First things first: I should apologize. This recap would've been up sooner, but I got stuck watching this .gif loop over and over for 15 minutes. It's absolutely hypnotic. The best part is barely even visible during playback. Actually, check that, the whole thing is the best part. The best part of this moment is that it took place, and took place on camera. In my time I have made some .gifs that I adore, and I have made some .gifs that I love like family, but this .gif may blossom into my new religion.
As for the baseball game, most of which took place before this moment, and some of which took place after, with none taking place during - I have written this intro before, and I'll probably write it again, but tonight it seems especially pertinent. As much as most of us can't stand the Red Sox, and as much as it sucks to have so many of their fans end up in the stadium, I don't think there's any denying that, as a consequence, when theplay the Red Sox in Seattle, it's a completely different feeling. The emotional investment is ramped up. The game takes on a greater meaning. It feels like something more than a regular season baseball game.
As you may or may not know, in the NHL I root for the Ottawa Senators. The Ottawa Senators are a relatively new franchise, having existed for about two decades. They're located right in between Toronto - home of the Maple Leafs - and Montreal - home of the Canadiens. Toronto and Montreal are two of the most storied and popular franchises in the game, and whenever they play Ottawa in Ottawa, the crowd always ends up being about 50/50. You get some thousands of visiting fans making an awful lot of noise, and you get some thousands of home fans trying to shout them down.
And it's awesome. It sucks in a way that all those visiting fans can get tickets, and it's kind of embarrassing when a home crowd isn't really a home crowd, but the atmosphere ends up being incredible, and you can feel it even if you're just watching on TV. It makes you care more. Passion begets passion.
It all traces back to irrationality and senseless aggression and a childish desire to "shut those assholes up," of course. That's just the way it is. This is sports fandom, and every day I think we try to distract ourselves from the realization that, at its heart, sports fandom is stupid. But what's real is real, and having to listen to opposing fans root as guests causes us to root harder.
I don't want to say that Red Sox games in Seattle feel like playoff games, because it's been a long time since I've watched a Mariners playoff game and I don't want to sell the experience short, but they're definitely close. They're special, and particularly at a time like this, when we have little reason to care about the outcomes. This weekend, there's reason to care about the outcomes. Not because the games have meaning in a greater context, but because the games have meaning on their own. They're opportunities to beat the Red Sox.
It sucks when the M's lose to the Sox at home. It sucks, because the Mariners lose, and the stadium rejoices. But it's amazing when the M's beat the Sox at home. It's amazing, because the Mariners win, and the stadium rejoices. It's fun whenever the Mariners win, but a home win over the A's or thejust doesn't compare to a home win over the Red Sox.
Tonight was a fun night. I was looking forward to this game all day - which immediately signals that something was different - and even though the game didn't quite play out the way one might've expected given the pitching matchup, it was a ride, and in the end, the Mariners won. The Red Sox will go on to bigger and better things and a week from now they and their fans will forget that this game ever happened, but tonight, the Sox invaded, and the M's emerged victorious. God damn, does that ever satisfy.
Saturday night bullet holes from an unusually busy game:
- Oh my god, that .gif
- This was an uncharacteristic start for Felix Hernandez, although it wasn't entirely dissimilar from his previous effort against Boston, which saw him walk four and strike out two in 6.1 six-run innings. Tonight, he narrowly held a shutout through five, and wasn't allowing much in the way of hard contact even though he wasn't missing many bats. Then the sixth inning came. The sixth inning was a nightmare. A crushed triple. A crushed home run. A crushed fly out. A crushed home run. A crushed single. A crushed single. A crushed line out. Practically everything Felix was throwing up there, the Red Sox were returning with increased speed in the other direction. It was Felix like we've almost never seen him before.
Felix ended on a high note in the seventh when he closed a scoreless frame with a double play. He also, of course, got the win, and deserves some leeway given his recent success and the fact that this was the Red Sox. But that was weird. A run like that proves that Felix is mortal, and the fact that a pitcher like Felix is mortal says a lot about how good you have to be as a hitter to make the Major Leagues.
- Neatly in the middle of all those sixth-inning rockets was a bunt single by Adrian Gonzalez placed expertly down the third base line against the shift. There was nothing anybody could have done about it, and Gonzalez could've butt-shimmied his way to first base. What this did was guarantee that, after each of Gonzalez's next two or three hundred outs, some smartass will ask why he didn't just bunt his way on. Interestingly, this was only the eighth bunt single of Gonzalez's career. He's been getting shifted for a while. Maybe he should bunt his way on more often. Or, you know, he could keep hitting dingers.
- I don't feel so bad about Felix's sixth inning against the Red Sox, given that Josh Beckett had a very similar first inning against the Mariners. Ichiro ripped the very first pitch Beckett threw out to right field for a solo home run, and that only got the party started. Franklin Gutierrez followed with a single. Dustin Ackley followed with a double. Mike Carp followed with a single. After a fly out, Casper Wells followed with a home run. Six batters in against one of the best pitchers in the world, and the Seattle flipping Mariners had a 5-0 lead.
Ichiro's home run came on a fastball that was literally in the middle of the zone. Wells, though, blasted a low-outside cutter out to left-center field. I've mentioned before how Wells' home runs kind of look like accidents, but that makes his power all the more impressive. The ball carries off his bat. God knows how far he could hit one that he squares up. Or maybe he is squaring these balls up, and his swing just looks weird. Or maybe his swing looks normal and I just think his swing looks weird because I'm some guy in a chair in an apartment. I don't have all the answers, you guys.
- So often with these Mariners, they've gotten guys on base and then failed to take advantage of the opportunities. Tonight, they took advantage of almost all their opportunities. Mostly because after the first inning they barely generated any opportunities. Who needs to play add-on anyway? It's only the
- The most notable thing Wily Mo Pena did in his Mariners debut was work a ten-pitch at bat in the first before making an out, and he finished 0-for-4. With that said, there was a certain buzz whenever he came to the plate, and the King's Court was loving him. In the fifth, following a Mike Carp walk, Wily Mo got to bat with the bases loaded. He struck out swinging on a bad pitch, but the excitement we all felt when Wily Mo came up in that situation is exactly why he's so fun to have around. You never know when he's going to use a baseball to give the moon the business.
- When Jack Wilson came to the plate, the King's Court was chanting "Home Run Jack."
- A huge moment in this game came in the top of the fourth. Dustin Pedroia batted with one out and runners on second and third, and lifted a fly ball to moderate right field. Ichiro lined up, made the catch, and launched a perfect throw to home plate, where Jacoby Ellsbury was bearing down on Josh Bard. Bard received a long hop, applied a tag, and then absorbed a collision while hanging on to the ball with his right hand.
And Mark Ripperger called Ellsbury safe. At first. The Mariners protested while Bard kind of writhed around on the ground, then Ripperger huddled with the other umpires and made the very unusual decision to reverse the call. I've seen umpires turn homers into doubles and doubles into homers, but I'd never before seen an umpire reverse a safe call like this. It was...refreshing, and the right thing to do.
Pretty much every time a manager comes out on the field to argue with an umpire's decision, Ms. Jeff asks me why he's bothering. Until tonight, I never had a good answer. Now I've seen it work. The first time. It didn't work the second time. When Terry Francona came out to argue about the reversal, he got ejected.
- Bard took Ellsbury's knee right to the chin in the collision, and I was astonished that he remained in the game. Not because he was loopy, but because he looked loopy, at least in the immediate aftermath. But he stretched his jaw a few times and stayed in the game for the final five innings - even gunning down Darnell McDonald with a laser in the eighth - serving as confirmation that Jacoby Ellsbury weighs 30 pounds. Now his home runs are even more amazing!
Jen Mueller interviewed Bard in the dugout afterwards. Here's how part of the interview went:
Mueller: Let's go back to that play at the plate.
Bard: [words words words words uninteresting words]
Here's how I expected that part of the interview to go:
Mueller: Let's go back to that play at the plate.
Bard: Play at the plate?
- Many moons ago, I remember reading about an experimental song being played on an organ in Germany. The song began with a year and a half of the sound of air, after which the first three notes were played and held down. More than a year later, the next two notes were added. The intent was for the song to last more than 600 years. The song was composed by Josh Beckett.
- David Ortiz batted against Jamey Wright in the top of the eighth and blasted a 1-0 fastball off the Hit It Here Cafe, only just feet foul. Later in the at bat, in a full count, Ortiz tipped a pitch straight back that Bard just narrowly missed catching. On the next pitch, Ortiz walked. In one plate appearance, David Ortiz basically achieved all three true outcomes.
Charlie Furbush tomorrow afternoon, as the Mariners go for the series win. The series win against the Red Sox! With Charlie Furbush!