September 3rd: Ichiro steps up to the plate against Roger Clemens and blasts a solo home run for his 200th hit of the season.
I promise this list won't be all Ichiro, Beltre, and Chad Bradford.
People love Ichiro. People love home runs. People love big round numbers. People don't love Roger Clemens. To use a term that must drive Lake Superior State absolutely crazy, the conditions made up a perfect storm for a special moment.
It didn't take long for Ichiro to pick up hit #199; he singled on the second pitch of the game. Of course, he was promptly wiped out by a 5-4-3 Jose Vidro double play, but that's the neat thing about individual accomplishments - they're all yours, and they can't be ruined by a lackluster teammate. Ichiro was on the verge of his seventh consecutive 200-hit season, and with the Mariners in the midst of a massive tailspin, stuff like that was all we had.
After two the game was deadlocked, with Ichiro set to lead off the top of the third. And before we so much as got the opportunity to appreciate the potential magnitude of the situation, he took a 2-0 mistake right over the middle and drove it high and deep to right-center, a classic Ichiro no-doubter. When you think about it, it's kind of weird that we can identify home runs right off of his bat considering he averages fewer than ten bombs a season, but the power swings packs a punch. A consistent punch at that, since I think pretty much every single one of Ichiro's home runs has gone to the same part of the stadium.
Ichiro rounded the bases to a lot of silence and scattered applause, but while it was nothing but a simple solo homer, it did funny things to our heads - it made us believe again, if only just a little bit. This team had fallen flat on its face, but this was a critical series in New York, and where an hour earlier we were staring longingly at the razor by the sink, now we were imbued with something warm. Something soft, something encouraging. There was still a chance. Only Ichiro could temporarily pull so many people back from the ledge with one swing of the bat in the third inning.
After the game, of course, we'd find out that Clemens wasn't at 100%, but where you'd think that might ever-so-slightly cheapen what Ichiro had done, there was also this:
He still managed to do pretty well against a banged-up Rocket.
Suzuki had three hits off Clemens to equal another record...
"I was very anxious. The first time in my seven-year career that I thought I might say something mean to Carl Hamilton, our video coordinator," Suzuki cracked.
For one day - powered by Ichiro and an effective King Felix - the Mariners were back. It was a good day.
(I won't be around much for a little while, so expect #47 on Sunday.)