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March 25, 2012 at 12:20 AM

Mariners downplaying defeat after adjusting to new atmosphere, hitters they didn’t know

Let’s not get too carried away with analyzing this one defeat suffered by the Mariners here to the Hanshin Tigers.
Yeah, we saw Hector Noesi give up a two-run homer to a guy who is 43 years old — almost the same as manager Eric Wedge — and turns 44 in two weeks. And yes, some of those runners stranded in the early going looked a lot like what we’ve seen the previous two seasons.
But it’s important to remember: the Mariners just got off a trans-Pacific flight less than two days ago. They’ve been running around here trying to get a semblance of normalicy and had to face a team they knew very little about.

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Under those conditions, a Mulligan is probably warranted.
“We did our best to pitch inside a little bit and strike some people out,” Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo said in the post-game interview room afterward. “But that home run, when that happened, we didn’t have any scouting report for that guy.
That guy, Tomoaki Kanemoto, is, as we mentioned, old enough to be Noesi’s dad. He’s also pretty darned good, having clubbed 430 career homers in the Japanese league, the most ever by a left-handed hitter who throws right handed. They say he also holds the world record for consecuritve games played without missing an inning — a total of 1,492, ending on April 18, 2010.
His streak of 1,766 consecutive games played ended 11 months ago. Kanemoto battled a sore shoulder for much of last season and his numbers took a hit. He’d been hitting just .192 this spring with zero home runs in 11 games until today.
“I am relieved to hit a home run before the start of the regular season,” he said.
Still, the guy is considered a bit of a stud here. So, Noesi doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of.
“I was checking everything with Olivo,” Noesi said. “But we didn’t know their hitters. I tried to do my best with what I had.”

The Mariners also had to adjust to the different atmosphere of having fans chanting and cheering the entire time their opponents were hitting. Hanshin supporters in the left field bleachers were banging drums, blaring trumpets, singing songs and barking out cheers in unison throughout every pitch.
“It was awesome,” said Michael Saunders, who had a single in the third inning as the Mariners loaded the bases with one out before coming up empty. “It felt like — I’ve never seen it before except on TV — but it was almost like a European soccer game. They’re extremely enthusiastic, obviously they have a lot of fun and they take a lot of pride.
“I had a lot of fun. It’s good baseball, obviously and they take a lot of pride and have a lot of passion for the game.”
Let’s all remember, this one didn’t count. It may have felt like a regular season game because of the big stadium, the huge crowd and the regular M’s lineup. But it counts like any other Cactus League affair.
Back here soon to do it all over again.



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