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April 6, 2009 at 6:49 PM

Mariners at Minnesota Twins: 04/06 opening day thread

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Franklin Gutierrez just clubbed a two-run homer to center to give the M’s a 4-1 lead. It looked as if center fielder Carlos Gomez had made a miraculous, leaping catch at the wall. But the cheers turned to groans when the crowd realized Gomez did not have the ball. Felix Hernandez is back out to work the bottom of the sixth. Huge blast for Gutierrez, as Hernandez needed the breathing room.
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As you can see, we’re sitting right on top of the fans here. Waiting for some M’s fans to come on over and say hello. Been getting tons of email from M’s fans in Minneapolis, stuff like restaurant invites and recommendations.
Down below, a video showing the Mariners as they took the field for pre-game warm-ups.

There’s something special about Opening Day where the players are concerned. Even non-players, like former closer John Wetteland, were wired beforehand. Wetteland kept pacing the clubhouse and the corridors outside. Bullpen catcher Jason Phillips, who retired a week or so ago and took up his new position — an entry to the coaching ranks — was in the dugout long before team stretch, shin guards strapped on and ready to go. New manager Don Wakamatsu took plenty of phone calls, including one from former manager Buck Showalter, whose staff he was on in Texas.
“It brought back a lot of memories, being in the same dugout with him,” Wakamatsu said. “I really appreciated him calling me today.”
Wakamatsu was asked whether Showalter had any words of advice.
“He said ‘Do not stumble on the turf’.”
I spoke to Matt Tuiasosopo, a surprise addition to the club after Ichiro went on the DL. Tuiasosopo, of course, was a September call-up last year. But he admitted that making the team out of spring training was special.
“It’s a little different than September because you feel like you’re part of the team,” he said. “I worked really hard this off-season. I had to lose 10 pounds, so I really got after it. In Arizona, too. I did what I had to do.”
Believe it or not, no one from Tuiasosopo’s sports-inclined family made the trip out here. Part of it had to do with his last-minute addition.
“My dad said he was going to look into some flights,” he said. “But in the end, it didn’t pan out.”
His folks are, however, planning to meet up with him in Oakland later this week.
Not quite the same with the Jakubauskas family after favored son, Chris, made the squad as a long reliever. This is one of those Movie of the Week moments, where a guy in the Frontier League two years ago makes the majors. Remember, Jakubauskas wasn’t even a pitcher in college. He switched back to pitching for the first time since high school after his bat deserted him.
Last check, Jakubauskas was to have his parents, sister, and maybe even his grandparents show up here from Southern California.
“It really hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” said Jakubauskas, who arrived here early today in order to “soak it all in.”
The lineups:
LF Endy Chavez
CF Franklin Gutierrez
DH Mike Sweeney
3B Adrian Beltre
RF Ken Griffey Jr.
2B Jose Lopez
1B Russell Branyan
C Kenji Johjima
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
RHP Felix Hernandez
LF Denard Span
2B Alexi Casilla
RF Michael Cuddyer
1B Justin Morneau
DH Jason Kubel
3B Joe Crede
CF Carlos Gomez
C Mike Redmond
SS Nick Punto
LHP Francisco Liriano

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6:41 p.m.: Felix Hernandez was fortunate to escape a bases loaded, none out jam in the fifth, giving up just a lone run on three hits and a walk. Hernandez got a key double-play grounder (4-6-3) off clean-up man Justin Morneau to keep a 2-1 lead heading to the sixth.
Hernandez is up to 73 pitches. I don’t know if he’ll be allowed another.
6:32 p.m.: Ken Griffey Jr. just tied Frank Robinson for first-place all-time with his eighth Opening Day home run. It’s Griffey’s first in nine years with the M’s and his 399th for this franchise all-time. His shot was a no-doubter over the right field wall, giving Seattle a 2-0 lead as we head to the bottom of the fifth.
Griffey is doing it all tonight. A little “small ball” early on and now some “big ball” when his team needed an offensive boost. Francisco Liriano had retired nine in a row to that point.
6:23 p.m.: Quite a battle brewing through four innings here, as Felix Hernandez takes a 1-0 lead into the fifth. Hernandez is limping noticeably between innings after twiting his ankle back in the first. But he’s setting down the Twins nicely. Keeping the ball down. You’ve probably noticed how often Kenji Johjima has had to pick balls out of the dirt tonight. No accident. As long as there’s no one on base, you can keep doing that. No sign of all the homers Hernandez gave up in spring training.
Just two hits allowed by Hernandez so far, both of them singles. His pitch count is only 59, so he should go at least five. Not sure if he’ll get much further, though, the way his ankle seems to be bothering him between pitches. We’ll see.
Francisco Liriano is also settling into a nice groove. He’s retired nine in a row — five on grounders — since that Adrian Beltre double in the second.
5:48 p.m.: And the Mariners get on the board first, with Jose Lopez — who else? — coming through with the sacrifice fly to foul territory in left. I’m a little surprised that left fielder Denard Span made a play on the ball, given that it was clearly deep enough to get the run in. Lopez would have had two strikes on him, but outfielders are trained to catch the ball, not let it drop.
Adrian Beltre had led the inning off with a double off the wall in right. Ken Griffey Jr. then did one of those “little things” we discussed, by moving Beltre to third on a grounder to the right side. So, it’s 1-0 for the M’s as we head to the bottom of the second. Let’s see how Hernandez’s ankle looks after it had a chance to sit idle — and perhaps swell up — in the dugout between innings.
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5:32 p.m.: That was quite the first inning, which the Mariners somehow got out of without giving up a run. Felix Hernandez, of course, was hobbling around on a sore ankle after twisting it while chasing that Jason Kubel chopper that bounced foul. Hernandez caught a break that inning when first base umpire Chuck Meriweather ruled Justin Morneau out at first on a grounder. Morneau appeared safe. Instead of runners at the corners with one out, there were two on and two out.
After Hernandez was visited on the mound by his manager and trainer Rick Griffin, he struck Kubel out on a pitch in the dirt. Two K’s for Hernandez in the inning.
The M’s had two groundouts and a Mike Sweeney strikeout in the first. Francisco Liriano needed only 13 pitches. The M’s will have to make him work harder.



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