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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

September 3, 2007 at 8:46 AM

Mariners vs. Yankees, Game 1

They played one of those hokey “Rocky music” montages on the scoreboard here during the last pitching change, hoping it would rally the fans and spur a new York comeback. Trouble is, it was a 7-1 game with two out and only one runner on in the eighth. They should save those things for when it means something, otherwise it’s just hokey like I said. They have rules in Anaheim for when the “Rally Monkey” can be invoked.
Anyway, nobody informed the Yankee brass about too much of a “lucky” thing. Bottom line, nothing came of the “rally” effort. The fans sat there looking bored and the Yankees swung their way out of the inning. M’s lead 7-1 behind the solid seven-inning, five-hitter tossed by Felix Hernandez. Seattle is about to move to within a game of the wild-card again. This was exactly the kind of day this team had been hoping for.
Now a 6-1 game after Kenji Johjima doubles home a run in the sixth inning off Mike Mussina, making his first relief appearance since Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, the Aaron Boone home run game I mentioned earlier. Seems that Yankee fans are giving up on this one already, as seen in the Pinstripe Alley blog. On the Bronx Banter site, the outlook for the Yankees is also decidely pessimistic. Check out the comments about Joe Torre in the initial post. Sound like any managers you know of?
This game has been altered very quickly by Jose Lopez getting hit by a Roger Clemens pitch with a runner on third and two out in the fourth. Lopez has been an automatic out of late, but got on base. Yuniesky Betancourt, not exactly an automatic out, then doubled to left field to score both runners for a 4-1 lead. M’s third base coach Carlos Garcia aggressively waved Lopez around and this time it paid off as the runner beat the relay.
Ichiro then drove home the fifth run with a single, his 201st career hit. Make it 5-1 for Seattle heading into the bottom of the fourth. Even Mike Mussina could have pitched better than the Rocket today.
Seconds ago, the Yanks confirmed this report circulating for the past hour that first baseman Andy Phillips fractured his wrist yesterday. Phillips is to undergo surgery and is done for the season. He’s out 4-6 weeks, which means he could be back if the Yanks make the playoffs and go deep. But even then, it’s doubtful he’d return with any impact. He’s done. Something to pay attention to as this playoff race progresses.
Speaking of plays that contenders need to make, Ichiro just tagged a 2-0 pitch from Roger Clemens over the wall in right. Barely over, but it was enough to give his team a 2-1 lead in the third. That was the 200th hit of Ichiro’s career, making him only the third player in MLB history to do that in seven consecutive seasons.
More importantly, it puts his team ahead. The first lead for the M’s since going up 1-0 in the first inning of Friday’s series opener in Toronto.
Raul Ibanez just ended the M’s half of the third by hitting into another double play, a 4-6-3 job. Ibanez was actually safe at first base, but Jose Guillen was finally nabbed for interference on one of his hard slides into second base. So, Ibanez is automatically out.
We might have just seen the double-play of the year from an M’s perspective. The Yankees had two on, none out in the second when Robinson Cano chopped a ball that appeared headed up the middle. Yuniesky Betancourt dove to stop it from going into center field. He then did a backhanded shovel toss to Jose Lopez, who barehanded it for the out at second. Lopez then spun and made a high throw to first — high because he’d barehanded the catch, after all — that Ben Broussard did an excellent job of going up for and snaring. The umpire ruled that Broussard managed to keep his foot on the bag just as Cano arrived. So, a huge twin-killing. If that ball gets through, the Yanks have the lead and could be on to a three-run inning. As it stands, the inning ends on a long fly ball out so it’s still a 1-1 tie. Those are the types of plays contending teams have to make.
We’re tied 1-1 heading to the bottom of the second inning. Felix Hernandez failed to catch a break in the first when A-Rod’s blooper sailed over the head of Yuniesky Betancourt for an RBI single. But the M’s got it back in similar fashion with Jose Lopez chopping a ball into the grass to the right of Roger Clemens, who had no play on it as Raul Ibanez charged home from third with two out. Ibanez had done a nice job advancing to third on a wild pitch to put himself in position to score.
Not a terrible start for the Mariners. Clemens has been hit harder than Hernandez to this point. You get the feeling the M’s could have scored — should have scored — more than the one run in the second, having put runners at the corners with only one out. But they were fortunate to get the run that they did.
Here we are, on a hot and sunny day in the Bronx. No turning back now for the Mariners. This is where they wanted to be — where any team wants to be come September — playing a meaningful game at Yankee Stadium. Seattle would have preferred to contend for the AL West title but it’s too late now. The M’s are a legitimate wild-card contender and have to start playing like one beginning this afternoon or the whole contender thing will be short-lived.
Mariners manager John McLaren told us this has been his toughest time in all his years of baseball. Remember, that includes the Devil Rays stint.
McLaren insists he’s closely monitored the clubhouse and sees no “warning signs” of a defeatist attitude setting in. He had a closed-door meeting with the players yesterday, but stressed that he is maintaining the patient approach for now. The time to start yelling, he said, is when the players stop giving an effort on the field. That hasn’t happened yet, he insisted.
Ran into Jose Guillen in a stadium corridor during batting practice. He’s normally pretty talkative before games, but smiled this time and said he needed to go to the clubhouse to take care of business.
“There’s been too much losing,” he said, as if to explain his departure.
One of you, maybe “Oregongal”, asked me whether I’d heard that McLaren is on a short leash and that a star candidate will be brought in next year. No, I have not heard that. I’d actually heard a month ago that McLaren was going to be here for a long time and that some players had been told that. They were trying to build a system here in Seattle, and that requires consistency, not continuous managerial changes. McLaren was their guy, I was told. Could that change if this losing streak hits 12, 13 or 15 games? Possibly, I suppose. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that McLaren will be evaluated on how well he holds this clubhouse together during times of crisis. Any sign of a mutiny could obviously cause folks to rethink any long-term plans. But it doesn’t appear to be at that stage yet.
I’ve witnessed my share of big moments in this ballpark and can tell you that there is no atmosphere quite like it. I watched the Mariners get eliminated here back in 2001, the Bleacher Creatures chanting “Over…rated!” at Ichiro as he stood in right field over the final innings of the ALCS clincher. Saw George Bush throw out the first pitch at the World Series that year, with all the post-9/11 nervousness going on inside the stadium and fear of an anthrax attack in the subways outside. Watched Byung-Hyun Kim serve up game-tying, two-out blasts in the ninth inning on consecutive nights during that World Series, feeling the ground shake under my feet after the second of those.
Saw Roger Clemens throw a shard of broken bat at Mike Piazza in the opener of the 2000 Subway Series with the crosstown Mets, much as he’d tried to intimidate Alex Rodriguez in Game 4 of the ALCS at Safeco Field that year. Watched Darryl Strawberry cry tears of joy as I stood on the field after Game 4 of the 1999 Fall Classic, the last time the Yankees wrapped up a title on their home turf (believe it or not).
Sat in disbelief during the 2003 ALCS as Aaron Boone went deep in extra innings of Game 7 to break Boston’s heart yet again. Was back a year later, an air of fatalism and non-comprehension filling the electric air as the Red Sox completed a comeback from 0-3 down.
Those were big moments. This one is like a prelude to something bigger. But you get to write your own history in this place. The Yankees have been in the post-season every year since 1995, through three presidential terms and possibly a fourth. If the M’s want that to change, to alter history, it starts right here.
If not, they become an historical footnote.
Clemens is going for the Yanks today. Felix Hernandez has to rise to the occasion. The M’s have Horacio Ramirez going against Chien Mien Wang tomorrow night. You tell me how big today’s game is.
The lineups:
NEW YORK (76-61)
LF Johnny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
RF Bobby Abreu
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH Hideki Matsui
C Jorge Posada
1B Jason Giambi
2B Robinson Cano
CF Melky Cabrera
RHP Roger Clemens
SEATTLE (73-62)
CF Ichiro
DH Jose Vidro
RF Jose Guillen
LF Raul Ibanez
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Ben Broussard
C Kenji Johjima
2B Jose Lopez
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
RHP Felix Hernandez
HP Gerry Davis (crew chief)
1B Greg Gibson
2B Larry Vanover
3B Tony Randazzo



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