The Skipper Eric Wedge put a lineup together today that was more reflective of the actual guys who will be starting the 2012 season for us today, and our sailors manged to overcome the lingering effects of the jet-lag from their jaunt to Japan as well as a four run deficit to come back and win 6-4 over the young hot-hitting Kansas City Royals. There was a nice crowd of 5,400 on hand in the sun down in Peoria as they watched the Mariners improve to 14-8 in Cactus League play
Blake Beavan looked good early but left the game down 4-0 before the Mariners exploded for six runs in the bottom of the sixth. Miguel Olivo had a big three-run shot to highlight the rally followed by a solo homer off the bat of Kyle Seager. Seager looks more comfortable at the plate this year and seems to be shifting his body weight better as he swings which has been a big reason for his four homers this year. Chone Figgins looked his usual dismal self going 0-4 today as the clock begins to click on him as far as staying with the club this season with youngsters like Seager hot on his tail.
Munenori Kawasaki got the start today at short and delivered with a 3-4 outing at the plate showing why the Mariners have chosen him to be their utility infielder this year over Luis Rodriguez. I was also happy to see Casper Wells stroke a nice ground-rule double in the eighth inning to give him a little confidence going into the regular season. Often times it takes the hitters a little longer than the pitchers to get up to regular season form, and it appeared today as if Wells may be starting to catch-up with the fastball.
The rhythm for this years Spring Training has been thrown-off a bit by the trip to Japan for the series with the Oakland A’s, so it was nice to see most of the regulars looking on-track for the second “Season Opener” with the A’s later in the week. Of course due to the genius of the Mariners marketing folks we will be hyped about another “Season Opener” when the Mariners get home from their first road trip and play the same Oakland A’s on April 13th. So this year we get a total of three ” Season Openers” against the same team!
I’m still working hard to get all the bugs ironed out of my Mariners Blog and I hope to be ready to role for the second “Season Opener” down in Oakland! If you haven’t already subscribed to my e-mail alert system please do so now so,it’s easy to do and that way you won’t have to wait around for the latest rants from my bunker here in Wallingford! Go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com
I made my final trek of the year from Fremont down to Safeco Field tonight and was rewarded with a pitching gem by Jason Vargas combined with a couple of timely homers by Miguel Olivo and Justin Smoak in the 4-2 win. I usually attend about 15 games a year so I can experience the sensation of watching Major League baseball live even though I invariably spend $75 each time when I could probably just watch all the games on TV. But there is something about the sound of the ball off the bat and the smells and energy of a home game that is comforting to me and tonight it did the trick.
I grabbed a $3o seat outside the park as usual then began my migration around the stadium resting in six different spots including the Hit it Here Cafe for dinner as well as a couple innings in the bullpen area. I usually don’t interact much with the other fans and prefer to roam around checking things out as if I owned the Safe. And why not after all these years of following this club through thick and thin not to mention all the money I have spent I kind of feel entitled.
I showed up earlier than usual and watched the A’s take BP down with a swarm of Japanese tourists who still fly over here year after year to catch a glimpse of their hero Ichiro. I was kind of in awe as I noticed how big and graceful the players looked from the ground level and maybe for the first time in my life watched a game as if I wasn’t in it and was just observing a game played by a group of men who I will never speak to. It was kind of sad watching this game with the cool damp air and empty seats reminding me that again it is time to settle in for another long wet winter in Seattle after another long losing season.
Jason Vargas used his new delivery with the added twist to his advantage tonight and fanned 10 A’s only allowing 5 hits and 1 run in the first inning to finish strong in 2011. Miguel Olivo also had a nice night belting a solo shot to tie the game in the fifth off A’s starter Brandon McCarthy and adding a double in the sixth. With his 19th homer Olivo passes Dan Wilson and Kenji Johjima to set the record for home runs by a catcher since the Mariners came to Seattle in 1977. Oliva has played with heart all season and barring an offseason trade deserves to come into camp next year as the starting catcher for this club.
The big blow in the game came in the sixth when Justin Smoak smashed a 2-out 3-run bomb to right for his 15th homer of his injury plagued season. Smoak should be able to hit 25 home runs next year if he can stay healthy and is another guy who comes into camp as a starter in 2012. The real question marks in my mind are left and third where things are up in the air and possibly the spots where we could add a more seasoned player with a proven history of producing at the plate this winter. We shall see what Jack Z. comes up this winter but for now I am emotionally detaching from this season and preparing for what looks to be an exciting postseason in baseball.
With the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays now tied for the AL wild card there is still some suspense left and I was watching the scoreboard all night at the Safe including the Cardinals Astros game which ended up going to Houston denying the Cards the chance to catch the Braves who lost tonight. Also of note our old friend Doug Fister won his 7th straight game since being traded to Detroit and is billed as their #2 starter going forward which is hard to believe after watching him pitch here the past couple of seasons. Fister is a nice enough guy and never complained while pitching here about his lack of run support so I am happy for him.
I will be writing my final Mariners Blog post of 2011 Tuesday night as I am flying to Italy Wednesday for a business/pleasure trip and won’t be around for the final game of the season. I hope to put together a more comprehensive season overview with thoughts on 2012 when I get back on Oct. 11th along with some postseason Sea-stories once I finally pick my bandwagon team for 2011. See you next year Safeco Field. Go M’s http://jeffsmariners.com