When changes to Major League Baseball’s intentional walk rules were announced earlier this week, the reactions were vast. Some bickered over whether the change was good for baseball–with one side arguing that MLB eliminated a minor event that no one truly wants to observe while the other side considered the purity of the game and the brief moments of chaos that occasionally occurred. Some folks decided to reminisce, recalling their favorite moments in baseball history involving the intentional walk. I firmly fell into the latter, with one particular game surging into my head and spinning around with extraordinary gusto.
The date was June 26th, 2011. The Seattle Mariners and Florida Marlins were playing the third game of what was one of the odder weekends in recent memory. The three-game series, originally intended to be played in Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, had been moved to Seattle because of a U2 concert. If you don’t remember this particular weekend, I swear I’m not making this up. Bono and company were set to play Sun Life Stadium on June 29th, and the Marlins weren’t willing to stand in the way of dozens of Floridians rocking out to “Beautiful Day”, “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”, and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”. With the stadium needing a few days to set up for the concert, action was taken.
Despite the change of scenery, the Mariners remained the road team, setting up one of the more bizarre weekends in Safeco Field history: an American League Stadum with National League rules. Pitchers would hit. Seattle would suit up in road grays. The designated hitter would be nonexistent. The Mariners had a chance to get up over the .500 mark. All gloves were off.
They split the first two games, with Felix Hernandez tossing a two-hit, ten-strikeout gem in Game One and Chris Volstad outdueling Jason Vargas in Game Two. The biggest highlight to emerge from the first couple games consisted of Felix Hernandez stepping up to the plate in his own house and lining a base hit. Mariners fans dug it:
Game Three, however, is when the series went from weird to bizarrely hilarious. Here’s the starting lineup:
The Mariners would strike first in the 5th inning, when Doug Fister doubled to left field and later came around to score on a Brendan Ryan single.
Fister would carry his success over to the mound, taking a shutout into the eighth inning before an Omar Infante double scored former Mariner Jose Lopez (fun fact: the inning started with Fister striking out future Mariner Logan Morrison). And then, because the Mariners decided to field a lineup that involved Brendan Ryan batting second and Adam Kennedy batting third, no one would score again and extra innings were upon us.
The tenth inning started with rookie Dustin Ackley slashing a deep fly ball to left field for a double, his third hit of the day. Feeling the wrath of the Mariners’ lineup, the Marlins turned to a young, promising sidewinder named Steve Cishek. I’m not joking when I say this game involved every Mariner ever.
Miguel Olivo would lift a sac fly to left field off of Cishek, putting the go-ahead run just ninety feet away from home for rookie outfielder Carlos Peguero. Wanting to set up a potential double play, the Marlins opted for an intentional walk. The plan was simple: comfortably lob four pitches to the catcher standing in a different time zone in relation to the plate, and then attack Franklin Gutierrez.
The first two offerings were typical. Cishek threw and John Buck (once again: every Mariner ever) caught. He just had to do it two more times. All was well.
And then magic happened.
The pitch twisted wide. Buck reached out, but it wasn’t close; Cishek’s offering sailed far off to the right and over and away from his catcher. Beardless Ackley raced home. He didn’t quite beat the ball to the plate, but it didn’t matter. Buck’s hail mary handcuffed Cishek, and the ball trickled out the other side of the play. Ackley was safe. The good guys took a commanding 2-1 lead.
And then, because this game really did have everything, Brandon League came in and locked down his 21st save of the year to finish it all off.
In retrospect, it was potentially the most absurd and most amazing game to ever be played in Mariners history.
I will miss you, intentional walk. I will miss you so much.