erik lundegaard

Seattle Mariners posts

Saturday June 24, 2017

M’s Game: Two Major League Debuts, two Grand Salamis, and Some Pride

Robinson Cano's grand slam

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. 

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Posted at 11:19 AM on Jun 24, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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Monday May 08, 2017

M's Game: I'll Follow the Sun

Kyle Seager homerun

Seager's moment in the sun. 

My friend Jeff and I went to the game at Safeco Field yesterday, and while the M's spent the day chasing the Texas Rangers, Jeff and I chased the sun. 

Gametime temps were mid-to-high 50s, with a bit of a Puget Sound breeze, so if you were in the shade, which we were, and would remain if we stayed in our regular 300-level behind-homeplate seats, you'd get a bit of a chill. Why bother? Elsewhere in the park, the sun beckoned. So in the 3rd inning, we followed it—first over to Lookout Landing along the third base/left field side, then eventually to the left field bleachers. Lots of others did the same. At one point I looked over into the center field bleachers, and the sliver that was in the shade was empty; everywhere else, it was packed. 

Early in the game, Jeff and I talked to some British girls who were taking a spin along the west coast, and were returning to England the next day. This was their first game, so I assumed we could help them along. But they actually helped me. I've long known that baseball had grown out of the British game “Rounders”; what I didn't know was they still played Rounders in British schools. No professional league, though. But this gave them a base with which to understand the game. In the end, I think I had more questions about Rounders than they did about baseball.

As Jeff and I were moving around the park, the Mariners were not. Each of the first six innings, they put a man on board, but they couldn't get him past first base. No joke. We didn't reach second until the 7th inning when two separate Texas pitchers walked our first two batters. Then: fielder's choice, strikeout, and another walk to load the bases. Mariners manager Scott Servais then sent Danny Valencia (.220) to hit for Ben Gamel (.310), which seemed an odd move to me. But Valencia blooped a single to center and we got two to tie the game. The next inning, Kyle Seager, whose day it was (promotion: Kyle Seager baseball caps), hit a homer to right to put the M's on top. Edwin Diaz closed the deal and the M's won 4-3. 

I've got to look up more on Rounders. Also why the Mariners created a stadium that has so much shade. 

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Posted at 05:07 PM on May 08, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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Tuesday April 18, 2017

Is There Anything Better than Ichiro Doing Junior's Swing at Junior's Statue?

The Seattle Mariners posted this pic today, which, if you're a Seattle baseball fan, or just a baseball fan in general, or just a human being in general, can't help but make you smile:

Ichiro doing Ken Griffey Jr.'s swing at Ken Griffey Jr.'s statue

My friend Andy and I went to the game last night, in the drizzle, under the roof, and it was bizarre: M's got an early lead, 3-0, on back-to-back homeruns by Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz in the 1st inning, and never looked back. Ariel Miranda pitched 7 strong innings, we got good D, we added three more runs. Final: 6-1, good guys. Marlins and Ichiro never had a chance. It was our fourth win in a row. 

Tonight, we didn't have a chance, nearly get no-hit by Chen Wei-Yin. Actually we did get no-hit by Chen. But he was pulled after 7 innings and 100 pitches, and Mitch Haniger saved us from ignominy with a 1-out double in the 9th. Tomorrow is getaway day. Also Ichiro dual-bobblehead day. Think two Ichiros (M's/Marlins) rather than Ray Milland and Rosey Grier. 

Again: Nice pic. Our first HOFer and (I hope) our third. 

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Posted at 09:06 PM on Apr 18, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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Thursday April 13, 2017

Statue, Jr.

This was unveiled in front of Safeco Field today. Not as beautiful as Junior's real swing, of course, but that's tough to top. Actually, the more I look at this, the more I like it. It's got that cocksureness that Junior had post-swing. Kinda like: “Yep.” I'll see it in person on Monday night with Andy—if not sooner. 

Ken Griffey Jr. statue

The sculptor is Lou Cella, who's done quite a few bronze statues for various teams in the Midwest, including Ron Santo for the Cubs, and Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko for the ChiSox.

“It was nice,” Griffey said after the unveiling. “It looked like me.”

How many of Junior's homeruns did I see in person? Close to 50. Kiss it goodbye.


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Posted at 04:42 PM on Apr 13, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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Wednesday April 12, 2017

Mariners 40th-Anniversary Season Tickets Honor Darnell Coles, Spike Owen, Not Alex Rodriguez

A week ago I got together with our Mariners season ticket group to divvy up the 2017 tickets: two seats in section 327, row 9. There was one game everyone wanted: Saturday, Aug. 12, the night the Mariners do what they should've done 10 years ago—retire Edgar Martinez's #11. That went with the No. 1 pick. I got the eighth pick (out of eight guys) but I still got good games spread out over the season. When I picked last night's game, I made a joke about the second game of the season being when true fans showed up, and our host, without missing a beat, said, “Say hello to the other guy for me.” Laughter all around. Good group.

This being the 40th anniversary of the beginning of Mariners futility, each season ticket is decorated, not with one of six current decent players repeated ad nauseum throughout the season as we usually get, but one-shots of current and historic players. So Ken Griffey Jr. appears once (on Ken Griffey Jr. replica statue night this Friday) and Edgar appears once (on Aug. 12) and Robinson Cano once (last night), and so on. I got 10 tickets total and wound up with a pretty solid 3/4 of an infield:

  • Robinson Cano - 2B
  • Omar Vizquel - SS
  • Adrian Beltre - 3B

I also got Jeff Nelson, Mike Jackson, James Paxton, Dave Henderson, Kenji Johjima, Darnell Coles, Danny Meyer. 

Who wasn't on any of the tickets? One of the greatest players of all time: Alex Rodriguez. 

The next day, I searched to see if any of the Mariners blogs or The Seattle Times or somebody had commented upon this snub but I couldn't find anything. Nobody cared. Last night, I found one guy who did: Jon Wells, publisher of The Grand Salami, the Mariners fan magazine sold outside the stadium. In this month's issue, he's got a short column on the topic, titled “Was Spike Owen a Better Player than Alex Rodriguez?” Here's its sweet spot:

I get it. His departure was messy. Most Mariners fans hate him. He was suspended for steroids. But really? Celebrating lousy players like Mickey Brantley and Spike Owen but ignoring A-Rod? It makes the franchise look rather petty. 

I'd be curious to hear a rationale from a Mariners official.

On the first pitch of the game last night—my first game of the season, and that game for true fans—Houston's George Springer homered to left off the M's Ariel Miranda. Not a good omen for the year. But Miranda pulled himself together. The M's were actually leading 3-2 in the 6th, when, with two outs and nobody on, he seemed to tire. He walked one guy, then another. He was pulled for reliever James Pazos, who gave up a high infield chopper. Based juiced. Houston went with pinch-hitter Evan Gattis, who looped a fading fly ball to right, Mitch Haniger slid to catch it, and ... the ball bounced off his glove. Three runs scored. The Astros added another that same inning. M's lost 7-5, to go to 2-7, the second-worst record in baseball. Announced attendance: 18,527. Hello, other guy.

A-Rod's 1994 Upper Deck trading card

A-Rod in '94: the cleanest of slates. 

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Posted at 07:41 AM on Apr 12, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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