Cubs edge Mariners 3-2 in 13 innings

Lou Piniella arguing once last call at Safeco field in 10th


The Chicago Cubs halted the Seattle Mariners  winning streak at six, winning 3-2 in a 13 inning thriller in front of 41,329 fans at Safeco field. This game had a little of everything today with the exception of a key clutch hit by the Mariners who had plenty of chances to complete the sweep. Felix Hernandez went 9 full innings, holding the Cubs to 2 runs before handing the ball off to our semi-shaky bullpen. Cubs starter Ted Lilly went six innings and only gave up one run in the 4th inning in what was to prove to be the start of innings today where the Mariners had chances to score more runs but choked. After Figgins came in on the RBI double by Mike Sweeney, Lopez hit a single to right but Lee Tinsley held up Sweeney at third where he would eventually die at. Both Gutierrez and Josh Wilson who got the start at first both fanned and Rob Johnson grounded out weakly to end the threat. I had a hunch right then it was going to be one of those days. 

  Today’s infield featured the double-Wilson look and Jack Wilson made several great plays at short and had 3 hits on the day. Josh Wilson on the other hand looked a little out-of-place at first and had a throwing error there. More importantly the Paper Boy had more than one chance to deliver at the plate, though he did score a run in the 7th after reaching base on an odd squibber to first and eventually was driven home off the bat of a Jack Wilson double. This game was tense the whole way and the noisy Cubs fans seemed to be riding on every pitch as most of our fans cheered their boys on in a more passive NW style. The loudest reception from the Cubs fans was reserved for Milton Bradley who came in to pinch-hit in the 9th. Bradley did manage to get a walk and was moved to second on a single by Jack Wilson. But once again the clutch-hit was nowhere to be found as Michael Saunders struck out and Ichiro grounded out leaving the winning run at second. 

   Once again in the bottom of the 10th the Mariners had a golden opportunity to score the winning run but failed to produce. In this case both Figgins and Sweeney walked to lead-off the inning followed by a Jose Lopez strike out. With Gutierrez at the plate the Mariners pulled of a double steal that brought Lou Piniella charging out of the dugout to argue the call. This was a critical juncture in the game and the play was indeed close from my point of view. It was a beautiful sight to see old Sweet Lou out there giving the third base umpire hell. Indeed it was probably the only time both the Mariners and Cubs fans were cheering together. I took the above photo of Lou knowing it may be the last time I ever see him in action so I apologize for the poor shot but I had to capture his spirit one more time. 

    After Lou settled down Gutierrez received a free-pass to load the bases with only one out. But on a day where it just wasn’t meant to be-both Josh Wilson and Alfonso went down on strikes. Brandon League came into pitch the 11th and 12th and kept us in this one with a marvelous outing, including striking out the side in the 12th. I am not sure why Wakamatsu didn’t leave him out to pitch the 13th, and indeed it proved fatal as Garret Olson and Sean White allowed the Cubs to score the go-ahead run on a single by Byrd scoring Soriano from second on a poor throw by Ichiro. The Mariners did get a runner on in the bottom half of the 13th on a Jack Wilson single, however he died there as Michael Saunders completed his 0-6 day with a final strike out to end the game. 

   So the streak is over after this long but interesting game and now it is on the road again starting with a series against the Brewers. Today’s game was the real deal and though we did not prevail it has been a great series with the Cubs that we won 2-1. I imagine the trade talks will really heat-up now especially with Eric Bedard coming back soon. We still have a lot of baseball ahead of us and as today’s game proved it aint over till the fat lady sings.

Mariners crush Cubs 8-1

Oh Canada! Saunders smashes 2-run bomb

 The Seattle Mariners offense exploded for 8 runs tonight giving starting pitcher Cliff Lee more than enough run support to beat the Chicago Cubs 8-1. The win gave the surging Mariners their sixth victory in a row against the dejected Cubs who despite spending 140 million dollars on payroll are quickly falling out of contention. Cliff Lee allowed the Cubs 9 hits including a solo home run in the second inning to Tyler Colvin on a night where Lee pitched his way out of several jams. Lee failed once again to allow a walk and fanned 9 Cubs on his way to his fourth complete game of the season. The crafty veteran Lee was a pitch ahead of the hapless Cubs all night mixing in his wicked breaking ball with his fastball in an unpredictable fashion. On a night when you could say he didn’t have his best stuff, Lee used his cunning and experience to keep the Cubs guessing.

   The big story tonight was the Mariners bats which came alive allowing the Mariners to score more than 5 runs for the first time since beating the Twins 7-1 nineteen games ago. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth the M’s loaded the bases for Casey Kotchman who delivered a single to left tying the game up 1-1.Rob Johnson went down on strikes and with 2-outs the young Canadian Michael Saunders picked up the 1st of his 4 RBI’s  with a walk. Ichiro then finished of the scoring with a single to score Josh Wilson and the lumbering Kotchman from second, to hand Cliff Lee a 4-1 lead. Lee quickly mowed down the Cubs in the top of the fifth striking out Soriano and Castro. In the top of the sixth the Cubs got the first two batters on and threatened to get back into it, but again Lee closed out the inning with a couple of his 9 k’s and some good defense by Jose Lopez at third. The M’s added a couple more insurance runs in the sixth when Saunders drove in Rob Johnson with a line drive double to right. Ichiro then laid-down a beautiful bunt to advance Saunders to third allowing, Chone Figgins to bring him home on a weak groundball. It was refreshing to see the club move runners around tonight and they were 5-10 with RISP.

  The infield had three double plays on the night to help out Lee in key situations. Interesting to note that Josh Wilson got the start at short and played well there as well as picking up a couple of hits. Something special is going on here and I think Wakamatsu doesn’t want to mess with the chemistry too much. Wak even let the struggling Milton Bradley stay in the line-up despite having Mike Sweeney available. True to form the Cubs fans rode Bradley all night so perhaps Wakamatsu is letting Bradley face his demons so to speak.

   In the eighth inning Michael Saunders connected for a 2-run blast his 5th of the year and though I have taken a wait and see attitude with the lanky youngster, I think he may just be a good fit for this club. It was once again inspiring to watch Cliff Lee run out to the mound in the late innings just like a kid who loves to play the game and doesn’t want to give his manager a chance to tell him he can’t go back on the field. Lee is definitely a throw-back to a different era and I think his hustle and focus are setting a great example for the young guys like Vargas and Saunders. At this point it seems like it would be a shame to lose Cliff Lee for in addition to his stellar performances on the mound he is setting the tone for the next era of Mariners baseball-Thanks Cliff!

   So the bad news on the night is that Texas won again and are now 17-4 in June leaving the Mariners in their familiar spot of 13 back. On a positive note the Oakland A’s lost and are 10 ½ back so we need to keep our nose to the grindstone and make sure we catch them by the All-Star break. Tomorrow we go for back-to-back sweeps with Felix Hernandez on the mound for a 1240 start on what will hopefully be another beautiful NW day. I don’t know about you but I’m heading down to the Safe with a Wisk- broom to help cheer for a sweep!

Mariners give Chicago the blues 2-0

Jeff and date at Wrigley Field for Mariners game 2007

  The Seattle Mariners won the first game of a three game series at home against the visiting Chicago Cubs 2-0.The Mariners won for their fifth win in a row against former Mariners manager Lou Piniella and the crew from the windy city. Jason Vargas improved his record to 6-2 with his third consecutive win using his change-up to keep the Cubs off-balance in their first trip to Safeco in eight years. As usual the Cubs had a sizeable group of fans at the game tonight and they lived-up to their reputation with cat-calls and boos for Milton Bradley who was a bust with the Cubs. Unfortunately Carlos Silva will not be pitching Thursday as planned so the Mariners fans won’t be able to give him a little welcome back reception of his own. It always amazes how tolerant Seattle fans are when the transplants come out in force for the big East Coast Teams visits to Seattle. As you can see by the picture above I made a trip to Wrigley field three years ago, where I was treated rather poorly by the grumpy Cubs fans. Of course it has been 102 years since the Cubs have won a World Series so I guess they have a right to be a little edgy.

   Tonight the Mariners were able to sneak by the Cubs with great starting pitching by Vargas, good support from the pen, and a 2-run homer off the bat of Franklin Gutierrez in the bottom of the second for the games only runs. It appears that the Mariners would fit right into the National League with their strong starting pitching and good defense. Of course at some point the offense will need to produce more than they have in this 5-game streak, but for now it is just nice to watch our starters baffle the hitters on these NL Clubs. Unfortunately the Texas Rangers won again tonight behind the bat of red-hot Josh Hamilton and so the Mariners remain 13 games back in the AL West. We are closing in on the Oakland A’s however who are 9 games out of first. The way we are playing now it is possible that the M’s could overtake the A’s before the All-Star break which would be a huge moral victory for this club and its loyal fans.

   I heard Jack Zduriencik on the radio before the game and he sounded a lot less evasive and was actually quite honest about the fact that things have not gone as expected this year. I think Jack Z. like a lot of us, sort of hit an emotional bottom a few weeks ago and is now just taking it day by day. Cliff Lee is pitching tomorrow and as we all know Jack Z. is the man who will ultimately be responsible for the decision on whether to trade him or let him go. I have made my opinions known how I feel on this situation and after hearing our GM’s calm and frank demeanor today I am feeling much better on how the situation will be handled.

   If the Cubs felt bad about losing tonight to Jason Vargas, wait till they try to score some runs off our back to back Aces coming their way. Yes indeed tomorrow its Cliff Lee, followed by Felix on Thursday for a day game. Summer comes late in Seattle but when it gets here there is no place in the world this old sailor would rather be, especially with two Aces up your sleeve….

 *note I have made some modifications to my Blog after hearing from some of the readers. I hope this new format is easier to read and more user-friendly. Let me know what you think.

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