Seattle Mariners postsSaturday September 09, 2017
M's Game: a Jammin' Anthem, an Inauspicious Win
Play of the game: Rookie sensation Ben Gamel hits a two-out, two-strike, three-run homer to put the M's on top.
Every March, a group of us get together to divvy up the season tickets for section 327, row 9, seats 13 and 14, to watch the Seattle Mariners play baseball at Safeco Field. That meeting, with jokes, cynicism, and baseball trivia flying, is often the best part of the season. The rest of it, after all, is the Mariners. Plus our section isn't exactly full of diehards. I don't think I've seen the same face more than twice. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the 327 seats have been scooped up by the secondary market, StubHub or something, because too often we wind up sitting next to fans of the opposing team. Last night included.
From the start, it didn't look auspicious. For one, I hadn't really sought out anyone to go with. The only one I asked specifically was my friend Jeff, last minute, but he was a “Nah,” so instead I posted the following on my Facebook page:
Anyone interested in going to the Ms game with me tonight? 7 PM start. Forecast calls for high 60s, overcast, and with potential smoke from central Washington wildfires. The team has lost three in a row and is mostly out of the wildcard race, so we're fairly sure to extend our postseasonless streak to 16 years—best in the Majors. We're rooting just for pride now. On the plus side, you'll be w/me and my sunny personality. IM if interested. EOE.
Oh, and we're two games under .500.
Starting pitcher will be longtime fan favorite Mike Leake, whom we acquired eight days ago from St. Louis.
A career in sales doesn't await. No takers. Until Patricia was talking to Jeff's wife, Sullivan, and she said she'd go. Why not? So off we went, past the construction sites and homeless, through the wafts of ocassional marijuana smoke and the more pervasive wildfire variety, and down to Safeco. Sullivan turned out to be a great baseball game companion. I never had to worry about a lull in the conversation and I got to feel smart explaining how a slugging percentage is calculated.
Outside the park, I bought a Grand Salami with Ben Gamel on the cover. My friend Tim is production designer/art director for the magazine, and earlier he and me and some friends had wondered over cover lines. “Gamel's Got Game”? “Gamel's a Gamer”? “Hey Yankees: Thanks for Ben Gamel”? The publisher wound up going with the simpler “Ben Gamel: Rookie Sensation,” although, to be frank, Gamel hadn't been of late. Before the midseason All-Star break, he hit .323 with an .828 OPS; post break, it was .214 with a .586 OPS.
The game began inauspiciously: Single, double, single. We're down 2-0, nobody out, Justin Upton on first and Albert Pujols at the plate. “This guy,” I told Sullivan, “used to be the best hitter in baseball, and now he's one of the worst.” “Why is he still playing?” Sullivan wondered. As I was about to explain his rep, and his long-term deal, and the fact that even last year he was good, and there was hope he would still be, you know, Albert Pujols, he hit a grounder to third. Over to second and back to first for an easy double play. Albert was chugging barely halfway up the first-base line by the time it was complete.
“He also has the all-time record for grounding into double plays,” I added. “Set it this year. Broke Cal Ripken's mark.”
That DP turned out to be huge. In the top of the 5th, with two outs, the Angels' first baseman C.J. Cron hit a single, and I noticed it was only their fourth hit of the night. Meaning it was their first hit since the first three guys. After his initial yips, as Sullivan called them, Leake had settled down considerably.
By this point we were also ahead, 4-2, on a two-out, three-run homer by Ben Gamel, our cover guy, in the 2nd; and a two-out, bases-loaded single by Mitch Haniger in the 3rd. That proved to be enough. Angels added a run in the 6th when Pujols hit a two-out single (a deep single) to plate Justin Upton. Pujols again started the 9th with a deep single to left. All of his deep singles looked like doubles to me, but then you'd see him chugging along the basepaths and knew he couldn't make it to second. (How he has 14 doubles on the season, I don't know.) In the 9th, he was replaced, of course, for a pinch runner, who stole second, but Edwin Diaz closed it out for us. A sudden win for my last scheduled game of the season.
These are the M's pitchers I've seen start for us this year:
- Ariel Miranda (2)
- Yovani Gallardo (2)
- Andrew Moore (2)
- Dillon Overton
- Sam Gaviglio
- Marco Gonzales
- Mike Leake
It's amazing they went 6-4 when I was there.
A highlight of the night for me was the National Anthem, performed by Mike McCready of Pearl Jam in rockin' Jimi Hendrix/electric guitar fashion, which apparently he does semi-regularly. Seattle may not have any pennants above the right-field bleachers but we got that.
M's Game: Now Pitching for the Mariners ... Someone
Second pitch. Pay attention, girls.
Is it possible for even the most gung-ho fan to keep track of Mariners starting pitching anymore? This was our rotation at the beginning of the year:
- Felix Hernandez
- Hisashi Iwakuma
- James Paxton
- Ariel Miranda
- Yovani Gallardo
- Felix Hernandez (DL: 10)
- Hisashi Iwakuma (DL: 60)
- James Paxton (DL: 10)
- Ariel Miranda
- Yovani Gallardo
- Erasmo Ramirez? (traded for: July 28)
- Andrew Albers? (purchased: Aug. 12)
- Marco Gonzales? (traded for: July 21)
Iwakuma lasted just six starts (I never got to see him), Felix a lucky 13 (I never got to see him) and Paxton, who became our ace, 20 (yeah, never saw him, either).
All in all, we've had 16 pitchers start games this season. I've seen Miranda twice, Gallardo twice, and Andrew Moore, who made his Major League debut in June and was sent back to the minors in July, twice. I was there for Dillon Overton's only start in May (he lasted 3 1/3; he's now with San Diego), one of Sam Gaviglio's starts (he's had 11, the most for any of the non-five), and yesterday, against Baltimore, before the M's roadtrip for the rest of August, I was there with my friend Andy on a sunny Wednesday afternoon to see Marco Gonzales make his third start for the team since being acquired from St. Louis in late July. Previously he'd lasted 4 innings against KC and 4 1/3 against the Angels. The hope was he'd go longer.
It didn't look good at the outset. O's shortstop Tim Beckham sent Marco's second pitch into the right-field bleachers. Then he settled down, the M's scored some runs—chiefly on new acquisiton Yonder Alonso's first homer as an M—and Marco took a 3-1 lead into the 5th. He needed just two outs to have his longest outing since Sept. 14, 2014, when he went 5 2/3 for St. Louis against Colorado. He got the first out fast: Chris Davis went swinging. This was followed by a single, a single, a wild pitch, a triple, a single, a single, and there went that chance. It's all Scott Servais could stands, he could stands no more. In came Tony Zych—the last word in M's relief. He got the next two guys and ultimately the win.
It wasn't a bad game. They had the lead, we tied it and took it; then they tied it and took it. In the bottom of the 5th, the M's scored 3 right back again (single, HBP, single, pop out, single, single, single, double play), then tacked on another in the 6th on Leonys Martin's solo shot to make it 7-4. In the 9th, with this cushiest of closer leads, fireballer Edwin Diaz came in and ... couldn't find the plate. Three walks in a row to load the bases. Then Manny Machado hit a sac fly (speared by Martin, nicely, in right center), and Schoop struck out, and he seemed nearly out of it. Until he hit the next two guys with pitches. That made it 7-6, bases loaded, and Servais went to the pen again. For Marc Rzepczynski. Who, as if to show Diaz how it's done, struck out Chris Davis on three pitches. Happy walk home.
A week ago, when the M's were the second team in the wild-card hunt, the game might've felt important. But that was before the M's five-game losing streak, mostly to the Angels. No one can seem to hold onto that second wild card spot, can they? The Royals surged, claimed it, then fell back. Same, at various times, with the Rays, M's, Twins. Now it's the Angels turn. Even the Rangers are still in the hunt. The M's are just 1.5 back, but with three teams between them and the golden (brass/tin) ring, and with this rotation made up of wire and chewing gum, which is why nothing yesterday felt particularly urgent. Andy and I talked about a recent trip he'd made to the Olympic peninsula, politics, of course (to vent, more anything), and Charlottesville. We chatted up a wedding party seated next to us—half of them were from Balmer—then met up with our friend Paige, who had taken her boy and two of his friends to the game and were sitting 30 rows back of the M's dugout. Paige, a big Seahawks fan, didn't get that 9th inning, but that's baseball. It's certainly M's baseball.
It was my ninth game at Safeco this year. They're 5-4.
No. 500, about to be launched into the right-field corner
I love me some doubles. My friend Jim and I are always talking it up whenever anyone challenges the single season doubles record, 67, set by Earl Webb in 1931, which, for a time, seemed like every other year—even though none of those guys wound up with even 60. The highest recent total was 59 by Todd Helton in 2000, which is tied for 7th all-time with Chuck Klein and Tris Speaker. But there's an asterisk there. Albert Belle hit 52 of them during the '95 season, which was shortened by a month by an owner strike, as was, obviously, '94, when Chuck Knoblauch was stuck on 45 with two months left in the season. We'll never know how far these guys might have gone.
The Mariners' Robinson Cano has never hit more than 48 doubles in a season, but last night against KC he became the 63rd player to slug 500 doubles for his career. (He's currently tied for 61st with John Olerud and Goose Goslin.) And he's only 34. Where might he wind up? Only 17 guys have 600+ and I could definitely see him getting there. Since he averages 30+ a year, it would take a serious injury to stop him. What about 700? That's a tougher get. Only four guys have done that—the last Pete Rose, and he played forever. But top 20 all-time? Definitely.
These aren't magical numbers like homeruns but they should be. Congrats, Robby. Keep it going.
M's Game: Meet the Mets Fans, Beat the Mets
Do fans of opposing teams roam other stadiums with the kind of impunity with which they roam Safeco Field? I'm curious. I go to Mariners games these days and feel like I'm in occupied territory. Yesterday, for an afternoon game against the Mets, local fans of the Queens, NY-based team set up a “Queen's Court” in the section just inside the foul pole along the right field side—the mirror image of Felix Hernandez's “King's Court” in left field—and all wearing orange t-shirts rather than Felix-yellow. They all yelled “Bruuuu” for right fielder Jay Bruce, and stood up cheering whenever Mets starter Jacob DeGrom had two strikes on a Mariners batter. Which, as the afternoon progressed, was often.
I saw a bunch of these guys outside before the game and didn't know what to make of them. Were the shirts a big Mets thing? Was Safeco Field giving them away to fans? I wouldn't put it past the Mariners org, which has always put profits before pennants. As one can judge by the complete lack of pennants flapping in right field.
I get it. The M's have the longest current postseason-less drought (15 years and counting), and are one of two franchises without a trip to the World Series (Expos/Nats). You lose long enough and season ticket sales fall, which means there are more seats available for your New York dolls, your Boston commons, your Canadian bacons. With whom we fans have to put up. Win again and these folks will dissipate.
Well, we won yesterday, oddly, given the pitching matchup: Yovani Gollardo (4-7, 70K/40BB, +5 ERA) for us vs. Jacob DeGrom (12-3, 152K/41BB, +3 ERA) for them. Yovani did better than normal but DeGrom dominated:
- Gollardo: 5 2/3 IP, 2 Ks, 2 BBs, 5 hits
- DeGrom 6 IP, 10 Ks, 1 BB, 5 hits.
Luckily, three of the five hits DeGrom gave up were bunched together in the second inning for two runs, while in the third the M's combined an infield hit off DeGrom's leg, an error on a double play ball, and a sac fly for another. That made the diffrence.
The Mets scattered their hits (one each in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th innings), and when they bunched something together (in the 6th inning they plated a run on two singles and two walks), they lacked the big blow.
We really shouldn't have won—DeGrom dominated, our bullpen kept walking guys, Kyle Seager kept running into outs, local boy and Mets left fielder Michael Conforto kept making great plays, M's right fielder Mitch Haniger got hit in the face with a pitch—but we did win: 3-2. The greater joy than that thin vicarious victory was how it shut up Mets fans in our section. For a moment.
M's Game: Sale Sails, M's Mum
The youngest Red Sox homerun since 1965.
It was a beautiful day for a crappy ballgame, but I kind of expected that. Pitching for the Mariners was Andrew Moore, whom I'd seen make his not-bad Major League debut a month ago against Detroit. Since then he'd started four games and gone 1-3, while his ERA ballooned to 5.70. Going for the Red Sox was ... Chris Sale, currently leading the AL in innings pitched, strikeouts, wins, WHIP, WAR, and ERA. So not exactly a fair fight.
Worse, once again, Safeco Field was a coven for opposition fans who had no fear of making noise. I don't do well with this. I want to say, “This is our house!” as Felix said, “This is my house!” last year to Blue Jays fans, but it feels like I'm the only one saying it. But it's the Red Sox, right? I can get along with those guys. We have our mutual hatred of the Yanks. I mean, on the way into the park, I had a good conversation with a Sox fan. It was all gonna be good.
Except sitting a seat away from me in Section 327 were two chuckleheads in Sox gear and they turned out to be all noise, no signal. During routine pop flies by Mariners players, they would chant, “Practice practice.” Seahawks QB Russell Wilson threw out the first pitch and they actually stood up and booed. I stood up, too, and warned them, “Yeah, you don't do that here. Not in Seattle. Cheer your team, but you don't boo Russell Wilson.” I said it all with a smile. That smile soon went away.
When did it go away? Maybe in the top of the second when the Sox scored a run, threatened more, and Sox fans at Safeco, including the chuckleheads, began chanting, “Let's go, Red Sox!” In my house? I felt the rage, and was chanting, “Shut up, Red Sox!” right back. Then I reminded myself to relax. You can't control it. You're not responsible. Breathe deep. I noticed their No. 9 hitter was a guy named Devers. Rafael Devers. Third base? Who was normally third base for the Sox? Not him. According to the Safeco scoreboard he had played exactly zero games this year, with zero at-bats. “Was it his Major League debut?” I wondered. “Or just his 2017 debut?” At 2-0, he fouled off to left with some pop. “Kid's got strength,” I thought. Next pitch wound up in the centerfield bleachers. 2-0, Sox. I watched him round the bases, get congrats in the dugout. “Do you know this guy?” I asked the chuckleheads. “Is he a prospect?” They didn't know. “Because he hasn't batted this year. And if he'd never batted in the Majors, well, he just hit a homerun in his first at-bat. And that's a rare thing.”
Turns out it wasn't his first at-bat. Devers' ML debut was last night against the M's when he went 0-4 with two walks. Had I read the scoreboard wrong the first time? Nope. The M's scoreboard was simply wrong again.
Indeed, when Devers came up again in the top of the 4th, just after catcher Sandy Leon made it 4-0 with a 2-out, 2-run homer, the Safeco scoreboard credited him with a 1.000 OBP, a 4.000 slugging percentage, and an unreadable OPS. For a few seconds. Then it corrected itself. But that homer was his first hit. He's also, at 20 years, 275 days, the youngest BoSox player to homer since Tony Conigliaro did it at 20 years, 265 days in 1965.
Meanwhile, Chris Sale sailed. Tall and lanky (6'6", 172), he didn't even look like he was trying hard until Jean Segura roped a one-out double in the third. Then he seemed to take it up a notch—striking out Ben Gamel on three pitches, Nelson Cruz on four. He went 7 innings, gave up 3 hits, no runs, walked one, struck out 11. No Mariner got past second. Just another day at the office.
There was a bit of excitment in the 9th—by which time I was sitting in the sun next to the left field foul pole—when, with one out, off reliever Blaine Boyd, Kyle Seager singled and Guillermo Heridia walked. So they called for Craig Kimbrel, the best closer in baseball. I looked at his stats: 42 IP, 18 hits, 6 runs, 76 strikeouts, 7 walks, 1.29 ERA. Oy. He faced two guys, threw 9 pitches, got two more strikeouts, walked off with an easy save. I walked out of the park.
On the plus side, the win kept the Red Sox a game ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. Ya gotta like that. Chuckleheads notwithstanding.