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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

April 13, 2012 at 2:00 PM

When last we left Safeco Field…

…it was Sept. 28, 2011. The Mariners played the A’s, of course, because that’s what they do. They’ll be playing the A’s again tonight in the home opener, 6 1/2 months later, having traveled to another continent to play the A’s in the interim.

That was a significant day in baseball, Sept. 28. Some call it the most exciting single day in the history of the sport, with pennant races coming down to the final game, final inning, final play, all around the majors. But that excitement didn’t reach Seattle, where the Mariners fittingly finished their season with a 2-0 loss to the A’s. It was their 95th loss. They managed two hits. The loudest noise came when the Rays won their game with a walk-off homer to clinch a playoff berth, which many fans were following in the way fans follow games these days.

Here is the box score, for all you nostalgics. I’m going to ramble here for a second as I peruse the box:

Anthony Vasquez started that game, and I still can’t for the life of me figure out why the Mariners let Vasquez start seven games, bless his heart. He lasted two innings in this one, giving up one homer and striking out one. He finished the year with 13 strikeouts and 13 homers allowed, a stat that I’m afraid will haunt him the rest of his career.

Adam Kennedy started the game at DH, which tells you a lot about the 2011 Mariners, who went scoreless in their final 20 innings. Need I add the word “fittingly”?

Trayvon Robinson played left and went 0-for-4 with three strikouts. In his final 15 at-bats of the season, Robinson struck out nine times. In his final 29 games, he hit .144, all of which explain why he’s with Tacoma tonight.

Ichiro hit leadoff in that game, the last time he’s done that. Eric Wedge had already started dropping hints that week that Ichiro would be moving out of the top spot, and here we are, one week into the grand experiment of Ichiro hitting third. So far, not bad.

Kyle Seager, who is blossoming into a hitter to be reckoned with, went 0-for-3 in that game, which isn’t notable. Virtually the entire team had an 0-fer, except for since-departed Chris Gimenez, who had a single in the third, and Alex Liddi, who doubled with two outs in the seventh. No, here’s what caught my eye about Seager as I perused the box score: In three at-bats, he saw three pitches.

Dustin Ackley went 0-for-4, ending a dud of a finish for him in an otherwise promising rookie year. Ackley hit .219 with a .598 OPS in September, and has begun this year hitting .258 with a .668 OPS. But those are just numbers. I really have little doubt that Ackley is going to be fine, and by season’s end will have emerged as one of the better second basemen in the league (if he’s still a second baseman by season’s end — to anticipate what I expect to be an increasingly hot topic).

–The game drew 20,173 fans, ending the lowest attended season in Safeco history, the first one under 2 million. There will be a full house out there tonight, but I’m curious to see how many they draw on Saturday and Sunday. The real test, however, will come Tuesday against Cleveland — a mid-week night game against a blah opponent with the kids back in school after spring break. That should give the first clue about how the Mariners will draw this year.

Mostly, looking at that box score reminded me that there’s always renewed hope in the fledgling days of a season. That box score from Sept. 28 just reeked of dullness and lack of luster and the feeling of relief that a long, ineffectual season was over. But now, there are some things to maybe, just maybe, hang your hat on if you’re a Mariners’ fan. We’ll find out in September.



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