Seattle Mariners postsSunday July 30, 2017
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.
M's Game: All Good Things
Ben Gamel after his seeing-eye single plated two. He looks a little like Treat Williams, doesn't he?
On Sunday, June 11th, the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the three-game series in the Bronx, then won the next day against the Angels in Anaheim to run their record to 38-23—15 games over .500. They looked to be a lock for the AL East title. Yankee fans were already talking 41st pennant and 28th world championship.
That Sunday was also the day I returned from 2+ weeks in Europe. Just sayin'.
For the next six weeks the Yanks didn't win another series. They played 10 series and went 0-8-2. Last Thursday night they limped into Seattle with a 48-45 record, barely hanging onto the second wild-card spot. A good blow could end their season.
Instead, the Yanks won the first two games, then lost the third in extra innings Saturday night. My friend Jim and I went to Safeco yesterday for the finale. With a victory, we could keep their winless series streak alive.
Staring for the Yanks was 25-year-old Caleb Smith, making only his second Major League appearance. Last week against Minnesota, he'd pitched 3 innings in relief, giving him 4 hits and 2 runs and getting stuck with the loss. This would be his first Major League start. That was the good news.
The bad news? We were starting Yovani Gallardo and his 5+ ERA and he didn't exactly look sharp. On the second pitch Brett Gardner rocketed the ball into the right-field stands for a 1-0 Yankees lead. An inning later, Didi Gregorious did the same for a 2-0 Yankees lead. Every ball the Yankees hit (with the exception of catcher Gary Sanchez) seemed well-struck, sailing toward the stands. Most died on or by the warning track. A few were tracked down by centerfielder Guillermo Heredia. After 3 1/2 innings, we were down 3-0 but it seemed like we should've been down by more.
Then, in the bottom of the 4th, Danny Valencia singled for only our second hit of the game. Cano followed with a bloop single over the second baseman's head, and Nellie Cruz walked to load the bases. With no outs. This was our chance.
But Seager struck out and Mitch Haniger fouled out.
“We can't load the bases with nobody out and come away with nothing,” I said to Jim.
We didn't. Ben Gamel poked the ball to the right-side that seemed almost comically out of reach of both the first and second basemen. That plated two. Then Herredia lined a double into the left-field gap to plate two more. And just like that we had the lead.
And just like that we sat on it.
In the top of the 6th, with one out, reliever James Pazos lost control, walking two batters. Then he gave up two singles, and the game was tied and the bases were loaded. Tony Zych came in and promptly gave up a double to Clint Frazier, and it was 6-4 Yankees. And who was coming to the plate? 6' 8" phenom Aaron Judge, who nearly hit one out, literally nearly out of the park Friday night. He was given a pass, of course. The Yankee fans around me thought it was a dumb move, since now they faced Sanchez, but I argued it was smart. Sanchez hadn't looked good, and Judge was getting out of his post-HR Derby slump. Plus it set up the double play.
We didn't need it: Zych got Sanchez to pop out and Matt Holliday to ground out to end the inning. Still, we were down by two.
We didn't get another hit until the 9th, by which time Jim had left and Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman was on the mound. First man up, Nellie Cruz, lined a shot that went off Chapman's thigh for an infield single. Manager Scott Servais then removed Cruz for pinch runner Taylor Motter, who promptly got picked off. Of course Kyle Seager followed that debaccle with a double, then Sanchez allowed a passed ball. So it could've been 6-5, nobody out, tying run on third. Instead, with one out, we were still down by two. Of course Seager died on third. A pop out and strike out ended the game. File home, everyone. File home.
So after six weeks the Yankees finally got their series win. They're now 5 games over. 500 and in the lead for the wild card race by one game. They have new life thanks to my team. Apologies to Yankee haters everywhere. Which, as 538.com recently confirmed, is most of us.
M's Game: E-Scoreboard (2)
Question: How can a team be behind 8-0 in the 5th and wind up losing 7-4? Answer: Mariners baseball.
We were never in this one. By the time my friend Tim arrived in the bottom of the 1st, the M's were behind the lowly Oakland A's 3-0—single, walk, double, strikeout, double—and Tim never saw us closer than 3. We never even had the tying run at the plate. Our leadoff hitter Jean Segura went 4-4 and never got past second base, mostly because our No. 2 man Ben Gamel went 0-4. In our first three innings, we ran into three double plays: 4-6-3, 4-6-3, and 8-5 (flyout, throw 'em out). Segura got picked off in the 4th. We kept erasing runners.
How bad were we? Even the scoreboard operator kept screwing up.
In the 5th, the A's had two on and nobody out for Khris Davis, who looked bad his first two times up: two strikeouts. He's a guy with a lot of Ks (at gametime, 113, second in the A.L.), and a lot of homers (23, fifth in the A.L.), so I said, “Guess he's due for a homer now.” Boom. Three runs. Then another hit, a double-play, and their catcher Bruce Maxwell went deep to left-center. I looked up at the video scoreboard.
“Wait, isn't it 7-0?”
Tim looked down at his scorecard. “Yeah.”
“So how come they have 8-0?” The electronic scoreboard in center, which towers over Safeco Field, had given the A's five runs in the 5th for an 8-0 lead. I looked over at the hand-operated scoreboard in the left field corner. They'd done the same.
“Did we miss something?”
Tim looked down at his scorecard again. “Maybe that wasn't Maxwell who hit the homer? Maybe he got on somehow and the next guy hit it?”
“Cause we did get that double-play, right?”
At this point, down either 7 or 8, the M's finally pulled 27-year-old journeyman starter Sam Gaviglio for one-time Milwaukee bullpen stalwart Yovani Gallardo; but as Gallardo warmed up, the numbers on the scoreboards stayed the same: 8-0.
“This is annoying.” So I got out my phone, Googled “Mariners score,” and showed the results to Tim: 7-0.
We looked back up. “Has someone noticed the error yet?”
It took a while. In the meantime, Gallardo got the final out of the inning.
“How good is Gallardo?” I asked. “He comes in down 8-0 and leaves down 7-0.”
“Minus 1 ERA!” Tim shouted.
We finally got on the board in the bottom half of the 5th when Mitch Haniger went deep. Well, “deep.” The ball barely escaped right field. It eked out. It would be our only run against 23-year-old A's starter Paul Blackburn, who was pitching only his second game in the Majors. Blackburn debuted July 1st against Atlanta and got the loss, giving up 1 run (and zero earned runs) in six innings. This time he went 7 2/3. Haniger's HR is his only earned run in the Majors so far.
The guy who relieved him, Daniel Coulombe, seemed to be throwing inside to me. He seemed way agressive for a guy with a six-run lead. Before this season, in 68 innings pitched with the Dodgers and A's, Coulombe had never hit a batter. This season, in 30 innings, he's hit 4. Is he wilder now? Or does he have a new approach? If so, it backfired last night. In the bottom of the 9th, with one on and one out, he threw at Kyle Seager, who ducked, and the ball ricocheted off his helmet and to the backstop. Seager, the professional, got up, dusted himself off, jogged down to first. Four pitches later, Danny Valencia homered to center, making it 7-4, and Coulombe was gone, replaced by A's closer Santiago Casilla.
Well, 7-4 in the scorebooks. And, I should add, on the electronic scoreboard in center. But on the hand-operated scoreboard down in left field, the score remained 7-1. It was like our scoreboard operators had something against the Ms.
“Did they send that guy home?” Tim asked.
During Casilla's warmups it remained 7-1. Mitch Haniger grounded sharply to second and it remained 7-1. Jarrod Dyson hit a stand-up triple in the gap and it remained 7-1. We had the tying run in the on-deck circle—Segura, who was 4-4—and I couldn't keep my eyes off the left-field scoreboard.
Finally, we saw movement in the spot for bottom of the ninth. The blank card was removed and replaced with a ... “1.”
“Three, idiots!” I shouted.
They finally got it right just as Mike Zunino popped out to the pitcher for the final out.
Last night was also, appropriately, “Bark at the Park” night. Fans could bring their dogs to the game and walk around the bases afterward. Pooper scooper not included.
M’s Game: Two Major League Debuts, two Grand Salamis, and Some Pride
Rye bread, mustard
Thursday night, even though the M’s were riding a 4-game win streak and the forecast called for low 70s and sunny, I couldn’t give away a ticket to the game against Detroit. As a result, my companion for the game was The Grand Salami, the alt program sold outside the stadium, which is published by Jon Wells and produced by my friend Tim, and for which, 15 years ago, I wrote the player profiles. Note to Jon: You need to update those suckers more regularly.
I did find out from the Salami that a biography of Dave Niehaus has been written: “My Oh My: The Dave Niehaus Story,” by Billy Mac and edited by J. Michael Kenyon. Apparently it was crowdfunded? At least in part? It’s being excerpted in the Salami over the next few months. The part I read Thursday night, sitting with a beer in the sun in the right-field bleachers before the game, was informative but not exactly Robert Caro. But fingers crossed.
I moved to my regular seats, section 327 row 9, before the first pitch by M’s starter Andrew Moore. The kid was making his Major League debut, against a pretty good lineup, too. But Moore’s fastball had pop (it seemed faster than the 91-93 it registered), and he threw his mid-80s slider for strikes, and he kept getting ahead of hitters. The first five guys he faced, including future Hall-of-Famer Miguel Cabrera, and two guys with OPSes over 1.000 (Alex Avila and J.D. Martinez), all saw first-pitch strikes, and all went down accordingly. It was the sixth guy, their tall, goony, white-shoed third baseman, Nicholas Castellanos, who normally can’t even buy a walk, that Moore lost: ball, ball, strike, ball, double in the gap. But he retired Alex Presley and the M’s scored 3 in the bottom of the 2nd, and all looked good.
Second time through the lineup is the tough part, and Moore got behind leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler; and on a 3-1 count, Kinsler deposited one into the left field bleachers. So it goes. Welcome to the Majors, kid.
I thought manager Scott Servais would pull Moore after five innings, particularly since the 5th was a bit nervewracking. By this point we had a 5-1 lead, but Moore gave up a leadoff single to—who else?—Castellanos, retired Presley, then John Hicks hit a rifle shot to third base. Handled cleanly, it might’ve been a double play. But it skipped past Kyle Seager and into left field for a double. Now it was 2nd and 3rd with one out. A grounder to Cano plated one, and a Kinsler plated another. But Moore got the final out and seemed done. Good game, kid.
Servais had other ideas. Moore came out for the 6th, where he faced Cabrera for a third time. Smart? Whatever, it worked. Moore kept ahead of the hitters and they went down 1, 2, 3. He came out for the 7th, too, and did the same. By now he’d thrown 101 pitches, which definitely signaled the end, and he left the game to a small ovation from the small, sparse crowd.
By this time I was sitting on the third-base side, near the seats we had when Safeco Field first opened, eating Ivar’s fish and chips. It was “Pride Night,” anticipating “Gay Pride Weekend.” I like that they do that. Between innings they flashed PSAs urging civility and tolerance. But not much pride—the M’s variety—was on display at the park.
From me, too? These days, I tend to be a “leave early” guy, and was leaning in that direction when Detroit went to their bullpen in the 7th. They brought in Francisco Rodriguez, K-Rod, a beloved Yankee killer from 2002 who currently has the fourth-most saves in baseball history (437), but who came in sporting a devilish 6.66 ERA. He hit Heredia with his fifth pitch, then got Mike Zunino to pop out. That’s enough, I thought. Time to head home, I thought. But by the time I made my way down to the 100 level, the M’s had loaded the bases on a single and a walk, so I hung with a group of people at the top of the stairs on the third-base side as Cano batted. He’d hit a 2-run homer earlier in the game, a shot that barely went over the right-center-field wall, and I was hoping for anything but a double play. His swing on the second pitch looked at least like a sac fly. I couldn’t see its arc—the overhang from the second deck got in the way—but I heard the cheers and I saw Cano nonchalantly rounding the bases, blowing bubbles, and everyone in our group, all strangers, were whooping it up and high-fiving one other. A grand slam! When was the last time I saw a Mariner hit a grand slam? I thought of Niehaus, of course, and his ringing rye-bread-and-mustard call, and I decided to stay for the rest of the game. Why not? 100 level was open. Every half inning, I moved closer to home.
Gotta say, Servais made it interesting. To relieve Moore, he brought in 23-year-old Max Povse, another pitcher making his Major League debut. Maybe Servais thought newbies were good luck that night? Sorry. After two quick outs Povse lost Avila on a ringing double, then lost Miggy on a more-ringing homer to center (No. 454). Martinez doubled and Justin Upton singled him in, and suddenly the blow-out was 9-6. That was it for Povse, whose career ERA is now 40.50. The Bengals actually brought the tying run to the plate before we escaped. In the 9th, they went down 1, 2, 3, and another game was in the books. My season record is 3-1.
Twenty-five years ago, thanks to my friend Mr. B, I saw Nolan Ryan’s last game in the Majors, in which, at the Kingdome in September, he didn’t get an out and gave up a grand slam to Dann Howitt. Did I see K-Rod’s last game, too? Afterwards, the Tigers released him. Is that how all pitchers careers end—not with a whimper but a grand slam? I’m sure he’ll get picked up, though. There’s always a need, always hope.
Same with the M’s? They won again last night, 13-3, against Houston, the best team in the A.L., and our win-streak is now at 6. It’s the right direction anyway. A little bit of pride as we head into Pride weekend.
UPDATE: Yes, the Nationals signed K-Rod to a minor league deal a few days later. But June 22 is still his last official game as of early July.