A day to remember and another day to forget

Lou Piniella and Mariners after 9-11 2001

Today is a day to look back and remember and honor those lost in the tragedy of 9-11 2001. The photo to the left shows the Seattle Mariners in a spontaneous showing of love for their country with an American flag raised at Safeco field. That day changed the world as we knew it and things have never been the same.

Things have never been the same  for baseball in Seattle since the 116 win season in 2010 either,  and today was more of  the same as the Rainiers lost 5-1 at Safeco, while the parent club lost 7-4 in Anaheim.

The Rainiers were never able to get anything going today against former Mariner 37 year-old Brett Tomko who went 6 scoreless innings in front of a crowd(?) of 983 fans. As a result the Rainiers must win tomorrow at Safeco against the pesky Sacramento River Cats or their season is over.

Meanwhile down in Anaheim the Mariners were unable to get it done for their Ace Felix Hernandez who now goes to 11-11, and may very well be out of the hunt for the Cy Young award. As usual the Mariners offense could not produce any offense  until it was too late, scoring 4 runs in the last two innings after Hernandez had already been pulled by manager Daren Brown.

  On the bright side Ichiro still looks like he is on pace to get 200 hits this year as he spanked a 3-run homer in the 8th and had a chance to do the same in the 9th with 2-on but lined-out to end the game.

  Another nice development as of late has been the play of Chone Figgins who not only got a couple of hits tonight, but continues to show some real flair in the field and on the bases. While this day like most of the rest of the season will be another to shove back in to our already overflowing holding tanks of misery, it does seem that there is a nucleus of players between the Rainiers and Mariners that could be part of an improved club in 2012. This offseason may not be as busy as last year’s but with perhaps a couple of free agents from other teams we may be able to compete next year. Notice I said “compete” not win, yes folks I am breaking through my denial and realize we are still a few years away from a playoff team no matter what happens this winter.

   Anyway I know most of you are already switching gears to football given the state of the baseball in the NW, so if you happen to be downtown after the Seahawks game Sunday and are still hungry for action, walk over to Safeco and cheer on the Rainiers at 7pm.

  In closing I hope everyone takes time to once again honor those who died on Sept. 11 2001 and the servicemen and women who fought in or are still fighting the  subsequent conflicts abroad , whether you supported the decision to fight them or not.  I particularly want to salute my nephew Eric Lawson who served twice in Iraq with the Air Force, as well as all the Merchant Mariners who are entrusted with carrying the nation’s war goods in times of conflict.http://jeffsmariners.com

Big Papi home run derby champ

David Ortiz aka Big Papi

  David Ortiz won the home run derby down in Anaheim tonight beating out an impressive field of mashers including Hanley Ramirez also from the Dominican Republic who finished second. Ortiz otherwise known as “Big Papi” had a slow start this year and there was even talk in the media that he wouldn’t stay on the roster for the rest of the campaign. But unlike Ken Griffey Jr, Ortiz was given a chance to redeem himself which he has, and tonight he showed the whole world that he still has what it takes to carry a team on his broad shoulders. Ortiz is a gentle-giant type of guy with a warm smile and a huge heart to go along with his powerful swing. It is worth mentioning that Corey Hart from the Brewers hit 13 dingers in the first round of the competition before fading in the second round.

   It was nice to see the players with their children out on the field tonight as they put on a show of raw power, timing, and graceful swings before the AllStar game on Tuesday. The All-Star game was first played in 1933 in Chicago and the National League holds a 40-38-2 lead overall despite the fact that the American League has won 12 of the last 13 games. The All-Star game brings all the best players together for one game in a celebration of our National pastime. It is also a time to reflect on the games past great players and take a break from the grind of a long season.

  In light of the dismal season the Mariners are having in 2010 it was a bit painful to see Cliff Lee suited up along with Adrian Beltre who is having a great year for the Red Sox. Another former Mariner Arthur Rhodes now with the Reds is getting his first start in the mid-summer classic at the age of 40 which is a wonderful story. And just as I was beginning to feel sorry for myself and our languishing Mariners, Bobby Valentine mentioned Ichiro and that he should be in the home run derby! Also right after the camera panned on the great HOFer Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan mentioned the possibility of Ken Griffey Jr. showing up and how past greats were voted on to the team in their last seasons. But alas Griffey is gone but not forgotten by those that follow this game from around the country, which made watching Lee and Beltre a little more palatable.

  Ichiro will be our sole representative on the AL squad this year and will be batting in his familiar spot as lead-off hitter. Ichiro was named the MVP in a memorable All-Star game in 2007 when he hit the only inside the park home run in the history of the annual game. Ken Griffey Jr. was MVP himself way back in 1993, and Randy Johnson was the starting pitcher back in 1997 while he was in his prime pitching for the Mariners.

  So this game which will decide the home-field advantage for this year World Series may not be all about our beautiful section of this country, but it will be a fun and great tribute to the game and its best players. Yes the Mariners are still in the cellar of the AL West, but for one night it is time to put all of our misery aside and enjoy this wonderful game, and try to remember it is indeed just a game. Http://jeffsmariners.com

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! http://jeffsmariners.com

Mariners keep hope alive with 5-1 win

Ichiro Fans going crazy after homer June 19,Safeco Field

    The Seattle Mariners beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-1 tonight behind the pitching of Felix Hernandez who went all the way, and home runs from Ichiro and Michael Saunders. The surprising Reds who have been at or near the top of the NL central all year were held to 5 hits and struck-out 9 times tonight as they slipped to 1 ½ games out of first. For the Mariners it was their third win in a row and the first time all month they have scored more than four runs in a game. Tonight was singles night at Safeco and the crowd became more festive as the night wore on. It has been awhile since the Mariners faithful have given themselves permission to let go and have some fun, like the young fans in the photo that went wild when Ichiro hit a solo-shot in the bottom of third.

   Meanwhile Felix Hernandez for the second outing in a row showed the swagger that he displayed last year allowing the Mariners offense time to come to life. The Reds starter Sam LeCure dropped to 1-4 though he pitched well outside of the long-ball that Ichiro hit in the third, until the Mariners came to life in the sixth inning. Jose Lopez opened up the bottom of the 6th with a single to center followed by a double off the bat of Franklin Gutierrez to give the Mariner runners at second and third with no outs, and the game knotted at 1-1. For a minute it looked like once again the M’s were going to come up empty-handed as Josh “Paper boy” Wilson failed to deliver and instead lined out to first. Casey Kotchman was then intentionally walked as the Reds tried to get out of the inning with a double play. Rob Johnson was able to put the Mariners up by a run with a sacrifice fly to center, and you could sense the relief in the crowd after so many disappointing bases loaded situations this year.

   With two runners aboard the tall lanky kid from Canada with two down and two men aboard, proceeded to slam a three-run homer to right which sent the fans into a frenzy as finally someone had delivered a clutch home run. Felix Hernandez went into overdrive after being given a 4-run lead and for the second night in a row the Mariners starter went the distance. Chone Figgins also had a big night and went 3-4 hitting the ball hard as well as covering a lot of ground at second.

   In addition to the young Michael Saunderish looking guys with Ichiro spelt  on their chests I saw a group of older Japanese fans out in right field who were whooping it up tonight as well. A couple of the older Japanese gentlemen came over at one point in the game to shake hands and take photos of the “Ichiro Boys”. It was fun out in the right-field corner tonight on singles night. I didn’t meet the woman of my dreams but I had fun and even felt that elusive home-town pride in our ballclub. Jack Z. stated he was not going to make any decisions on trades till after the games with the Cubs and Reds. So for one more night the flickering flame of hope is still alive, and if we can keep rolling we may not need to replace that flame with a fire-sale next month.http://jeffsmariners.com

Thank God for June! Mariners win 7-1

 Since 1977  there has only been one month that the Seattle Mariners have played above .500, that month is JUNE!  And tonight behind the strong pitching of Jason Vargas the Mariners started off the month of June with a 7-1 win over the Twins. And since it is June the Mariners bats right woke-up right on que and delivered 13 hits, including 3 by Ichiro who leads the AL All-Star balloting for outfielders. But unlike so many other games this year, Chone Figgins was right behind him with two hits of his own. Figgins is slowly bringing up his average and no longer looks like he is just trying to draw a walk. 

  Jose Lopez  has been coming around as well lately and tonight had a couple of hits including a 2-run homer off a 3-2 fastball in the 4th inning. The Mariners were to explode for 4 runs in the 4th and gave Vargas the support he has been lacking most of the year. Vargas only gave up the one run on a solo blast to Justin Morneau, who is having a career year thus far and may find his way to the All-Star game if he keeps up his torrid pace, batting .374 after tonight. 

  Eliezer Alfonso got the start tonight behind the plate and picked-up a couple hits, and seemed to work well with Vargas. At the risk of repeating myself from earlier posts I have to say the Rob Johnson experiment has run its course. The only Mariner to not get on base tonight was Michael Saunders and I look to see Milton Bradley back in left tomorrow. tonight’s victory over the AL Central leading Twins was one of the better games on the year for the Mariners. We got to see great pitching, good defense, and a well-balanced offense.

  Shawn Kelley continues to be the most consistent pitcher in the pen, and tonight was no different as he came into the game in the 8th and retired the dangerous middle of the order of the Twins. Garrett Olson got the ball in the 9th and put the Twins down in order to close the gate. Time will tell if Olson has improved enough to stick around the big club, but tonight he looked sharp in relief.

  So June is here and the gloomy, painful month of May is behind us. We are 7 games back in the AL West with Cliff Lee then Felix Hernandez in line to take the ball and hopefully help  get  another little roll going. They say summer doesn’t start in Seattle till July 5th and this may be true, however June is the month that the  Mariners traditionally warm-up and I don’t see any reason this year won’t be the same. http://jeffsmariners.com 

Rays Sting Mariners 3-2

Tropicana Field home of the Rays

Willy Aybar lifted a home-run to right field off of Jesus Colome in the bottom of the 9th, delivering another crushing late-inning loss to the Mariners today at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. Jason Vargas dueled with Rays starter James Shields until he was lifted in the 8th for Brandon League. Once again Vargas was sharp and it appears Don Wakamatsu can’t come up with the right timing on when to pull a starter or a reliever.Perhaps he has been over-relying on statistical information rather than going with a gut-feeling. Anyway you look at it this game goes into the already overloaded category of tough-losses for the year.

The Mariners started out frisky in the 1st inning for the second game in a row, thanks to Chone Figgins who scored on a single he stretched into a double, followed by an overthrow on a pick-off attempt, and then a wild-pitch. I have said it before but want reiterate that I believe Figgins should be batting lead-off. He manufactured a run in the 1st on sheer hustle and daring. But I suppose there is some sort of “Belief System” thing that DonSpockWakamatsu has going with leaving Ichiro batting first. Ichiro is hot and had a couple more hits today, but I’d like to see him batting second or third where he could drive in some runs.

Incredibly Mike Sweeney hit a home-run today for his third day in a row and has filled in fine at DH as Ken Griffey watches from the bench for now. I would also like to Sweeney put on a glove and give him a game or two at first base to keep his bat in the lineup when Milton Bradley come back. Matt Tuiasosopo played first and looked awkward there and went hitless along with Saunders and Josh Wilson.

It appeared that the Mariners were going to pull this one out in the 9th when Adam Moore beat out an infield hit and Ichiro lashed a bullet to right , but Moore apparently had injured himself on the play at first and thus limped into second rather than making it to 3rd. The Mariners wasted this scoring opportunity and left the door open for the Rays to win the game in the bottom half of the 9th on Aybar’s fatal blow. Moore appears to be ok but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Josh Bard or  Eliezer Alfonzo get called up from Tacoma soon.

On a positive note both in this game and the last one in Baltimore though heart-breakers , our team showed guts and fighting spirit right up till the end. As a fan these games take the wind out of my sails for a few hours before I’m able to gather my thoughts and put up my daily post-game wrap-up. The players on the other-hand are a lot more involved, and somehow have to get over these sort of games in a professional manner and suit up again the next day ready to play. Our guys are playing with heart and I hope those of us who are true-fans can stay behind them for the rest of the campaign despite the ups and downs.http://jeffsmariners.com

Lee Throws Smoke, Mariners Choke lose 2-0 in 12

Cliff Lee took the mound  tonight for the Seattle Mariners and was everything we have been anticipating and more. He threw 7 innings of 3-hit shut out ball against division rival the Texas Rangers in what turned out to be a wasted performance as the Mariners went on to lose this one in 12 innings. Fortunately the Mariners are playing in a division where the top two teams are tied at .500 and thus our boys are only a half a game back!

  The first 20,ooo fans who came out on this chilly night  got a Felix Hernandez bobble-head doll along with another nail-biter that almost had a play-off type atmosphere as it went on and on and on….. For some reason Wak brought our closer in to pitch the top of the 9th and since we didn’t score, the ball got handed to Brandon League who by all rights should have got the win, if only…we could have executed.

 How we lost this one I will never know as it looked like we had it in the 10th when Griffey lead off with a single, then Bradley doubled and suddenly we had runners on second and third with no outs. Kotchman came up and on a weird check-swing popped out to third. The Rangers then intentionally walked the bases loaded to get to Wilson who was sat down and Sweeney came in to pinch hit with 1 out and the bases loaded. Right away he hit into a double play and that was that. Brandon League did his job in the top half of the 11th and once again opportunity came knocking.

 Ichiro lead off the top of the 11th with hir third hit of the night, Figgins  bunted for a base hit and it looked like we were in business again. Gutierrez our best hitter was asked to bunt and he tried but eventually struck out and Lopez walked. Eric Byrnes who had replaced Ken Griffey in the previous inning as a pinch runner came up with another chance to end this one. Instead Wak put on the suicide squeeze sign, but sadly Byrnes couldn’t get any wood on the ball and Ichiro got nailed at the plate. Byrnes went down after that and another 5,ooo fans headed for the exits.

  By then you knew lady luck was not on our side tonight, and sure enough the Rangers were able to score a couple of cheap runs off a couple infield plays that could have gone our way coupled with a throwing error from Tui and a wild pitch. By the time the bottom of the 12th came those of us who hadn’t left or perhaps were too stunned to move as was the case with me, got to watch the Mariners go down in order and that was it.

  But again on the bright side Cliff Lee pitched well and we are only a half game out of first place! I can tell this is going to be an interesting year and not one for the timid of spirit. http://jeffsmariners.com

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