Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mid-season form, only colder

It was M&M Night at Safeco Field -- our first game of the season together -- and I must say we had our form down like it was the middle of summer. Michelle scored us the fancy-pants P-I tickets in the "Terrace Club," the exclusive second-level seating area with its own limited-access restrooms, concessions and lodge-like bar, and I rounded up our standard order: a jumbo "major league" dog and a microbrew for me ($14.50) and a regular "minor league" dog and giant diet Pepsi for her ($12.25), and we grabbed our front-row seats.

Here's the view:

We got to the game in the bottom of the first inning, and the Mariners' so-called clean-up hitter Richie Sexson was batting. As always, the usher asked us to wait for a break in the action before walking down to our seats, so we wouldn't block the other spectators' view.

"OK," I said, "we can wait until Sexson strikes out."

I hate to watch Sexson. He's 6-foot-8, a giant galumph of a first baseman who once upon a time hit home runs but now rarely makes any contact at all. In his seven-year career he has more strikeouts than hits. $15 million a year he makes.

"Oh, no," the usher said. "He's going to get a hit!"

I teased him about this apparently being his first game at Safeco Field. He laughed, and then when Richie whiffed with his signature giant swing-and-miss, we took our seats.

There was no snow, like on Opening Day, but it was still colder than hell in the park. Michelle was smart enough to bring the nice warm blanket that our friend Susan made for us, and she loaned it out for a couple of innings to Ken Bunting, the associate publisher from work, and his wife, whose name I never remember, sitting next to us. Eventually it got so cold they closed the roof, and that helped just a little.

Here's the inside bar where many of the Terrace Club fans, including the Buntings, retreated as the temp dropped:

Nice tight ballgame for the first seven innings. Felix Hernandez -- "King Felix," the Mariners' ace of the future, who turns all of 22 years old next week -- held the Rangers to one run and the score was tied going into the eighth inning.

Sexson predictably missed a couple of chances to help. When he came up for the third time the scoreboard flashed his stats so far: a .000 batting average for the young season and, for tonight, the notation "Struck out swinging" and "Struck out looking." I heard a lady behind us wonder aloud, "How's he gonna do it this time? Struck out sneezing?" I liked that. Mid-season cynicism from a regular fan.

I'd say Richie was in mid-season form too, but he obviously has a few kinks to work out. He only struck out three times. Once he managed to get wood on the ball for a weak popup out and another time he stroked a clean single to left field.

In the 8th Seattle's normally genius bullpen came in and gave up two runs, but the Mariners miraculously came back and scored three in the bottom of the inning to retake the lead. Then, totally unexpectedly, the usually lights-out closer J.J. Putz, one of the best in the game, blew the save in the ninth inning and Ms notched their first loss of the year.

Still, a fun night. There'll be more hot dogs and strikeouts where those came from, and in warmer weather too.


Jim Thomsen said...

Here's the thing: Richie Sexson is done. He's never going to get better. It doesn't matter how hard he works.

Simply put, he's lost bat speed. He simply can't get around on a good mid-90s fastball anymore. Once pitchers figure out that they can cook him with gas, he's toast on a stick.

He's walking more now because he, like many aging sluggers, is trying to compensate for slowing reflexes by working the count and fouling out pitches. That only works for so long, and then the pitchers stop working the corners and start pumping blue fuel down the middle.

So that arctic blast you were feeling in the stands was probably the "funk blast" of Richie's whiff-a-riffic ways.

Mark said...

I'm so glad I'm not alone on this Sexson thing. Dude drives me crazy.

He's worse than toast on a stick. He's poopy on a stick.