That pile of players you see in the shallow outfield grass is converged around Ken Griffey Jr. after his game-winning single tonight, a ball ripped to the right field corner. That brought Adrian Beltre home from second base with the winning run of a 1-0 game decided in the 14th inning.
It also brought the Mariners storming from their dugout with one target in mind: Griffey, master of the clubhouse humor, putdowns, ticking and other things verbal and physical. Try as he might, fresh legs and all, he couldn’t outrun the mob.
“He’s the big brother around here,” Mike Sweeney said of his fellow designated hitter. “He’ll wrestle Ichiro, pin him down. Throw Rob Johnson in a locker. But as you could tell, the guys were excited to put a beat-down on Junior. It was well-deserved and he’s definitely a big part of the team.”
We’re well beyond the witching hour now. But wow, what a game. I’m still pumped from what I watched from both sides tonight. You don’t see a game like this too often.
“We were talking about that in the dugout,” Sweeney said. “It seemed like both teams were being Houdini in every inning. Bases loaded and one out, get out of it. First and third with one out, get out of it. We pulled that off a couple of times and they did it as well once or twice.”
By the way, Houdini the magician died from what some say was an injury caused after taking a gut punch from a student during a show in my hometown of Montreal. Guess the White Sox felt a bit socked in the gut after this one too, don’t you think? Just thought I’d throw that in there.
“Our pitching and defense came through,” Sweeney said. “Personally, it was the best 0-for-6 of my life because we won and I’m pumped.”
Griffey kept a serious face when asked about the post-game back-slapping of his teammates.
“I’m going to look at the tape and there’s going to be a massacre tomorrow,” Griffey said.
He added: “In all serious, these guys battled all day. The least I can do is go up there and give them a good at-bat.”
Felix Hernandez gave his team seven great innings of scoreless ball. A lot better than some of us even suspected because it turns out he was plagued by leg cramps from the first inning on.
“It felt like, every time I threw a pitch, it was ‘A cramp! A cramp!’,” he said.
But he gutted it through and had a big smile afterwards. He said the pitching duel with Mark Buehrle was fun. And yeah, he was jumping up and down in the clubhouse as the winning run scored.
“It was a great game,” he said. “It was unbelievable.”
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said it was the best-pitched game by two teams that he’d ever been a part of.
“The bullpen was absolutely phenomenal,” Wakamatsu said. “That’s a good hitting ballclub up there and every time somebody comes up, you know they can do damage.”
Both he and Hernandez also agreed the defense from both sides was incredible.
Jack Hannahan made a huge play at shortstop in the 13th on that Carlos Quentin grounder. Remember, Hannahan hasn’t really played shortstop at all before. He was only in there because Jack Wilson pulled his hamstring in the early going.
No word yet on how serious. Wakamatsu was asked if it was day-to-day, but held off on answering. So. perhaps a little bit of bad news. But that was about it on what was a night to remember.
Wakamatsu told me he was ready to let winning pitcher Chris Jakubauskas go back out there for a third inning of relief. After that, it would have been Garrett Olson and Miguel Batista.
So, the bullpen was not as depleted as it could have been. The M’s just have to hope Ian Snell doesn’t pull another early exit against the Yankees tommorow…er, make that tonight.
I’m outta here.