TOKYO - If you have the means and the time, I could not recommend taking in a baseball game in Japan enough. The coordinated chants that are reminiscent of a rowdy soccer crowd, the vast array of food options (there are several Western restaurants - including the only Shake Shack in the country - outside the gates, and the woman sitting in front of me had a crab and roe bento box that looked delicious), the beer vendors literally carrying kegs on their backs... it’s an experience like none other I’ve ever had.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of LLer Rhubarb is my spirit animal, these are where my seat’s for tonight’s (last night’s? This morning’s? Time zones are weird, dude) contest:
The action started quick, with Dee Gordon sending Ryusei Ohe’s second pitch of the ballgame into the left-center gap for an easy double. He would make it to third on a deep flyout from Mitch Haniger, but the middle of the order failed to knock him in, though Edwin Encarnación managed a two-out walk.
Dee’s double was surprisingly the lone hit through the first third of the game - much more in spite of Félix’s performance than because of it. Sitting at just 88-89 with his fastball, he failed to notch a single strikeout over his four innings of work, needing 58 pitches to get through the first three. He struggled to command his changeup all game - I counted several that went 55 feet - and issued three walks. Thanks to some weak contact and a TOOTBLAN on the Giants’ part, though, he had a no-hitter (!) in the early going, but a run did score on a missed catch by Encarnación that should have ended the third.
Oh, we also got this treat from Ichiro on a flyout:
good morning, everyone. Ichiro still has a CANNON of an arm. pic.twitter.com/CZByHdRCMb— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) March 18, 2019
The M’s bats finally woke up in the top of the fourth, with doubles from Omar Narváez and Tim Beckham bringing a trio of runs home. Ryon Healy even worked a walk! While neither Ichiro or Dee could keep the hit parade going, Félix was handed a decent lead, and if he could keep the Giants at bay for just a couple more frames, all would have been dandy.
Alas, as has been far too common in Félix starts lately, the wheels came off hard and fast. Yoshihiro Maru smoked his first pitch of the fourth into left field, and three batters later, Yomiuri had pulled within a run and had the bases loaded with none out. Healy snagged a blistering liner off the bat of Alex Guerrero to grab the first out, but Shuta Tanaka immediately followed that with a ringing two-run double. A sac fly from Giants catcher Ginjiro Sumitani made it a 5-3 game, and although Félix rebounded with an easy grounder, his night was clearly done. There were few positives to take away from his outing tonight, and you would have to squint to find even those (early weak contact? He did field a hard comebacker in the first inning pretty well, too). Sigh.
Thankfully, the bullpen slammed the door in the final five frames, with the quintet of Brandon Brennan, Nick Rumbelow, Dan Altavilla, Matt Festa, and Chasen Bradford surrendering just one total hit. Each reliever looked sharp; Brennan in particular made a fabulous unassisted putout at first base for the second out of the fifth. Each except Altavilla notched at least one groundout, and the lone walk issued was erased by another TOOTBLAN. Credit where it’s due: the relief corps gave the bats every chance to get right back into it.
And get back into it they did. After Dee poked a one-out single through the right side in the seventh, Mitch did awful things to this poor baseball:
Good LORD. I desperately want the exit velocity on that, but I feel comfortable setting the over/under at about 106.5 MPH. The ump cam from Saturday’s game got a lot of love, and it was back again tonight:
Of course, that simply tied the game. Substitutions started rolling in once the second half of the game started, among them birthday boy David Freitas. With one out in the eighth, Freitas turned on a 1-1 pitch and snuck it juuuuust over the left field wall, prompting a worthy celebration in the Mariner dugout:
A couple things here.— Nathan Rauschenberg (@nrauschen) March 18, 2019
1. Wade stood on the dugout bench to get the best angle of the Freitas home run celebration. For the Gram.
2. The team sang Happy Birthday to You to Freitas as he returned. pic.twitter.com/RUPxpZSt3O
(Side note: Wade LeBlanc took over the Mariners’ Instagram account for the game. I highly recommend taking a look at their story.)
Both of those exhibition games were fun! Dingers, good defense, solid relief pitching... that’s some good stuff there. We get a quick breather tomorrow (?) before the season begins for real bright and early/dusky and late on Wednesday morning/evening. Yours truly will be in attendance for both games, and I can only imagine the frenzy the crowd will be in come Opening Day.