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.