I decided to get my sports nerd on this weekend. It all started on Saturday morning. I was coming off of a night of comedy at the Moore Theater (Sub Pop’s 30th anniversary treated us to the likes of Marc Maron, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, Jon Benjamin, Jon Glaser, Kyle Dunnigan, and Kurt Braunohler. Somehow, I escaped the night unscathed by hangover, which left me most of the day Saturday to fuck around (before going to the Sub Pop music fest in Georgetown that night, featuring Mudhoney & Built To Spill).
On a lark, I started following DJ’s Sportscards on Facebook and noted they had a 25% off sale in celebration of their 25th anniversary. As a child, I collected massive amounts of football cards. Starting in 1988 and running through 1990 (with a little spillover into 1991), I was treated to a pack or two of football cards every week (as I had pretty nasty allergies and had to go in for allergy shots 1-2 times a week). 1988 Topps (of which I now have a complete set), 1989 Pro Set, Topps, and Score (of which I have a smattering), and 1990 Pro Set (of which I now have a complete set, which is pretty massive and required a lot of help from eBay). My furor for buying packs of cards started to wane in 1991 (my tenth year of existence) in favor of buying individual cards of my most favorite players (which would cost more money, but were much more satisfying to display).
Over time, I gave up on football cards altogether in an effort to amass the biggest collection of rock n’ roll compact discs you’ve ever seen (at one point, I was signed up for Columbia House’s CD club under three different family names, to buy the minimum and quit, before starting all over again). Nowadays, I keep my sports memorabilia to a minimum. Part of that has to do with the fact that there haven’t been too many Seattle sports stars of late that I’ve wanted to openly display my affection for. Part of that has to do with me not having a whole lot of disposable income (until recently).
But, with the knowledge of Felix’s long-term extension, and with guys like Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, and Richard Sherman on the Seahawks, I can feel the bug starting to burrow itself into the part of my brain that’s willing to throw money around in large clumps.
So, with nothing else to do on Saturday, I went to DJ’s Sportscards and bought a box of 2012 Topps football cards (specifically 2012 Topps Magic). 24 packs per box, 8 cards per pack, with a guarantee of 3 autographs per box. Truth be told, these are some pretty cool-looking cards, with lots of different types of random inserts (and, for some reason, identical cards that are 2/3 the size of a normal card). I was hoping to get a rookie Russell Wilson, but no dice. I did get two different RGIII rookies, two different Luke Kuechly rookies, two different Doug Martin rookies, two different LaMichael James rookies, a Kirk Cousins rookie and a Stevan Ridley rookie. And, for some local flavor, I got a Jermaine Kearse rookie, a Sidney Rice, a Robert Turbin rookie, a Chris Polk rookie (for some reason, even though he hardly played last season), a Golden Tate, and a Bobby Wagner rookie. The signed cards were less than impressive: Quinton Coples, Ryan Broyles, and Montario Hardesty. Also, randomly, this set includes some old timers, so I have the likes of Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, and Barry Sanders. One box gets me nowhere NEAR the complete set, but I like them enough to at least make a second attempt at a box (which is pretty pricey at over $100, so suffice it to say this won’t be a weekly endeavor).
Which leads me into Sunday, where I woke up once again sans hangover. At around 10am, with a 1:10pm first pitch, I decided to head over to the Mariners game. I left my apartment at 11, walked to the Link tunnel downtown, and was inside Safeco by noon-ish. I bought a ticket at the box office and it was like the lady could read my mind! I told her I wanted an outfield seat. She said she could get me in the third row in the lower right field, but if I wanted to sit back a ways, I wouldn’t be surrounded by so many people. I told her that sounds delightful, let’s try to get me on an aisle. So, I sat in the first seat in the last row in section 108 and pretty much had the row to myself for the first couple innings before people started filling in around me.
The Mariners featured a dream line-up for me (which goes to show you how uninteresting my dreams are):
- Brad Miller (SS)
- Nick Franklin (2B)
- Raul Ibanez (LF)
- Kendrys Morales (DH)
- Kyle Seager (3B)
- Justin Smoak (1B)
- Michael Saunders (RF)
- Mike Zunino (C)
- Dustin Ackley (CF)
Sundays are so often squandered with giving guys days off (or “rest” even though, come on, it’s baseball, you can’t play every day?) and playing your bench. I can’t stand it! But, we were treated to a day without Jason Bay, without Henry Blanco, without Brendan Ryan, and without Endy Chavez. Who could ask for anything more?
On the line, we had a bunch of compelling stories. First and foremost, would the Mariners extend their team-record string of games with a home run to 22? Answer: yes, thanks to Michael Saunders’ two-run bomb in the second inning to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead.
Also on the line: would guys like Miller, Franklin, Seager, and Smoak continue their hot-hitting ways? Answer: yeah, sort of. Miller went 1-4 with a run scored to bring his slash line to .246/.324/.393. It’s not the best line you’ve ever seen, but after a semi-slow start, it’s exciting to see what this kid is capable of. Franklin went 0-1 with three walks in his first three plate appearances, to bring his slash line to .268/.337/.451. He’s a little on-base machine and it looks like he’s going to be putting up high-quality at-bats and making life miserable for opposing pitchers for years to come. Seager went 1-3 with a run scored and a walk, to bring his team-leading line to .293/.359/.488. This guy is going to be a perennial All Star VERY soon. And, finally, Smoak went 2-3 with a walk, a double, and a run scored to bring his line to a very-respectable .272/.372/.431. Those are four guys who represent a core foundation for this team. When was the last time we could say we had four hitters we could count on?
Shit, fuck that, because there’s also Ibanez and Morales to consider. SIX! Six guys we can count on in our line-up! Unreal.
The third storyline: what about our struggling youngsters? Saunders, Zunino, and Ackley. Well, like I said above, Saunders had that 2-run homer in his 1-3 day. He’s currently batting .225, but it feels like any time now he’s going to go on a hot streak and bring that up to the .260-.270 range. Zunino, I would argue, is looking better every day. He had a hit and a sac-fly to bring in a run (in a text-book manufactured run-scoring situation in the fourth inning, with a single, a walk, and a Saunders sac-fly preceeding Zunino’s RBI). Also, Zunino’s strong throwing arm makes me quiver with sexual excitement, so there’s that. Ackley, unfortunately, has not brought his success in Tacoma with him to the Majors. He went 0-4 and is still batting .205. His at-bats don’t look QUITE as hopeless as before he was sent down, but he’s not getting any kind of results either.
The final storyline going into this game was Hisashi Iwakuma. Coming into this game, he was riding a string of five consecutive sub-par starts:
- 5 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts in Oakland
- 7 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 homers, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts vs. Oakland
- 8 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, 2 homers, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts vs. Chicago Cubs
- 6 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs, 2 homers, 1 walks, 2 strikeouts in Texas
- 3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 3 homers, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts vs. Boston
All told, that’s five starts, a little less than 6 innings per, with 6 and a half hits per, 4 and a half runs per, less than 4 strikeouts per, and a whopping 10 total homers. Not good numbers for any starting pitcher, but ESPECIALLY not good for a guy going into his first All Star Game. You’ve got people talking about how he didn’t deserve the honor (even though he had the American League’s leading ERA when he was picked) and you even have people talking about trading him at this year’s deadline to see what we can salvage from him. For the record, I don’t think we should trade him. I think he had a cold streak as all pitchers do. Still, it was important for him to come out and be on top of his game.
And, to his credit, he was very strong against the Angels. 7 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 1 homer, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts. The homer was a solo shot by Mark Trumbo, but for the most part he was able to keep them off-balance and spread the hits out. After a shaky 6th inning where he gave up 2 runs to bring the game to within a run, I thought Wedge was playing with fire by keeping him in there. At that point, batters 1-8 had all seen him three times (with #9 hitter Erick Aybar already having gone 2-2). Yes, his pitch count was low (in the 80s), but with the top of the lineup (featuring best player in the game Mike Trout in the 2-hole) coming up in the 7th, I didn’t like our chances. But, again to his credit, Iwakuma went out there and shut ’em down in order (punctuating it with a strikeout of Trout).
Which brought up a bonus storyline: how would the bullpen fare? To be sure, the bullpen has struggled to say the least this season. Not this time, however, as Furbush nailed down the 8th inning hold and Tom Wilhelmsen (still in a sort of time-share with the closing duties) locked up his 19th save of the season. I like Wilhelmsen (well, really, I like all these guys, more or less), so I hope he’s able to turn it back on and start dominating again. Of note was his complete lack of any strikeouts today. His strikeout rate is pretty pisspoor, so that’s gonna have to change.
Nevertheless, the Mariners won 4-3. It’s the first sweep of the season, and their first 3-game winning streak since the beginning of May (there is no 4-game winning streak). They go into the All Star break 9 games under .500 and still in fourth place in the AL West, but they also go into the All Star break on an 8-5 streak. We’re not talking about the Mariners in contention or even scratching their way back into contention. Right now, we’re just talking about some exciting baseball. With the kids starting to improve by the day, relying less and less on the veterans to win ballgames. And, we’re talking about the team trying to save the jobs of Eric Wedge and Jackie Z. The second half should be VERY interesting (that is, until the Seahawks start to take over the city like a rampaging Cloverfield).
All in all, a great weekend for geeking out on sports, comedy, and music. To put a capper on it, they introduced the All Star Game jerseys. They’re blue and pretty cool looking, so when I got home after the game I bought a Felix jersey. It should be here in a week or two, and I plan to wear the hell out of it.