The playoffs, especially during the world series, are a great time to reflect on the fact that your team is not in the playoffs. As hard to watch as the Mariners were sometimes this season, I (we?) still love them, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who's already feeling a bit nostalgic about hometown baseball. So, in the spirit of this post over at ProBallNW, I thought I'd open this up as a place to discuss your favorite Mariner moments from the 2011 season. I've compiled twelve of mine below, feel free to post about any I've missed, discuss the ones I mention, or just sadly reminisce a little bit.
This one was right around the time the season started to look promising - the M's were 7-2 on their last 9 games, and just 2 games under .500 at 15-17. The game was tied 2-2 in the bottom of ninth with two outs, Jack Wilson on second, and Adam Kennedy on third when Brendan Ryan (who was still hitting under .200 at the time) grounded a 1-0 pitch from Matt Thornton back up the middle to drive in the game-winning run. This one was great because it got the M's within a game of .500 for the first of several times, and because it came off the bat of one of the most likable guys in the organization. I'm pretty sure this was right around the time he started growing the mustache, too. Check out the video here.
11: 5/19/11 - Torii Hunter drops the ball
I was actually at this game with some friends. Up until the ninth, it was one of the more boring baseball games I'd been to - it was a pretty typical Doug Fister game, with almost no offense from either side, and there were a fair few nice defensive plays from both teams. The game looked certain to drag on into extra innings, too; with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and the game tied 1-1, Carlos Peguero hit a can of corn into center field that looked like it was certain to be out number three. But it was the middle of the afternoon, and it was middle of May, and Torii Hunter lost the ball in the sun; Torii couldn't make the catch, Jack Cust waltzed home from third base, and the dugout emptied to mob Peguero. There's a moment in the highlight video that you can tell is the exact moment Hunter stopped trying to catch the ball, and started trying to not get hit by the ball. Look out for it, it's a great one second of baseball.
I remember thinking to myself when I left this game that Scott Downs really did not deserve the earned run and the loss that he was pegged with - Jack Cust reached on a shitty little dribbler to third that he didn't mean to hit, but that beat that crazy shift teams used to play against Jack Cust. Adam Kennedy and Luis Rodriguez sacrificed Cust over to third, then Peguero's fly ball fell in and was scored as a single, and Downs was credited with two base hits and a loss. I would've been pretty pissed if I was Scott Downs. Check out the video here.
10: 6/17/11 - Dustin Ackley's first hit
There was a whole lot of buzz surrounding Dustin Ackley's call-up this June, and for good reason - Ackley was one of the most promising young talents in all of baseball, and the then-competitive M's were hoping his bat would help pick up their anemic offense and propel them to the top of the AL West. Ackley faced a huge test in his first game, as the Phillies were putting Roy Oswalt on the mound that day, and Roy Oswalt is really good at baseball. Ackley fell behind 0-2 in his first at-bat, then reached out and down for a good pitch from Oswalt and poked it between the pitcher's legs and back up the middle. That at-bat was a pretty good representation of Ackley's skill set, and it was the first step in Dustin letting us all know that he was the real deal. The whole Phillies series was a good one, as the M's took two out of three from probably the best team in the league at the time, and it was pretty much the last time this season that the M's were in contention (this series was immediately followed by that awful, awful nationals series). Check out the video here.
9: 8/15/11 - Mike Carp and Casper Wells go back-to-back
I was at this one too, and unlike the Torii Hunter game it was one of the best ballgames I've ever been too - there was a lot of offense, a lot of lead changes, and way more home runs than I'm accustomed to seeing at Safeco. Down 5-4 with one out in the bottom of the eighth, Mike Carp launched his second homer of the game into the right field seats to tie it up at 5. John Farrell then sent in the right-handed Jon Rauch to face righty Casper Wells, who promptly drove a 1-2 pitch into the bullpen in left. It was a dramatic, exciting late-game moment in a great game of baseball, and its meaning was amplified in the top of the ninth when Brandon League got Jose Bautista to ground to third for the final out with the go-ahead run on base. Check out the video here.
8: 9/14/11 - L-Rod walks off against the Yankees
I only put this one so low on the list because the season pretty much didn't matter by this point. This game was a nearly offense-free pitcher's duel, and was a 1-1 tie all the way into the 12th. Luis Rodriguez was having a great game, having already gone 2-4 with two doubles, when he led off the bottom of the 12th against Cory Wade. Rodriguez got ahead 2-1, then crushed a hanger from Wade into the right field seats for the game-winner. This moment was made all the more awesome by the fact that L-Rod, who almost never got playing time, had already provided the best walk-off of the season. This homer pretty much cemented his as the most clutch person, ever. Also, Steve Delabar got his first major league win, which is neat. Check out the video here.
7: 8/29/11 - Mike Carp ruins somebody's soup
I don't think I've seen a Mariner hit a ball as hard as Carp did here against the Angels since Russell Branyan was launching moon shots to right-center in 2009. Tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 8th, Carp got every bit of an offering from Hisanori Takahashi, absolutely launching the ball into the hit-it-here cafe in right field. The two run bomb put the M's up 5-3 and got them the dramatic win, which tasted all that much sweeter because it came against the Angels. It also preceded Mike Carp's other late-game heroics against the halos, as two days later he crushed a two run double into deep center field with two outs in the bottom of the 8th, giving the M's a 2-1 win. Look out in the highlight video for Carp's face immediately after hitting the ball, and the celebration in the dugout when he gets back. Check out the video here.
6: 5/23/11 - Carlos Peguero ties it up in the ninth
I can't believe Carlos Peguero made this list twice. This was that long, heart-pounding 8-7 extra innings win against the twins we all remember from back in May. The M's had just won 5 straight and were showing a lot of fight, but they were down 7-4 going into the top of the 8th. They got a few guys on base, and Adam Kennedy and Ichiro drove in a pair of runs, but they were still down a run going into the ninth. Justin Smoak led off the inning with a single, then turned into Michael Saunders and stole second. Two outs later Saunders was still on second, when the unlikeliest of heroes, Carlos Peguero, laced a 1-0 pitch up the middle for a base hit. Saunders came around to score easily, and the Mariners had bought themselves at least another half inning. I remember this as being the moment that I started to think the M's had a real shot at competing - they were again just one game under .500 (Did I mention they ended up winning the game? On a Luis Rodriguez sac fly, no less), and they seemed to have that "refuse to lose" attitude that so many good clubs possess. Of course, they eventually jumped off a cliff and adopted a "refuse to win" attitude for about three weeks, but it was fun while it lasted. Check out the video here.
5: 8/2/11: Brendan Ryan vs. the Oakland A's infield
This was probably the funniest moment of the season, and it was one that proved that sometimes the little things can make a big difference. In the bottom of the first, Brendan Ryan legged out an infield single that pulled Shortstop Eric Sogard off the bag at second. With Second Baseman Jemile Weeks jogging over to first base to help cover, Ryan noticed that nobody was covering second base, so he took off behind First Baseman Conor Jackson's back and slid into second base. He then got up and dashed to third base, because for some reason Third Baseman Scott Sizemore was hanging out in Left Field. It was a great hustle play, and it made the entire A's infield looked really, really stupid. But more than anything, it amplified our collective love affair with Brendan Ryan by a whole lot. Check out the video here.
4: 5/31/11: Justin Smoak provides the offense
Coming off of that great series against the Yankees, the M's were finally over .500 for the first time this season, and thoroughly in the hunt in the AL West. Hopes were high, even if expectations were low, and we were all letting ourselves get just a little optimistic about the rest of the season. But on this night, against the Orioles and Jeremy Guthrie, the M's couldn't make anything happen. Through 7 2/3 innings he had given up no runs and three hits, and he looked like a sure thing to make it through 8 until Ichiro reached base on an error by Guthrie himself, and Brendan Ryan singled him over to second base. Suddenly Justin Smoak, then the best hitter on the team, was coming to the plate representing the go-ahead run. He fell behind 0-1, and then Guthrie made the only mistake he made all night - a hanger in the middle of the zone that Smoak crushed deep into the seats in right. It was everything that us fans wanted and expected from the M's young slugger, and it gave the Mariners another in that series of dramatic May-June wins. That home run really reinforced the idea that the M's were for real - and even though they weren't, May and the beginning of June were a lot of fun. Check out the video here.
3: 6/5/11 - Miguel Olivo does it again
You could make an argument that either this, or moment #2, was the high point of the season. The M's were in the middle of a great game with the Rays - they fell behind 3-0 early, then tied it up, then took a 5-3 lead, then fell behind 6-5, then tied it up 6-6 in the bottom of the 8th. With one out and two men on, Miguel Olivo crushed a 2-0 pitch into the bullpen in left for his third home run of the series, giving the M's a 9-6 lead, and, ultimately, the win. This win put the M's at 31-28, a season high 3 games above .500, and gave the Root Sports advertising crew a great clip for all those late season "please remain interested in the Mariners" ads. Check out the video here.
2: 5/28/11 - Adam Kennedy beats Mariano Rivera
Like I said, this also might've been the high point of the season. The streaking Mariners, having won 8 out of their last nine games and fought their way to .500 for the first time this season, were locked in a 12-inning battle with the New York Yankees. Tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 12th, Joe Girardi sent out Mariano Rivera to face Chone Figgins, who was leading off the inning. Figgins grounded out (of course), but then Rivera gave up a single to Justin Smoak and a double to Jack Cust, putting the winning run on third with just one out. Girardi opted to put Franklin Gutierrez on to set up the double play, but Adam Kennedy hit a classic Adam Kennedy blooper that dropped in front of Curtis Granderson to score the winning run. I lost my shit, you lost your shit, everybody at the stadium lost their shit - it was a great moment in a season that, at the time, seemed like at least a good one. The Mariners were finally over .500, and weren't so far off of the division lead. But you know what happened next and I know what happened next and I've already said what happened next like five times, so let's just move on. Check out the video here.
1: 4-11-11: The L-Rod game
Of course this is number one. What else would be number one? You probably remember this one pretty well, but in case you don't: the M's were down 7-0 to the Blue Jays in the 7th, which seemed pretty much insurmountable because I don't even know if the Mariners had scored 7 runs total on the season yet. But they got a run in the 7th, then 5 more in the 8th on a bunch of bases loaded walks, and all of the sudden it was a one run ballgame. Michael Saunders led off the 9th with a double and Brendan Ryan sacrificed him over to third, but Adam Kennedy couldn't get the run in as he grounded out to second. Ichiro was walked intentionally to bring up Luis Rodriguez, who had replaced Chone Figgins earlier in the game. Rodriguez fell behind 0-2, fouled off a bunch of pitches, took a couple balls, pulled a ball just to the right of the right field foul pole, then, finally, crushed a pitch over the center fielder's head to the track in right-center to drive in the tying and winning runs. All six fans left in the stadium went batshit crazy, I danced around my living room like I'd just won the lottery, and we went through three gamethreads here at LL. It was a really, really awesome and rewarding moment for those of us who stuck around and watched the whole thing. It was a really awesome for everybody, really. Except maybe Shawn Camp. Check out the video here.
So there's my list. A few I thought about but left out where Miguel Olivo's Ryan Raburn-aided homer, the Mike Carp double in the bottom of the 8th that gave the M's a 2-1 win over the angels, that time Jack Cust hit a triple, and when Trayvon Robinson robbed Torii Hunter in his debut. What were your guys favorite moments this season?