Tonight was the start of a series against the Angels, and a weekend to honor Ken Griffey Jr’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And what a night it was!
I met Su at FX McRory’s for a quick post-work drink and some water, and we departed to go get into what we knew would be a pretty long line to get in. What we didn’t know was exactly how long that line would be. Coming from the north along Occidental, the line to get into Safeco Field extended to almost where the Elysian brewpub is. By the time we’d been on line for 10 minutes, the crowd in back of us had grown past that. Another 20 minutes, and it looked like it wound all the way to King Street! I have never seen such a thing; not on Opening Day, not for a Yankees game, never. I was fortunate enough to have remembered my small umbrella to block the sun, and there was a breeze so we weren’t suffering too badly, but it was a much longer line than I’d thought we’d be in. I feel I also need to give the residents of this city massive credit for good behavior. Nobody cut in front of us or even attempted to, nobody raised voices at anyone else, nobody complained. The family of four in front of us smeared sunblock on themselves and granted us the scent of pineapple for a good half hour, and when the gates opened at 4.40PM, the line moved at a decent enough clip that all told we were in line for maybe 45 minutes or so. Not too shabby, and everyone played nice.
Once inside the park and with our bobbleheads secured (and a warning from one of the door staff to not sell any photos I might take when she found my camera), we got ourselves some food and drink and stood around in The Pen people watching. We decided to visit Edgar’s, too, which wasn’t too crowded, and chatted with the bar staff and then with Shannon Drayer briefly about her trip to Cooperstown to cover the induction before she had to go do her job elsewhere in the stadium. Around 6PM, we decided to head upstairs and grab some icy soda and find our seats.
The weather was fantastic today, and the grounds crew was decked out in some fancy new duds:
I read on Twitter that Felix Hernandez showed up in center field taking his practice tosses with his cap on backwards, but did not see it for myself. A good choral group did a fantastic arrangement of the National Anthem after the Angels’ lineup was announced, and then it was time to get things started. Felix’s song started, the All Rise signs came on, and we all stood up and cheered as he walked across the field with Mike Zunino and Mel Stottlemyre.
The game did not start well, and for a fleeting half-inning, I was wondering if things were going to go poorly again for us, after last night’s brutal extra innings loss to Boston. The Angels put two on in the first and then Felix let Mike Trout have a home run to plate three. After that disheartening start, they rolled out a red carpet and brought Griffey out, all suited up, to wave to everyone, which caused a massive roar from the crowd, of course.
It must have also lit a bit of a fire under the Mariners, who came back with three runs of our own against Tim Lincecum, who has been battling in recovery from major hip surgery, and who simply didn’t have anything going on tonight. I am a fan of Lincecum’s; have been since the first time I saw him throw a game with the Giants a while back. I can’t really speak for anyone but myself, but I get the impression that Tim is beloved by many other fans in Seattle; he’s a local, and a fantastic pitcher, and he’s the one that got away so many years ago when our scouting department shrugged and said “meh, he doesn’t really looke like a baseball player, let’s go with Brandon Morrow instead“. That sound you may be hearing is my brain silently screaming at a long distant memory. But I digress…
Timmy just couldn’t figure us out tonight and by the time we were done with him, we had six runs to the Angels’ three, and Lincecum didn’t even so much as get a chat on the mound; he just gave up his ball and went back to the dugout after 3 & 1/3 innings of singles and doubles and a Mike Zunino home run, and sat, looking dejected. I took a bunch of photos, because I fear that tonight may have been the last time I will see Lincecum throw a major league game. I hope that’s not the case and that he can bounce back. But tonight was not his night.
I watched and thought at first that Lincecum’s teammates had not acknowledged his removal from the hill; but clearly in that photo above he got a consolation butt patt from one of the guys. A rough night for a great player.
Felix, on the other hand, settled down after his rough first inning, and dealt to the Angels like he was on fire.
Zunino has been great since coming back from Tacoma, and this makes me very very happy because Felix loves him; their teamwork is amazing and heartwarming, and I’m so glad to see Zuni back here in an Ms uniform. And it was a pretty spectacular uniform tonight, odes to throwbacks with special patches on the sleeves.
On the way back to West Seattle from taking Su home, I got treated to 710ESPN absolutely oozing praise over Zunino’s improved bat and always-awesome pitch framing. Nobody is happier for this guy than I am; I mean, unless you count this guy, of course. The work he’s been doing in Tacoma is clearly paying off, and I hope it continues to do so.
The Angels would only get one more run, a solo shot from Jeff Bandy in the 5th inning, and Felix pitched 8 innings before delivering the game to the darkened stadium and way-too-short strobe lit entry of Edwin Diaz, who took the field while Felix watched from the dugout, shirt untucked, bleached hair slicked back. Diaz was, as Dave Niehaus might say, DIABOLICAL. And I haven’t seen the stadium go that nuts for a closer in…a very long time. We’ve had years of vague cheers as really loud music plays and lighting and art direction happens all over the stadium while Brandon League, or Brandon Morrow, or David Aardsma set foot onto the outfield grass and trot to the diamond, proceeding with their warmup tosses. During a lot of those games, I might have been the loudest one. But tonight was different. Tonight was…electric. People stood up. They screamed. They clapped, they made it known that they knew who Diaz was and what he was about to do. And wow did he do it. On 13 pitches, Diaz took out both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, then Andrelton Simmons, all three swinging. And while I have seen Diaz clocked at around 100MPH, his pitch speed was anywhere between there and 85. Absolutely, undeniably, diabolical.
It is now technically Saturday as I write this, and I am looking forward to getting some sleep and doing this all again…later today? Tomorrow? Saturday evening, in any event.
And even though I doubt anyone is still up, please feel free to join a small crowd of us at FX McRory’s on King and Occidental starting between noon and 1pm for some pre-game drinks and/or food. We’re going to sit around and socialize for a few hours and then head to the stadium for the game. I am shooting to be there by 12.30PM to get a table for at least 10 of us, since we have no formal headcount. Come on down and talk baseball and whatever else with some good people in a casual atmosphere before we all scatter to the corners of Safeco Field to watch Taijuan Walker take on Los Angeles and Tyler Skaggs, and see Ken Griffey Jr’s number 24 be retired next to Jackie Robinson’s (newly-cleaned and shiny) number 42! It’s going to be a great day for a baseball game!
Oh, and here’s your moment of zen…