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Guilt-Ridden Indians Gift Mariners With Victory

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Ichiro in Cleveland
Ichiro in Cleveland

Historically, the Cleveland Indians have not been the kindest team to the Seattle Mariners. There was, of course, the whole 1995 ALCS, where Orel Hershiser and Dennis Martinez and the Indians eliminated the first Mariners team I truly loved, and the first Mariners team a lot of us truly loved.

There's the fact that, since 1995, no opponent has had more success against the Mariners than the Indians. Over that window, the Mariners have played 18 different teams at least 20 times. They have the worst record against the Indians, at 72-90.

There was the whole miraculous 14-2 comeback in 2001. The 2001 Mariners were arguably the greatest baseball team of all time, but in part because of the Indians, they're remembered less for their wins, and more for their defeats. A lot of people believe that was the game that cost the M's the single-season wins record.

There were the Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez trades. Granted, the Mariners signed off on those trades - if anything those trades were the Mariners' idea - but the Indians were the dance partner, the team that squeezed out all the value they could and then developed the players they got, and so the Indians are linked to two of the worst-looking moves the M's have ever made.

And more recently, there was the ruined 2011 Mariners home opener. Home-opening game, and home-opening series. A month later, there was the heartbreaking Hafner walk-off, followed by two really inconvenient rain-outs.

The Indians have spelled trouble, indeed. The mere mention of their name to a Mariners fan draws red before the eyes. And it seems the history weighed so heavily on the Indians' collective conscience that, tonight, as a token of their contrition, they gifted the Mariners a game.

A really critical game, too, for them. Despite a weekend sweep at the hands of the Tigers, the Indians are still trying to hang in the playoff race, so they can't really afford to give away freebies. But they went ahead anyway, perhaps to show the Mariners that they really mean it. Perhaps to show the Mariners that they're really sorry, about everything.

The Mariners' second run was scored by Casper Wells, who reached base after getting hit in the arm. He reached third base after a slow Adam Kennedy grounder somehow sneaked through the hole, and he scored when a throw down to second to get a stealing Kennedy escaped into the outfield. Had the throw been on target, Kennedy would've been dead by five feet.

A few innings later, Michael Brantley batted against Jason Vargas with the bases loaded and one out. Instead of driving it to the outfield, Brantley got an elevated changeup over the plate and tapped it back to the mound, allowing Vargas to start a 1-2-3 double play.

After that, in the bottom of the seventh, the Indians had Brantley batting again, this time with Ezequiel Carrera on first base. Brantley grounded out to advance Carrera to second, but Carrera rounded second, thinking the ball had gotten into the outfield. The Mariners tagged Carrera out to end the inning.

And then, in the ninth, Chris Perez practically scored the Mariners' go-ahead run by himself. He hit Miguel Olivo to lead off. He subsequently hit a bunting Brendan Ryan. When Trayvon Robinson got a bunt down, Perez fumbled it, allowing everyone to reach. All the Mariners needed at that point was a decent ball in play, which they got from Franklin Gutierrez.

In the bottom half, it came down to the wire. Behind 3-2, the Indians put two runners in scoring position with two outs. It was as if some of the Indians weren't feeling quite as guilty as some of the others. But it was left to Carrera, and Carrera grounded out. The gesture was completed - the Indians had lost.

And me, I appreciate it. Maybe it's a little weird, but their heart is in the right place. The two sides aren't even - they're not even by a long shot - but at least we know the Indians feel bad for the horrors they've caused over the years. At least we know the Indians are capable of feeling. At least we know the Indians aren't sociopathic.

Time for me to find out how many bullet holes I have:

  • Jason Vargas has yet to eclipse three strikeouts in a start in August, as tonight he generated all of two, but at least this time he threw strikes. Two-thirds of his pitches went for strikes and he missed bats with a fair number of them, which was a change from the recent norm. Perhaps more importantly, since we're not going to learn anything new about Jason Vargas at this point, he lasted seven innings, which is good news for a bullpen that stands to be taxed tomorrow in a doubleheader with a pair of rookies getting the starts. It doesn't really matter - tomorrow's games are insignificant, and the bullpen would survive regardless - but I needed an extra sentence to put here since I didn't know what to say about Jason Vargas. Jason Vargas started a game. He looked okay. His results were good. He'll pitch again soon. Baseball.

  • Ichiro homered on the fourth pitch of the game, swinging at a fastball over the plate and hitting the same home run he always hits. Someone mentioned the other day that he was putting on the usual batting practice show in Tampa Bay. It's reassuring to see that the ability is still in there somewhere, but it makes the struggles all the more perplexing. It's strange when seemingly declining players have throwback moments. Stop being weird!

  • The Indians hit the Mariners with four pitches tonight, which was only the 103rd time in baseball history a team has had at least four HBPs in a game. One of those HBPs drilled Casper Wells, who has now been hit four times since coming over. That's good enough to rank him second on the team. More Mariners need to get hit by more pitches. They're good. You know, usually.

  • A pitcher's best friend is either the bases-loaded double play, or Chone Figgins. Both might also be considered a pitcher's worst nightmare, from the other perspective. Whoa!

  • Everybody always says that the double play is a pitcher's best friend, but if a pitcher came out and actually said that his best friend is a double play, everybody would think that he's weird.

  • As the game proceeded to the seventh, the broadcast went to split-screen, with the right side showing the live action, and the left side showing a pre-recorded segment with Eric Wedge from batting practice, discussing Brendan Ryan's return to the lineup. If you had the game on mute, and had never seen split-screen before, you would've been freaking out.

  • Lou Marson gets the same treatment from home fans that Kevin Youkilis gets, and that Lou Merloni got, and the Kevin Kouzmanoff got, and that so many other similarly-named players get or got. It's interesting that the "ooh" sound is so popular with fans, and that other sounds aren't. A hopeful exception is Albert Pujols.

  • Brantley: /groundout
    Carrera: /advances to second
    Carrera: /rounds second
    Carrera: /caught in pickle
    Carrera: /tagged out
    Marson: I don't even have to do anything!

  • It was confusing in the top of the ninth, when Miguel Olivo barely scored before Marson's tag on Gutierrez's go-ahead sac fly. Umpire Phil Cuzzi called Olivo safe, the crowd of 22,000 voiced its displeasure, and Lou Marson didn't know what to think.

  • In the ninth, Chris Perez hit Miguel Olivo. He fell behind Brendan Ryan 3-0 and hit him too. His following pitches to Trayvon Robinson and Ichiro were all over the place, and then he threw a first-pitch ball to Gutierrez. The next pitch was a high 93mph fastball, a little out of the zone. Cuzzi called it a strike. I don't particularly care, but that flew in the face of the common belief that umpires hold wild pitchers to stricter standards.

Lots of baseball tomorrow. Twice as much baseball tomorrow!