There are going to be games like this for everyone, although if you are the Seattle Mariners you hope they come in August - and in Tampa.
Instead, in a Safeco Field crammed to its rafters, the Mariners opened their home season with their fifth consecutive loss, this one a lopsided affair won by the Cleveland Indians, 12-3.
How bad was it? The Indians had 12 runs before the Mariners had their third hit.
Cleveland had two home runs, by ex-Mariner Asdrubal Cabrera and Travis Hafner.
For Cabrera, it was his second of the season. Or as many as the Mariners have hit. That’s right – all of them.
It was a night that began with a celebration of life for Dave Niehaus, but the joy began leaving Safeco Field when Cabrera’s home run did, in the first inning.
“We got behind quick and never really had the chance to get anything going,” manager Eric Wedge said. “It was about damage control after that.”
After that first-inning home run, Jason Vargas got to the fourth inning without any more damage – then never got out of the inning.
Everything the left-hander threw, the Indians hit. Not particularly hard, but marvelously placed. Three consecutive singles made it 2-0, a fourth hit in a row pushed it out to 3-0. A fifth hit and it was 4-0.
Coach Carl Willis trotted to the mound for a quick consultation. Didn’t help.
The only out Vargas got came on a sacrifice fly. When ex-Mariner Jack Hannahan doubled to make it 6-0, that was it.
Vargas left to boos, slapping his glove against a thigh in frustration, and rookie Tom Wilhelmsen tried to hold the Indians there but couldn’t.
The 6-foot-6 rookie got a strikeout, but gave up two singles and a walk – then a monstrous home run to Hafner.
Cleveland 11, Seattle 0.
The booing came with regularity then. Ten-hit innings will turn a crowd angry.
They didn’t really cheer again until the Mariners “rallied” in the fifth. A hit batter and a walk put runners on for Ichiro Suzuki, who singled sharply for the second time in the game, and this time got an RBI to go along with it.
It did nothing but erase Cleveland’s shutout, but it all but brought Safeco Field down.
Clearly, Mariners fans wanted to support their team. Just as obviously, the y were given little to like in the 35th home opener in franchise history. Want a spooky little factoid?
The Mariners had never had a worse home-opening loss than their 15-7 defeat at the hands of the Oakland Athletics back in 1990. Getting beaten by eight runs? Ah, that looked like the good old days to the folks on hand Friday night.
“We have to keep pushing through,” Wedge said of his team. “Our offense, we have to create opportunities. A game like today, you throw out all the rules. Don’t waste any at-bats, try to be better for tomorrow.”
A team that opened the season with back-to-back victories hasn’t won since, and that’s stacked up to five consecutive losses. Worse, in those five games the Mariners have scored 13 runs – or three more than the Indians put up in the fourth inning.
Without power, the Mariners need four- and five-hit innings to post multiple runs, and seven games in, their lineup hasn’t been consistent enough to produce those innings.
After Ichiro, for instance, Chone Figgins is batting .100. Milton Bradley began the night batting .333. Behind him, Jack Cust is at .200, and Justin Smoak .250. Miguel Olivo and Adam Kennedy have hit well, but the men in the batting order behind them – Brendan Ryan (.167) and Ryan Langerhans (.154) – have not. Those numbers may quickly even out over the rest of the home stand, but for now they make sustaining a long rally almost impossible.
As for the pitching, Vargas and then Wilhelmsen had tough nights.
Veteran Vargas, who needs his command to be effective – he doesn’t have a dominant pitch – threw first-pitch strikes to only seven of the 18 batters he faced.
Wilhelmsen, who has never pitched above low Class A, and certainly never in front of 45,000 fans, looked nervous from the outset. Most of his fastballs were in the low 90s. He topped out at 94 mph, and Hafner hit that pitch off the Hit It Here Café on the second deck in right field.