This was a game that matched the Dustin Ackley, the organization's most exciting and highly-anticipated position player prospect in forever.- the surprisingly relevant, competitive Mariners - up against the best team in baseball in front of a Friday night home giveaway crowd. The scheduled starter for the M's was one of the AL's leading candidates for the Rookie of the Year award, and the game also promised to be the Major League debut of
This was a game that saw Ackley receive a rousing standing ovation in his first plate appearance, and then end it by grounding a tough changeup back up the middle for his first hit, prompting a second, louder, longer ovation.
This was a game that saw Ichiro continue his hot streak, and that saw Brendan Ryan drive Ichiro home with a screaming triple to the right-center gap that established an early lead.
This was a game that subsequently saw the Mariners establish a commanding lead over the Miguel Olivo and a Justin Smoak sac fly.on a homer by
This was a game that saw Michael Pineda in top form, and that saw him carry a no-hitter into the top of the sixth with the stuff to finish it off. Though it was Ackley's night, all eyes shifted to the pitcher.
This was a game that saw Pineda allow a hit but pitch out of a jam. When the Mariners were up 3-0, with Pineda pitching the way he was pitching, it felt like the outcome was a foregone conclusion. When the Phillies rallied, it no longer felt the same way, so Pineda's bases-loaded strikeout of Placido Polanco provided another rush.
This was a game that saw Ryan drive Ichiro home again to restore the three-run lead, and that saw Ackley turn a difficult and critical double play in the eighth. After all the questions and all the concern, Ackley looked great.
And this was a game that saw Brandon League finish the Phillies off when he induced a soft grounder with two on and two out in the ninth. League wound up in a little trouble, but all that meant was that the final out felt better than it would have in a 1-2-3.
This was not a perfect game. It wasn't the best game of the season, given the whole seven-run comeback and everything. But when you consider the context, and when you consider the atmosphere and the highs and the way it played out, this was about as entertaining and enjoyable as baseball gets. I've spent a lot of Friday nights at home watching the Mariners, wondering why I'm doing what I'm doing instead of going out and doing something better. I didn't wonder tonight. Tonight, there were few things better for a Mariners fan than watching the game. It somehow exceeded our wild hopes and expectations, and on an occasion like this, that's a tough thing to do.
A handful of Friday night bullet holes:
- Pineda really did steal the show, and I had an inkling he'd turn in a strong start when he got Jimmy Rollins to whiff at a 92mph fastball on the third pitch of the game. Many a Phillies hitter looked uncomfortable over the course of Pineda's six innings, and the no-hitter truly felt in the cards until Rollins walked in the sixth. That at bat seemed to get Pineda flustered, and he didn't look quite the same after.
Still, while Pineda lost the no-hitter and lost the shutout, he earned the win, and he earned it because he just didn't give up solid contact. Against Pineda, the Phillies hit zero recorded line drives. Their two singles were groundballs through the hole to right. Rollins hit a ball somewhat hard to lead off the fourth, but it held up and was easily tracked down by Franklin Gutierrez in center.
Neither Pineda's stuff nor location were the best they've ever been, and still he messed around with a potential no-hitter against a pretty good lineup with six lefty hitters. For anyone concerned about how he'd bounce back from a bad game in Detroit: he bounced back well. This was the kind of start that makes you feel like it's only a matter of time before he's getting mobbed by his teammates on the mound after writing his name in the history books.
Of course, if Pineda does it before Felix does, that would be really stupid.
- I think the funniest thing about debuts like Ackley's is that we all spend them watching the player intently, as if we're going to see or learn something new we didn't know before. I had some notes written down about the quality of Ackley's at bats until I realized the notion of Dustin Ackley having good at bats was a familiar one already. Of course Dustin Ackley had good at bats. That's like the thing he's the best at.
Still, he had good at bats, and the one we'll all remember is his first, in which he recorded his first-ever hit. After taking one obvious strike and another, less obvious strike, Ackley fought off a tough low-away fastball and then grounded a changeup back up the middle, by Oswalt's legs and beyond second base. It wasn't a scorcher or anything, but it was decent contact made on a really, really difficult pitch. Oswalt placed his changeup perfectly in the low-away corner, and still Ackley reached base. It was the kind of swing and hit we've seen from Ichiro a thousand times.
Later in the game, Ackley opened some eyes when he turned a 5-4-3 double play with Carlos Ruiz bearing down on him at second. To that point Ackley hadn't really been challenged in the field, but he passed his first test with flying colors.
A single, a turn, a sharp grounder to first, and a fairly well-struck fly to center. There have been better debuts, but neither Ackley nor we have any reason to complain. He looked good. He looked ready.
- It doesn't mean anything to say that we're all in some way connected to the same bank. We're all in some way connected to everything. Every single thing in the universe, we are connected to, in some way. We're all in some way connected to this pen that I'm holding, that you can't see me holding.
- Sometimes I think that Ichiro could round the bases in the time it takes a Carlos Peguero fly ball to go from the bat to a glove. Carlos Peguero's fly balls hang up so long that on every single one, some outfielder comes away thinking he's way faster than he really is. "Wow I got here in plenty of time!"
Raul Ibanez received a very warm ovation in the second inning, and the Safeco PA played his walk-up song, which I thought was a nice touch. Ibanez then flew out lazily to left field because he is 39 years old and declining.
- Pineda hit Chase Utley with a pitch in the fourth, by which I mean the pitch grazed a few fibers of Utley's jersey fabric because Utley didn't make any effort to move out of the way. Baseball has a lot of rules that are understandably difficult to enforce. This is not one of them. It is plainly evident when a batter does and does not make an effort to move out of the way of a pitch. I'm not mad at Utley, and I'm not mad at the umpire. I just don't get why this is so inconsistent. It's really easy to see when a batter stands still.
- Pineda struck out Placido Polanco two times, which is not an easy thing to do, since Polanco is one of the hardest hitters to whiff in the league. That said, I am not convinced that Polanco actually struck out the second time, in the top of the sixth. Polanco went after an 0-2 high fastball and appeared to check his swing, but the home plate umpire ruled him out without even calling down to first.
- Ichiro's multi-hit game streak is up to six after an infield single, a line drive single, and a line drive double. His average is all the way up to .275, where it was .252 when he got his day off. The consensus opinion is that Ichiro is "back," which makes me wonder - back to what? Is he back to his old self? Is he back to his .330 career level? If so, what of his slump? Was it indicative of nothing? Will it be like it never happened? I agree that it looks like Ichiro is back to normal, which is both improbable and not improbable at all, but I'm very interested in seeing where his season numbers end up.
This was a big win because it meant the M's avoided a sweep against baseball's best team. It also means they get to go for the series win tomorrow, with Felix Hernandez opposing Vance Worley. And they'll want to win tomorrow, because Sunday...well let's not think about Sunday. Let's think about tomorrow. Felix tomorrow!