes and people I don’t normally see playing the game, play the game. I will try and do the picture thing and whatnot on Sunday. Until then, we are still over .500, and we just helped put the Royals in second place. This season is not too bad so far, Mariners fans. Not too bad at all.