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July 6, 2010 at 11:25 PM

Mariners lose the homefield advantage and the game in one Bartman-esque swoop

You play all year for homefield advantage in some sports. But tonight, the Mariners wish at least one of the 17,555 fans at Safeco Field had just decided to stay home and watch soccer. The fan who reached out and grabbed that extra-base hit by Russell Branyan in the eighth was indeed wearing a green soccer warmup sweater and knows a thing or two about kicks — since he got booted right after messing up the home team’s shot at tying the game.
The Royals were all saying afterwards that Ichiro would have scored the tying run from first if not for the fan interference that forced him to halt at third. Right fielder David DeJesus might have reached out and hugged the guy.
The fan, bless him, looked like he tried to high five DeJesus after the latter flipped him the ball as a souvenir. Finally, the fan became the last person in the stadium to realize what a gaffe he’d committed, threw the ball to the ground.
Didn’t do much to win the support of the fans around him. Many of them cheered when security led him away.
Here’s what DeJesus had to say about it: “Once he grabbed it, I said ‘Thanks buddy!’Then, he threw it back on the ground and I just stood there laughing at him.”
Yup. Plenty to laugh at. Hey, this guy isn’t the first to get tossed for interfering with a ball in the field of play. But you generally try not to do it with a game on the line and your team involved in something that might decide the night’s outcome.
Most of you know that already, I’m sure.
But Steve Bartman lives on in the Emerald City. He’s just ditched the glasses, donned some earrings, shaved about 15 years off via plastic surgery, and no longer watches games with earphones on.
Ichiro, as usual, showed up to answer post-game questions. And when I asked him about not following Jack Wilson’s steal of third by taking second base as the trail runner, he had a valid explanation.
“As the trail runner, you want to go,” Ichiro said, through his interpreter. “I wasn’t surprised by Jack going. I had that in my mind. But at the same time, it was a very tough jump for me because I didn’t get to read that situation as well as I could have. It was a tough play.”

Wilson told me he wasn’t surprised at all that Ichiro didn’t take the bag behind him. Wilson doesn’t steal bases very often, but had the green light because of reliever Blake Wood and his 1.7-second delivery time to the plate.
Did Ichiro think he could have scored on Branyan’s double?
“It’s hard for me because I’m the only one on the field who cannot see where the ball was at,” Ichiro said. “I just rely on my third base coach. All I do is run hard and just go with what the judgment is there at third base.”
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu liked the way Ryan Rowland-Smith handled himself tonight. We saw a season-best seven-plus innings out of Rowland-Smith, who left on the short end of a 2-1 score, then saw Sean White give up three hits and a third run charged to the Aussie.
Rowland-Smith said the key was getting ahead of hitters with early strikes. The only time he faltered was in the sixth when he walked a batter and hit Jose Guillen to load the bases. Then ,he couldn’t snare a Wilson Betemit comebacker that deflected off his glove.
I asked Rowland-Smith whether the barrell of Betemit’s broken bat — which flew further than the ball — had distracted him on the play. Rowland-Smith laughed, said it would have been a perfect excuse, but quickly added that, no, it had nothing to do with him not making the play.
Guillen later hurt his quadriceps muscle running to first base on that odd-looking double-play in the eighth. White still couldn’t get out of the inning and gave up a bloop single for a huge 3-1 lead for the Royals.
The fan in the stands also got Royals manager Ned Yost off the hook. Yost pulled Zack Greinke after only 98 pitches even though he was romping all over the Mariners. Greinke had given up just one hard hit ball all night — a single by Jose Lopez in the seventh.
But Yost brought in his torchlighting bullpen and — if not for the fan — likely would have seen a blown save. So, if that fan, whoever he is, ever has a free night in Kansas City, he should phone up the folks at Kauffman Stadium and get himself some free box seats.
As for Safeco Field, it might be a while before he gets back into this place.



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