The lineups are out and Franklin Gutierrez is back in there. The trick will be to see whether he’s in the lineup tomorrow night. Raul Ibanez is sitting for a second straight day despite there being a right-handed starter on the mound. Endy Chavez will be in left field.
One thing I’m watching right now is early batting practice and there are several Mariners’ regulars in attendance, including Ibanez, Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales and others. Pretty much the entire team is out there.
That’s good to see because, as we mentioned earlier, it’s time for this team to get down to work. And nothing like a little early work to set the proper, serious mood. The time for messing around is over with. If the Mariners are to keep this season from going off the rails, they have to make a stand here in Houston. Not sure whether it was an ordered mandatory early BP or not, but like I said, there didn’t appear to be any no-shows.
They have the roof opened here at Minute Maid Park, which is the first time I’ve ever seen it that way. I covered the World Series here in 2005 and then a Mariners series back in 2007 — right around the time Mike Hargrove secretly informed the Mariners he’d be leaving in another 10 days or so — but the roof was always closed. This place was called Enron Field back then, but they’ve since changed it for obvious reasons. I’d actually forgotten it could open until I walked in here today and was treated to the sight you see in the photo above.
Another thing I think of when I see this ballpark? That mammoth home run hit by Albert Pujols of the Cardinals back in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS to extend the series. The Astros were down 4-2 in the ninth and one out away from going to the World Series and the entire ballpark was ready to break into celebration before Pujols shocked them with a three-run homer that nearly landed in Dallas. The Astros wound up winning the next game and the series, but not before this entire town had a major meltdown over nearly blowing it. Remember, our discussion this morning about two-strike hitting and never giving in?
Pujols didn’t give in that day (though it wasn’t a two-strike homer), just like his team didn’t give in six years later in beating the Texas Rangers in the World Series upon being down to their final strike.
There’s a reason guys like Pujols transcend statistics and why good teams get to where they are.