Here’s Ian Snell’s description of the Mariners’ dugout after Ken Griffey Jr.’s home run in the fifth, which defused a tense situation after Jose Lopez was hit by Oakland rookie pitcher Vin Mazzarro.
“It got us pumped up,” Snell said. “These guys were screaming ‘Toma’ and started jumping up and down and giving high fives.”
In Spanish, “Toma” translates roughly to “Take that!” Any Spanish speakers out there can perhaps give a more precise translation, but I checked with my resident Spanish expert, Seattle Times teammate Jose Romero, and he confirmed the connotation that was explained to us by Snell. That’s Griffey tipping his helmet to the crowd in the photo above after he and Lopez scored on the blast.
It was a moment of sweet retribution, especially for Lopez, who glared at Mazzarro all the way to first base. Griffey followed promptly with what turned out to be the decisive hit of the Mariners’ 3-1 victory, his 625th career homer.
I asked Lopez if he thought Mazzarro hit him on purpose. “I don’t know,” he replied. “Maybe yes, maybe no. It looked bad. I hit a home run the time before, and he hits me. I don’t like that. I don’t do anything when I hit a home run. I just run around the bases. I don’t want to fight, but I was pissed off.”
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, who coached under Oakland manager Bob Geren last year, absolved the A’s.
“”I don’t believe they hit him on purpose,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s a situation where a guy hits a double and a home run and gets hit, and fingers start pointing. I was with the club last year in Oakland and I know their temperament. I don’t know the kid, but I’d like to think that he didn’t hit him on purpose.”
Mazzarro had walked three the previous inning, so it’s reasonable to assume his command wasn’t the greatest.
Said Mazzarro: “I was just trying to get in on him, and it got away from me a little bit.”
Griffey pointed at his mother, Birdie, in the stands as he crossed home plate. Mrs. Griffey was in town for a charity golf tournament.
“She doesn’t get to see very many games live,” he said. “She’s going to take credit for that one.”
Much of the post-game talk was about Snell, who looked sharp in his fifth Mariners’ start. If he can keep showing control like this — two walks, and 60 strikes out of 99 pitches — the Mariners might have something.
“We keep talking about getting better every day,” Wakamatsu said. “That’s two starts in a row where this guy keeps improving. The big thing for me was two walks against an awfully patient ballclub. He kept his pitch count down and attacked the zone. I couldn’t be happier with his outing.”
Geren, on the other hand, damned Snell with faint praise.
“I really felt like we were going to get some runs off him,” he said. “We were on him every inning. The guys had some good swings.”
Snell said he’s starting to feel more and more comfortable in his new surroundings.
“I feel like I’m part of the team,” he said. “I can actually say I’m part of the team. These guys are a great group of guys that help you out. Mike Sweeney has been there the whole time talking to me. It feels good to have that. Griffey is the same way. He’s like a big brother
“It’s great to have those two guys, and the other veterans who have been here, like Silva or Batista who will give you some advice.”
All right, hold your wise cracks, and let Snell continue.
“Griffey is something else. He’s a piece of work. He’s a great teammate. He keeps the clubhouse down to earth. He makes fun of everybody and everybody makes fun of him.”
And tonight, he made Lopez and the rest of the Mariners very, very happy.
(Associated Press photo by Elaine Thompson)