June 11th: Raul Ibanez whacks an RBI double in the top of the ninth to give Seattle an 8-7 lead over Cleveland.
So you know, it's going to be slow posting until I can get some connection/router issues fixed. Could be tonight, could be tomorrow, could be never >:(
Anyway, this was the hit we were waiting for back in 2001, the one hit that would've wrested momentum from the hands of an onrushing adversary. As was the case before, the Mariners again took a big lead over Cleveland, with Ibanez, Jose Lopez, and Cha Baek guiding them to a 7-0 score after four and a half. People were feeling good, and with the team coming off a three-game sweep of San Diego, spirits were optimistic. But sure enough, back came the Indians. 7-3 after five. 7-5 after six. The lead was slipping away, and with JJ unavailable, suddenly this became a bit of a nightmare.
It remained 7-5 after seven, but with Potatoes, Green, and Sherrill used up, this one rested on the wildly unpredictable shoulders of Brandon Morrow. Morrow failed. The Indians quickly tied it up, and only a strong relay from Ibanez to Betancourt to Johjima prevented them from taking the lead. While a bases loaded strikeout of Ryan Garko officially ended the inning, Cleveland was riding the wave, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we felt doomed. Another huge blown lead in Jacobs Field. The only thing left was seeing how it ended.
Three batters into the ninth, the Mariners went ahead 8-7.
I can't really put into words the way that double felt, not so long after the fact. Up until that point, it just seemed like we were destined to lose the game. Despite Raul's earlier two-homer heroics, all we could remember was that (A) we'd stranded Raul after a leadoff triple in the seventh, and (B) we'd blown a 7-0 lead. What else was there to know? This game was scripted, and it wasn't supposed to end in our favor.
But it did. When Raul's one-out double scored Willie from first, a Jose Vidro was lifted from our shoulders, and once again the pressure was off. Raul was thrown out at home to end the inning on a would-be sac fly, but who cared? A lead was restored. And ten stomach-twisting Morrow minutes later, the game was over. The Mariners won. Or, perhaps more accurately, Raul Ibanez won, and the Mariners rode his coattails.
A double, a triple, two homers, and a staggeringly important outfield assist. I say a lot of critical things about Raul Ibanez, but on this particular day, he put forth one of the strongest efforts of any Mariner I've ever seen. Better yet, it came out of completely flipping nowhere, as he woke up that morning with all of seventeen extra-base hits and two homers in a third of a season. Five at bats raised his OPS 61 points. His performance was so awesome that I took the opportunity to declare his injury troubles a thing of the past, and he subsequently went ahead to bat .187 over the next 41 games. Of course, then came the hot streak. So I don't like to think of myself as having been "wrong" so much as having been "ahead of my time". Like a sexy Christiaan Huygens.