Joe “The Connector” Kennedy, blogging from the Mariners game tonight – post will be updated as it happens, so if you are following live, you might need to refresh.
Mariner’s ace pitcher Felix Hernandez got the start tonight, looking to improve on his 1-1 record after three starts in this young season. To the delight of those sitting in King’s Court, King Felix struck out Cleveland lead offer batter Michael Brantley, got the 2nd batter, second baseman Jason Kipnis to fly to left and then Cleveland’s third batter Shin-Soo Choo, chopped weakly to Justin Smoak at first.
In the Mariner first, Chone Figgins struck out, Dustin Ackley worked a full count , but then took a called third strike and Ichiro hit a long fly ball out to center field on the first pitch from Cleveland hurler Josh Tomlin.
In the top half of the 2nd, Felix gets Tribe clean up hitter Carlos Santana to ground weakly to the right side. Left handed hitting DH Travis Hafner steps up and works Felix for a one out walk. Up comes another lefty, Casey Kotchman, who quickly gets two strikes, but hangs tough fouling off four more pitches before striking out swinging on an off speed breaking pitch. Shelley Duncan, the Cleveland left fielder steps up and hits a one hopper to Smoak at first for the third out.
For the Mariners in the bottom half of the 2nd, first baseman Justin Smoak steps up and hits a one hopper to 2nd on the first pitch he sees. Third baseman Kyle Seager rips the first pitch he sees for a hard hit double down the first baseline. Next up is Michael Saunders, the Mariners’ center fielder. Saunders smokes a liner out to right that drops in just before Choo could get it. Now men on first and third with one out and Miguel Olivo at the plate. Olivo hits a chopper to shortstop for a rally-killing double-play.
Leading off the Cleveland half of the third inning is Indian third baseman Jack Hannahan – batting left, which is a little unusual for a third baseman. Hernandez got Hannahan swinging for the first out, bringing up the 9th Cleveland batter, shortstop Jason Donald. Felix gets him swinging on the fourth pitch. Leadoff hitter Brantley steps up to try his luck again, but again he is sent down swinging …
The Mariners send up tonight’s DH, John Jaso to start their half of the third inning. Jaso chops out to second base. Up steps the Mariners 9th hitter, Brandon Ryan, who is barely hitting his weight early this season. Hopefully he can heat up tonight, but not in his first at bat, as he is caught looking at a called strike three. Figgins steps up and fakes a bunt on the first pitch, bringing in the third baseman, but it doesn’t help as on the very next pitch he hits a lazy fly ball to left field to end the inning.
Felix strikes out Kipnis to start the fourth inning, the Choo grounds weekly to Smoak at first base – again. That brings up Cleveland catcher and clean-up hitter who hits a 2-1 pitch to the wall in right center for a two out double. Indian DH Hafner then grounds to first to end the inning. Felix has six strikeouts through the first four frames.
Dustin Ackley starts off the fourth inning for the Mariners by stretching a hard hit single into right center into a double, sliding in hard to beat the throw into second. Next up is Ichiro Suzuki who quickly falls into a 0-2 hole and eventually strikes out on a curve ball in the dirt, drawing a throw to first and enabling Ackley to reach third with only one out. Smoak steps up and smokes the first pitch toward right field, but it is unfortunately right into the mitt of Triber first baseman Casey Kothchman. Seager up with runner on third and two outs. He’s hitting .295 coming into the game and nearly gets an rbi on a ground ball up the middle that turns into out number three.
Kotchman starts the fifth inning for the Indians by grounding out to second. Hernandez then strikes out Duncan on a 2-2 pitch and get Hannahan to bounce to Ackley at second base. Quick inning and Felix is looking good, but the Mariners need to get him some runs.
Justin Smoak leads off the Seattle fifth inning with a drive to the right center field wall on two hops and gets into second base with a double. Olivo sacrifices him to third on his 2nd try. John Jaso steps up with Saunders on third and just one out. The Indians are playing with the infield in in an attempt to cut off the run at home. Jaso quickly falls behind 0-2 and then hits a slow roller up the middle, causing Cleveland second bagger Kipnis to hesitate and then throw over the catcher’s head trying to get Saunders at home. Saunders is safe at home and Jason move up to 2nd on the error. Ryan then grounds out to the right side of the field, moving Jaso to third with two outs and Chone Figgins coming up. Tomlin gets Figgins to an 0-2 , before Chone grounds out to second to end the inning. Mariners up 1-0.
King Felix strikes out Jason Donald to start the 6th, Brantley lines to short for the 2nd out and then Kipnis hits a long warning track out to Figgins in left field. Another quick inning. If he keeps it up, Felix might just get to finish this one.
Ackley leads off again for the M’s, but this time is caught looking at strike three. Ichiro steps up looking to redeem himself after a terrible last at bat. Unfortunately this time around isn’t any better and Ichiro pops out to the third baseman in foul territory. Smoak steps up with two outs and strikes out swinging on four pitches – and after a questionable strike call by the home plate umpire Dan Iassogna. On to the seventh inning.
Choo steps up and hits a long fly ball out to Figgins on the first pitch he sees from Felix. Indian clean-up batter Santana works Hernandez to a 3-1 count before hitting a one hopper back to the pitcher. That brings up Travis Hafner with two outs. Hafner drills a line drive to left center that gets past Figgins to the wall for a stand up double. Kotchman comes up with a man at second and two outs, and King Felix sends him back to the Tribe bench after looking at strike three.
Kyle Seager leads off the seventh inning for the Mariners. He hits the first pitch he sees to the warning track in right center, nearly 385 feet for an out. Saunders steps up and hits his first pitch on the ground to Kotchman at first. Olivo steps up and takes a couple of huge, hefty whiffs before dumping one into left center for a hard sliding double. Jaso is up with two outs and man on second, but grounds weakly to second base on the first pitch. Quick half for the M’s, but at this point that is a good thing. Keep Felix warm and ready to finish it off.
Left fielder Duncan leads off the 8th for the Tribe with a .273 average. Felix is working him hard low and outside and they get to a full count before Duncan fouls off another four pitches – and then Hernandez finally gets him swinging. Hannahan steps up with one out and hits a soft liner over the head of M’s shortstop Ryan for a one out single. Tribe shortstop Jason Donald steps up with one out and one on and grounds one back up the middle that Felix has trouble with and boots. The official scorer gives Donald a base hit and Brantley comes up for the Tribe with one out and men on first and second. He’s only hitting .190 on the season, but works the count to 3-2 before hitting a grounder just of the glove of diving second baseman Dustin Ackley. Hernandez is left in the game with the bases loaded and only one out. Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis steps up and strikes out swinging on four pitches and is Felix’s eleventh strikeout victim of the night. Tribe right fielder Choo steps up with two outs and the bases still drunk. Hernandez appears to turn it up a notch and strikes out Choo on a half swing to get out of a tough jam and preserve the 1-0 lead. He is relieved after 8 strong innings – 5 hits, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts and no runs.
Brendan Ryan leads off the Mariner half of the 8th, with Cleveland started Tomlin still on the hill. He pops out to the first baseman in foul territory for the first out, bringing up left fielder Chone Figgins, who lines the second pitch he sees to Duncan in left field. Up comes Dustin Ackley with two outs and nobody on. He strikes out quickly on three pitches – including the last one over his head.
Instead of letting the dominant King Felix stay on to finish up his gem, Mariners skipper Eric Wedge opts for the adventure that M’s closer Brandon League always brings with him. Indians catcher Carlos Santana leads off the 9th for the Tribe against League and draws a lead off walk. Hafner comes up and drives a hard hit ball that drops right in front of Ichiro in right field. Now men on 2nd and 3rd with no outs and Kotchman comes up with a crucial sacrifice bunt to move the runners up to 2nd and 3rd. Two men in scoring position , with one out for left fielder Duncan who is hitting .265. After a 1-1 count, Cunningham is brought in to pinch run for Hafner at second. League then walks Duncan to load the bases for Triber third sacker, Jack Hannahan. Wedge sends the pitching coach out to try to calm down League., who gives up a two run single through the left side to Hannahan for what may turn out to be the game winner. Indian shortstop strikes out to League – and then, get this, Wedge brings in a left hander (Luetge) to relieve League …
Bringing in the closer fails again. How many times is Manager Eric Wedge going to make this same mistake? Does he really think his closer is better than Felix? PLEEEEASE. How can he expect his players to work for him with crappy decisions like this? There is no way Felix will want to stay here when his contract is up if he’s continually treated like this. Mr. Wedge – that was a MAJOR FAIL.
12,142 Paid Attendance at tonight’s game.
Reminder: Tomorrow, Friday April 20th, the Mariners celebrate their first 35 years as a franchise and their first ever draft pick – Mr. Ruppert Jones. It also happens to be Ichiro bobblehead night …. Tickets are still available.