Two Getaway Games, 20 Years Apart
Twenty years ago on July 18th I went to an afternoon getaway game against the Detroit Tigers at the Kingdome in Seattle. It was the Mariners “Refuse to Lose” season, but of course we didn’t know that yet. Griffey, Jr. was out with his infamous wrist injury, and the team was playing .500 ball, but we still had so much promise and personality: Edgar, Jay, Tino, Randy. We had Joey Cora and Dan Wilson. Our bench guys were good: Rich Amaral, Alex Diaz, Doug Strange. We still remember their names.
In that game, the Tigers went up 5-1 in the top of the 4th, but the M’s answered with 5 in the bottom of the 4th. No big blow: single, single, single, double, popout, single, groundout, double. Tino added a 3-run homer in the 6th but the main guy I remember is Jeff Nelson. He relieved Tim Belcher in the 6th with the M’s up by only a run, and over the next three innings he faced 10 guys. He walked one, got two groundouts, and struck out seven. Seven. I was behind homeplate and could see the ball darting and dancing every which way. It was overpowering. It was magical.
Today, July 8, I went to an afternoon getaway game against the Tigers at Safeco Field and ... it was a little less magical. It was outdoors. But something about a weekday afternoon game under the sun feels a little lazy to me. Maybe I’m projecting.
The Tigers scored first in the second. With two strikes, J.D. Martinez singled. With two strikes, Nick Castellanos singled. Then a one-strike double by Jefry Marte—his first Major League hit in only his second Major League at-bat. Then a two-strike double by Iglesias. It was a theme. Every time the Tigers went two strikes on M’s pitcher J.A. Happ, I imagined them touching fingertips like Mr. Burns. Excellent.
The M’s did manage a comeback. A run here, a run there, then a two-run homer by Dustin Ackley—a no-doubt, line shot into the right field bleachers. But otherwise we couldn’t capitalize. In the 4th, we got Brad Miller on second with one out and couldn’t bring him in. In the 5th, we got Nelson Cruz on second with out one and couldn’t bring him in. In the 6th, Miller was on third with one out. Bupkis. In the 7th, Cruz, second, nada. Chris Taylor, pinch-running for Cruz in the 9th, got to that very well-worn second base with two outs and stood there as Mark Trumbo struck out swinging and the M's lost 5-4. “Today’s attendance...”
The two games are a study in contrasts. In the ’95 game, eight of our nine starters were hitting over .260, six had OBPs north of .330, while three were slugging over .500—with one (Edgar) slugging over .600. And all this without the superstar, Junior, in the lineup.
Today? Only one starter was hitting above .260 (Cruz, at .300), only two had OBPs over .330 (Cruz and Seth Smith), and only one was slugging over .500 (yes, Cruz). Our starting first baseman was hitting below .200 (although he had a good day: 3-5) while our starting catcher, Jesus Sucre, was hitting below .100. To be precise, he was hitting .040. That's right. He was 1 for 25 going into the game, and damn if he nearly got a hit his first time up, but the scorer went against him. E-3. I was bummed. In a way that was the big excitement of the game for me. I should've shaken a fist at the official scorer.
The real excitement of the game belonged to the Tigers. Marte, their replacement first baseman for injured Miguel Cabrera, not only doubled but homered in his first Major League start. Imagine rooting for a team like that. With possibilities.
Maybe I'm projecting.