Saturday, September 11, 2004


Yes, I do believe this offensive output tonight would make Derek X. Bell proud.

I said last night that I didn't think Ryan Franklin would win a game for the rest of the year, and now I'm not too sure Jamie Moyer will win another one either. He hasn't won since June 18th, when I wasn't even in town; that's almost a three-month span. The wire article I'm reading also says he's made 15 starts (16 games) since his last win, and his ERA has gone from 3.64 to 5.09.

Before I go further, another Ichiro update...

Ichiro was hitless in four at-bats tonight for the second night in a row, remaining at 229 hits, lowering his average to .373, and painting the picture a little more bleakly, depending on which version of George Sisler's record you want to see him break.

For Ichiro to break Sisler's record before the end of the season...
>> if he averaged four at-bats per game the rest of the way (21 games remain), he would need to go 28-for-84 (.333).
>> if he averaged five at-bats per game, he would need to go 28-for-105 (.267).

To break Sisler's record in 154 played games and avoid the asterisk...
>> if he averaged four at-bats for the next 14 games, Ichiro would have to go 28-for-56 (.500).
>> if he averaged five at-bats a game, he would have to go 28-for-70 (.400).

Also for tonight, the offense was putrid, except this time they were putrid against Bronson Arroyo instead of Curt Schilling. Arroyo was the guy who recorded 11 strikeouts in a row (with some singles or walks inbetween) against the Mariners earlier this year. Arroyo threw 85 pitches in seven shutout innings tonight and gave up four hits. The Mariner offense only managed one extra-base hit, a meaningless pinch-hit double to the Starbucks sign in left in the 9th by Hiram Bocachica. The Mariners had more than one runner on base in only the 3rd and the 8th.

Tony Garassi of KJR has just relayed this stat: since August 7th, no starting pitcher not named Gil Meche or Bobby Madritsch has won a game for the Mariners. Also, Garassi has suggested that lefty Randy Williams, who made his Major League debut in the 9th and really knows how to throw a ball, looks like a lefthanded Paul Abbott.

Rumors circulated before the game that during batting practice, Manny Ramirez (righty) parked one into the upper deck (yes, the third deck) five rows back of the Budweiser sign above the Hit it Here Cafe, which would be to the opposite field for Manny.

Also, George Sherrill will be shut down for the rest of the year.

As the complete aside, Bronson Arroyo's motion has that get-nothing-out-of-the-leg-kick type of deal that reminds me a lot of former Braves closer Greg McMichael.


Mariners on defense/pitching (bad to good)
massacre < terrible inning < some damage < fighting out of jam < decent inning < 1-2-3

Mariners on offense
I hate this team < come on, y'all < ho, hum < minimal damage < some damage < big inning

TOP 1ST -- minimal damage
Moyer got two quick groundouts but Manny took him yard for a solo shot to left (BOS 1-0). And with that, the game was basically over.

BOTTOM 1ST -- ho, hum
This wasn't just Arroyo having a 1-2-3 inning. It was Ichiro, Randy Winn, and Edgar Martinez all swinging at and grounding out on the first pitch.

TOP 2ND -- some damage
It wasn't a good inning for Moyer. Jason Varitek led off with a four-pitch walk, which is never a good sign. Kevin Millar doubled on the next pitch and scored Varitek from first (I'd have liked to have seen that play, BOS 2-0). Orlando Cabrera had a 3-0 count, but ended up flying out. Kevin Youkilis had himself a 2-0 count, but whiffed. Gabe Kapler singled and drove in Millar (BOS 3-0), on a play in which any centerfielder with an arm would have had a play on Millar at the plate (Winn was charging inward). Johnny Damon was down 0-2 and worked the count full before lining out to Raul Ibanez in left to mercifully end the inning in which Moyer threw 28 pitches.

BOTTOM 2ND -- ho, hum
Ibanez flew out to Damon, Bret Boone bounced out to Youkilis at third, and Jolbert Cabrera was caught looking. The Mariners are lucky they didn't draw Pedro in this series.

TOP 3RD -- 1-2-3
Moyer teases each and every once of us, getting Mark Bellhorn to whiff, Manny to ground out on the first pitch, and David Ortiz to fly out to Winn in center to retire the side in order.

BOTTOM 3RD -- ho, hum
The Mariners had their best offensive inning of the game. Greg Dobbs ran out an infield single and Dan Wilson singled him over to third. Jose Lopez whiffed, Ichiro bounced into a fielder's choice (Dobbs held at third), and Winn bounced out to Youkilis. Yippee!

TOP 4TH -- 1-2-3
Moyer has another 1-2-3 inning?! His toughest out of the inning was when Millar watched six straight pitches: three balls and three strikes, in that order.

BOTTOM 4TH -- ho, hum
Ibanez hit a one-out single. That's about it. That and Manny making a leaping catch in the corner at the wall in foul territory to retire Jolbert Cabrera.

TOP 5TH -- terrible inning
Moyer walked both Youkilis (snapping the seven-in-a-row retired Sox streak) and Kapler (the 8 and 9 hitters in the Sox lineup) to start the inning. Damon then roped a double into the corner to clear the bases (BOS 5-0) and ended up on third after the throw home. But Damon wouldn't be coming home on a sacrifice fly. Bellhorn smashed the first pitch he saw into the bullpen to ensure that the rout was on (BOS 7-0). Moyer would then record four outs, three of them strikeouts (wild pitch on one of them) and no more runs would score.

That was Moyer's last inning. His line: 5 innings, 7 runs, 5 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 106 pitches (68 strikes). All three of the walks came around to score. After the first inning, the Red Sox were very patient and watched a lot more pitches from Moyer. That ramped up his pitch count and he was gone in a hurry. It's times like this when you almost wonder to yourself, "this guy won 21 games last year?"

BOTTOM 5TH -- ho, hum
Dobbs (lineout), Wilson (whiff), Lopez (grounder to short). Arroyo has no trouble.

TOP 6TH -- 1-2-3
Scott Atchison comes in and gets through Orlando Cabrera (flyout), Youkilis (groundout), and Kapler (groundout).

BOTTOM 6TH -- ho, hum
Arroyo retires the top third of the Mariner lineup on six total pitches.

TOP 7TH -- 1-2-3
Ron Villone continues the carousel of Mariner relievers tonight, retiring the top third of the Boston lineup in order, getting Damon and Manny to whiff along the way.

BOTTOM 7TH -- ho, hum
Arroyo does give up a Jolbert Cabrera two-out single, but other than that, more of the same. Terry Francona wouldn't let Arroyo go out for the 8th, even after only having thrown 85 pitches, but the game wasn't in doubt, and they're gunning for the playoffs, so maybe they were just looking to sharpen a couple of their arms in the pen.

TOP 8TH -- decent inning
Masao Kida joins the Mariner reliever carousel, allowing a one-out walk to Varitek, but nothing else.

BOTTOM 8TH -- ho, hum
Back-to-back muffs by Orlando Cabrera and Youkilis allowed Wilson and Jose Lopez to stand on second and first, respectively. Ichiro's fielder's choice and Winn's double play ended any threat.

TOP 9TH -- some damage
Earlier I mentioned that Randy Williams could really throw a ball. I didn't say he could throw a strike. He threw a first-pitch ball to his first six hitters out of a total seven. His first two hitters, Youkilis and Kapler, both were started out 3-0 and both went to 3-1, but both also flew out. But then David McCarty singled, and Adam Hyzdu doubled McCarty in (BOS 8-0). Williams then walked Ortiz, and also walked Doug Mirabelli to force in a run (BOS 9-0). Williams still only had one out to get, but in a completely meaningless game down by nine runs, Bob Melvin continued his latest stupid trend of bringing somebody else in to get the final out in the 9th. Williams threw 11 strikes and 20 balls in his 31 pitches and 2/3 inning of work. Do we have to have Melvin manage for the rest of the year? Matt Thornton got Dave Roberts to whiff.

BOTTOM 9TH -- ho, hum
Hiram Bocachica recorded the only Mariner extra-base hit of the game, a double to the Starbucks sign in left. Other than that, same old crap.

Gameball: Greg Dobbs. He got another hit in the Majors, at least. Only other consideration would have been Bocachica for getting the only extra-base knock.

Goat: Jamie Moyer. Seriously, is this ever going to end? I think we'd all be encouraged if we saw just one good start out of the guy, but it's looking bleak.

It's one more before divisional play. Will the Mariners ratchet up their play, or will they fold? I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know that the Mariners will have to play slightly over .500 ball to avoid 100 losses on the season. That isn't going to happen. Book it.

Also, Bob Melvin was unavailable to the media after the game. We know he's no Piniella, who eventually would say "I'm tired of saying the same damn thing, over and f$(&ing over!"

Lowe. Meche. Tomorrow.

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It's the night before the Seahawks open up the 2004 season in New Orleans.

Is it finally now time? One thing's for sure, I like their chances.

Seahawks. Saints. IT'S GAMETIME!

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Oh my goodness.

If hockey goes away for a long time, at least we had a game like this one to watch as a sendoff. If the World Cup final on Tuesday is anything like this one, it's going to be epic. This was the best game I've kept track of since games 6 and 7 of last spring's Calgary/Vancouver series.

It was revealed before the game that Martin Brodeur wouldn't suit up due to a wrist injury he suffered in the 3rd period of their last game against Slovakia. As a result, Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers was in net tonight. Kelly Hrudey on the CBC crew noted that Team Canada's defensemen would have to adjust to Luongo's style of smothering as opposed to kicking out harmless rebounds, and his not playing the puck as much as Brodeur. Brian Burke during the pregame said that it'd be important for Canada to bang and be physical.

Robert Pomakov, the anthem singer that haunts me in my dreams, sang the Czech national anthem.

Paulina Gretzky sang "O Canada." As lovely as she was, I realized what I like about the Canadian national anthem -- usually when I hear it, it's sung straight and note-for-note. Gretzky's 15-year-old daughter (who also sang a Sarah McLachlan tune at the outdoor game in Edmonton earlier this year) was, shall I say, "Americanizing" it; you know when singers try to put all these vocal runs and embellishments into "The Star-Spangled Banner"? That's what Paulina Gretzky did with "O Canada" tonight, and after listening to seventy-plus Canuck games and just as many renditions of "O Canada," I wasn't used to it. In an instance of total nit-picking, Paulina was off-key on one word toward the end (either "Canada" or "guard"), but the crowd had erupted into full cheering by that point.

But now, to what really matters. The game. Once again, times are approximate.

Before I go on, I must say that after this game, the Czechs have nothing to be ashamed about (other than maybe that first game). They were a step faster than Team Canada for much of the night, and when Jagr was shut down, the Czechs didn't stop getting chances, and quite a lot of chances.

18:45 Joe Sakic shoots for the top corner but misses wide
15:44 Adam Foote brushes the post with a shot from the blue line
15:33 Luongo got his glove on a deflected puck in the air
~13:00 Jarome Iginla made some very nifty moves, but couldn't get a shot off
12:15 Luongo made a stick save on a close-range shot by Jaromir Jagr

The game started out fast-paced, and the Czechs were getting a lot of rushes.

11:05 Brad Richards sent a centering pass through the crease and out the other side
10:18 Dany Heatley ripped a shot in close through traffic that Vokoun stopped
9:53 Luongo stopped a shot from the blue line
9:05 Heatley ripped a shot off the draw that was gloved by Vokoun
8:27 Roman Hamrlik shot one from his own blue line that Luongo didn't make the cleanest save on
7:08 Patrik Elias' wrist shot from the left circle went off Luongo's left shoulder

The CBC crew made a note at this point about how well Robyn Regehr was defending Jagr and how he was sticking with Jagr even when he didn't have the puck.

3:14 Martin Rucinsky deflected a puck too high over the net from the right side
1:11 Jagr put a move on a defenseman, but was stopped by the belly of Luongo
0:39 Vokoun made a stick save on a close shot by Iginla
0:11 Luongo stopped a Hamrlik shot through traffic

The Czechs controlled much of the play in the period and led in the shot department 10-7.

After all agreeing this was the best game of the tournament, the crew had some comments. Kelly Hrudey noted that Jagr was the best player on the ice in the first period, that the Czechs thought they were going to win, that Vokoun looked a bit shaky, and that Jay Bouwmeester may have been the best defenseman for Canada so far. Brian Burke said that Canada was banging like he thought they would, and that all the Canadian rushes were countered by fierce backchecking by the Czechs. Ron McLean thought the officials were great (zero penalties were called in the period) and that he was nervous for Paulina Gretzky.

19:27 Joe Thornton's try off the rebound from the left side was stopped by Vokoun
18:50 Luongo stopped a shot from the blue line
18:32 Elias' shot from the left wing (short side) wing boards was stopped
16:17 Luongo came up with a huge stop on Jiri Dopita in front; play was aided by Radek Dvorak making a pass to Dopita while on his chest behind the net
14:58 Kris Draper fired a point shot, and Shane Doan raced toward the net hoping for a rebound. Vokoun held on
14:42 Martin Havlat made some nice moves, and Luongo flashed the stick
12:49 Luongo stopped Jagr on the short side (right)
10:16 Mario Lemieux had a breakaway, but stumbled a bit, and Vokoun came 40 feet out of the net and poked the puck away
9:49 Iginla's long shot was stopped
**8:45 Eric Brewer raced in off the line and went to the top of the crease, where Kris Draper's centering pass came from the end boards and he pounded it in (CAN 1-0)
8:35 The Czechs came roaring back quick, and Luongo came up with big saves off Elias and David Vyborny
6:08 On a Canadian power play, Sakic fanned on the puck
**5:35 Still on a Canadian power play, Vokoun stopped Heatley, but was left out of position to stop Lemieux on the second chance (CAN 2-0). There were four seconds left in the penalty
**4:53 Petr Cajanek threw a puck toward the crease that went off Luongo's right skate and in (CAN 2-1). It's possible that it might have gone off a defenseman's skate as well, judging by Luongo's reaction
4:29 Vokoun smothered a loose puck in the crease
3:37 Simon Gagne was stopped from the right circle

Guest panelist John Davidson said that the Canadians took over with 12 minutes left in the period thanks to a good shift by the top line of Lemieux, Iginla, and Sakic.

**12:39 On a Czech power play after Vincent Lecavalier was called for pulling Hamrlik's shirt, Tomas Kaberle fired a shot from the point which was stopped, but Havlat was just left of the crease, and went high to the stick side to tie the game (2-2)
12:08 Heatley was stopped from somewhat close range as Vokoun was lying on his back
11:09 Luongo made a big stop off a draw in his own zone
9:21 A wide-open close shot by Milan Hejduk was stopped by Luongo
9:01 Luongo lost his stick, but made a pad stop on a shot

Those last two entries were absolutely marvelous for Vokoun. My short one-line anecdotes cannot fully convey this. I'm not sure who was calling the game for the CBC, but the color guy (Millen?) said the Canadians looked like they were "skating in quicksand."

6:52 Thornton shot high and wide
**6:13 On a break, Kris Draper went top shelf on the left side (glove) with a nasty slapshot and beat Vokoun, who flat missed the puck (CAN 3-2). Hrudey said after the period that Vokoun went down too early in anticipation of the shot. Davidson later suggested that Vokoun may have been deked when Draper looked to his right before he fired the shot, possibly faking an upcoming pass
**6:07 The crowd hadn't even sat down yet. Straight off the faceoff at center ice, the puck was bumped into the Canadian zone and Elias fired a shot through traffic that snuck through and possibly knuckled on Luongo to tie the game (3-3)
5:42 Lemieux was pad-stopped from the left circle
3:25 One of the Czechs centered a puck through the crease
1:30 Havlat was stopped by Luongo's chest, and the rebound was not juicy
0:30 Jaroslav Spacek came up with a nice poke check to stop Heatley on a breakaway
0:17 Vokoun stopped the puck amidst a flurry of traffic, jabs, and loose pucks in front of the net
0:06 Martin Straka went wide left

My heart was racing and I didn't even have a rooting interest in this game. It was incredible.

The CBC panel all thought the call on Lecavalier was stupid. Davidson noted how the Czechs were coming up with great chances right after Canada was scoring their goals. McLean thought Bouwmeester and Heatley were looking good. Brian Burke talked to Marek Malik, one of his now former players, and he said they were jetlagged. They didn't play like it though.

19:23 Vyborny's shot from the left side off the faceoff was stopped by Luongo's skate
18:32 Luongo stacked the pads on a close shot which was fed by a Cajanek centering pass
17:56 Thornton was all alone and put one over the crossbar
17:14 Sakic from the right circle had a shot deflect high off a Czech defenseman's stick
16:39 Luongo came up with another big save, I think this one was off of Vyborny. Attention was not paid because soon after...
**16:15 Lecavalier came from behind the boards and put a shot on the net. He eventually got a second chance and beat Vokoun to the glove (far) side (CAN 4-3). Lecavalier was standing on the end line when he made the shot. A close analogy to this would be standing on the baseline in basketball and trying to hit a shot without nailing the side of the backboard.

What an absolutely great game. Thoroughly enjoyable. Midway through the third period, I was hoping it would go to overtime just because the game was so entertaining, much more so than the USA/Finland game from the night before.

Davidson after the game said that it was important for Lecavalier to score after being nailed with the penalty that led to the Havlat goal. Brian Burke said that this could have been a very easy game for Canada to lose. He's right. The Czechs controlled much of this game, and were sometimes dominating. They just never led. The Finns against the United States are still the only team in the tournament to force a lead change.

Looks like I can try to let my euphoria rest a bit and go watch the Mariners.

CBC's three stars: Vincent Lecavalier, Roberto Luongo, Patrik Elias

It's Finland versus Canada on Tuesday at 4:30pm from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Hockey, please don't go.

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The Mariners proved tonight that they didn't have to cross the street to get blitzed.

You know, I was sitting there in front of the TV at the end of the game and thought, "the Mariners actually had a lead? Ha!" Oh, how fragile a 1-0 lead is when the Red Sox have their lineup along with Curt Schilling on the mound. It's also quite fragile when you have longball-friendly Ryan Franklin throwing to some big bats. But it didn't get truly crazy until after what turned out to be a big error.

Sonics coach Nate McMillan was in the TV booth for a couple innings; that I can deal with. What I can't deal with: what the hell was up with that idiotic text message trivia contest, and why the hell did we have to hear about it every freakin' half-inning? Also, big kudos to whoever made the voting graphic confusing as hell. Instead of voting for A, B, or C, it looked more like you had to enter "TXT" to vote for Ichiro, "A, B, or C" to vote for Harold Reynolds, and "86128" or whatever the hell the number was to vote for Julio Cruz. The worst part about it was that they tried to bait everyone into watching the pregame show on Sunday, which was when they'd reveal the answer. Of course, the mere concept of "hey, maybe I should jump onto the internet and get the answer" surely annihilates any of the logic in said trivia "contest."

Before I get to the recap here, I'll once again provide the Ichiro update...

Ichiro was 0-for-4 tonight, remaining at 229 hits for the year and lowering his average to a paltry .375.

For Ichiro to break Sisler's record before the end of the season...
>> if he averaged four at-bats per game the rest of the way (22 games remain), he would need to go 28-for-88 (.318).
>> if he averaged five at-bats per game, he would need to go 28-for-110 (.255).

As for breaking Sisler's record in 154 games (i.e., how many Sisler played in 1920) and avoiding the asterisk...
>> if he averaged four at-bats a game for the next 15 games, Ichiro would have to go 28-for-60 (.467)
>> if he averaged five at-bats a game, he would have to go 28-for-75 (.373)

Sisler played in all 154 games in the 1920 regular season, but the way I'm counting it would be during Ichiro's first 154 games played, because he had the one day off. If you want to just go with the hypothetical 154-game "season," then I guess you could subtract the four and five at-bats from the math and do it yourself. He'd have to hit .500 if he got four ABs/gm under the subtracting-one-game hypothesis. Anyway, I'm sticking with what I went with.


Mariners on defense/pitching (bad to good)
massacre < terrible inning < some damage < fighting out of jam < decent inning < 1-2-3

Mariners on offense
I hate this team < come on, y'all < ho, hum < minimal damage < some damage < big inning

TOP 1ST -- 1-2-3
It wasn't the easiest 1-2-3 inning that Ryan Franklin has ever thrown, but the 15-pitch affair to the top third of the Red Sox lineup would suffice.

BOTTOM 1ST -- ho, hum
Ichiro didn't lead off the game with a single, and since I already spoiled it for you, he didn't do anything tonight. Randy Winn got aboard thanks to a bad throw by Bill Mueller, but Edgar hit a grounder to a middle infielder. I don't have to tell you what happened, but I will tell you that the inning ended with that play.

TOP 2ND -- decent inning
Franklin gives up a leadoff walk to David Ortiz and manages to strand him via three fly balls, two of them to Winn (eek).

BOTTOM 2ND -- minimal damage
Raul Ibanez and Bret Boone led off the inning with consecutive doubles to put up a crooked number (SEA 1-0). Boone went to third on a Scott Spiezio groundout, but then Greg Dobbs whiffed. Seeing young Dobbs whiff inspired Dan Wilson, who whiffed in an attempt to feel young again.

TOP 3RD -- decent inning
A good ol' 18-pitch affair here for Franklin, though the only baserunner got aboard when Dave Roberts was nailed in the hand with one out.

BOTTOM 3RD -- ho, hum
Jose Lopez led off with a single and went to second on Ichiro's groundout. Then Winn and Edgar Martinez both whiffed against Schilling.

TOP 4TH -- some damage
Manny Ramirez golfed a ball out on the first pitch, a one-handed sendoff over the wall in left to tie the score (1-1). Ortiz walked and Jason Varitek singled, and both moved up 90 feet thanks to Kevin Millar hitting a ball back to Franklin and getting tagged out physically by Franklin. Then Orlando Cabrera hit a fly ball to the track in right to give the Red Sox the lead (BOS 2-1). Franklin allowed a walk to Mueller to make things all the more dicey before catching Roberts looking.

BOTTOM 4TH -- minimal damage
Boone swiped at a 3-1 pitch from Schilling and deposited it into the seats in rightfield (2-2). Nothing else of real note, though.

TOP 5TH -- 1-2-3
See Franklin's top of the 1st, except with 11 pitches this time.

BOTTOM 5TH -- ho, hum
Schilling got three groundouts from Wilson, Lopez, and Ichiro in a 1-2-3 inning. Dobbs made a nice pick on a ball in the hole off the bat of Ramirez.

TOP 6TH -- terrible inning
It wasn't all Franklin's fault. But the first pitch of the inning was, though, a pitch that got way too much of the plate; Ortiz jumped all over it and the ball touched down in the rightfield stands in a hurry (BOS 3-2). One out later, Millar's grounder to Jose Lopez was blatantly muffed by the 20-year-old. Cabrera flew out to Winn on the first pitch.

Then things got way out of hand. Mueller singled, Roberts doubled (BOS 4-2), and Johnny Damon tripled into the corner in right (BOS 6-2), with Ichiro not playing the ball quite cleanly. Masao Kida came in for Franklin and gave up a single to Mark Bellhorn (BOS 7-2). Kida would yield a nine-pitch walk to Manny after getting ahead 0-2, but then would get a groundout from Ortiz.

With the Bellhorn single, the book was closed on Ryan Franklin. His line: 5 2/3 innings, 7 runs (3 earned thanks to Lopez), 6 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts, 101 pitches (64 strikes). The walks are unnerving as always (one of them scored), and the two homers are always unwanted (both solo shots tonight), though we know we'll get them from Franklin. The guy just can't win a game anymore, plain and simple. I don't think he'll win another game this year. Frankly, if I were him, I would just mail it in from here on out. If I wasn't a minor-league callup or if my name wasn't Ichiro and I was playing for the Mariners right now, I'd probably just mail it in. Okay, maybe I wouldn't, but man, it's bad enough watching/listening to/keeping track of six months of crappy baseball. Could you imagine living six months of crappy baseball?

BOTTOM 6TH -- ho, hum
Schilling exhibits complete mastery of the 2-3-4 hitters of the Mariner lineup.

TOP 7TH -- massacre
Varitek singled off Kida's first pitch, but was doubled off on a ground ball by Millar. Kida would leave the game after allowing a Cabrera single and consecutive walks to Mueller and Roberts.

And who better to bring in with the bases loaded and nobody out than Aaron Taylor? He fell behind 2-0 on Damon and gave up a single on the 3-1 pitch (BOS 8-2). He fell behind 3-0 on Bellhorn before walking him (BOS 9-2). I'd been sitting there watching the game in the living room with my dad, and I'd mentioned something about a grand slam, knowing that Manny and Ortiz were eventually coming up. The third pitch to Manny was some sort of hanging off-speed pitch that got too much of the plate, and Ramirez sent that thing into orbit (BOS 13-2). Shortly after lowering its heat shields after reentry into the earth's atmosphere, the ball landed a few rows back of the KOMO 1000 News sign in the leftfield bleachers (second deck). Taylor somehow got Ortiz to whiff and end the inning.

It's a total pet peeve and/or idiosyncracy of mine, but I've been trained by the Kingdome, I guess, and when a ball is hit into the second deck in leftfield (bleacher seats that went for $7 a pop in 2000), I can't bring myself to call it the upper deck. The upper deck in rightfield, the one that Luis Gonzalez reached in the Home Run Derby three years ago, that's an upper deck. For me, if it's not the third deck, I can't call it the upper deck.

I just thought of something -- since I don't want to call the second deck in leftfield the "upper deck," maybe we could keep with the whole Mariner theme and call it (drum roll)...the poop deck? It'd be like the Rock Pile in Colorado, except they wouldn't be the cheapest seats in the place and it'd be much less cool.

BOTTOM 7TH -- ho, hum
Mickey Lopez got his first Major League at-bat and bounced out to first. Other than that, nothing was of note.

TOP 8TH -- 1-2-3
Shigetoshi Hasegawa pitched in a situation tailored perfectly for Shiggy v2004. With all three Red Sox hitters in the pinch, Trot Nixon whiffed, Doug Mientkiewicz bounced out to Mickey Lopez, and Ricky Gutierrez (he's still in baseball?!) flew out to Winn.

BOTTOM 8TH -- ho, hum
Wilson singled on the first pitch from Curtis Leskanic. He would be out on an Ichiro fielder's choice. The only other thing of note in theinning was Jeremy Reed's first Major League hit, a fister into the hole on the left side.

TOP 9TH -- 1-2-3
JJ Putz mowed down Kevin Youkilis, Doug Mirabelli, and Gabe Kapler in a completely meaningless appearance. Gotta see how Bob Melvin's closer of the future that he will never have will perform when down by 11 runs.

BOTTOM 9TH -- ho, hum
Scott Williamson was able to catch Willie Bloomquist looking for today's Obligatory Willie Bloomquist Strikeout, brought to you by today's fake sponsor, the Westside Burrito Connection in beautiful downtown Bremerton. The place is real, the sponsorship is not. I order the taco salad every time.

There would be a Spiezio walk sandwiched inbetween groundouts by the newbies Mickey Lopez and Dobbs to end the game.

You know, if Orlando and Jolbert Cabrera are in the game with Jose and Mickey Lopez all at the same time, I might fly off the handle because I try to mention full names once and then use surnames for the rest of the recap; keeps it a bit less cumbersome. Of course, if this Cabrera/Lopez thing happens, someone might have to consult the record books or something. Two Lopezes and two Cabreras in the same game? I'm sure this has probably happened before. I can't remember if the Mets had both Bobby Joneses at the same time, but if they faced the Braves (Andruw, Larry Wayne), it'd be a Jonesfest. I'm rambling now. Stop it, David.

Gameball: Bret Boone. 2-for-2 with a double and a solo shot. I can't really see anyone else to give it to on such a crappy night, and Boone drove in all the Mariner runs.

Goat: Ryan Franklin. I've already posted his line above. He definitely let Jose Lopez' error get to him, or he just missed his spots and gave Dave Roberts and Johnny Damon some juicy pitches to hit. Looking at the schedule real quick, this guy is probably due for four more starts the rest of the season, unless Melvin really messes with it, but he won't due to his "our 'best team' should face their best teams" philosophy. If he blows all four starts, Ryan Franklin could finish 3-19, people!!

Arroyo. Moyer. Seventeen hours.


[Edit ~1:31p -- Forgot to commend Dobbs on a nice stab in the 5th off Ramirez.]

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Friday, September 10, 2004


It wasn't the best hockey game anyone has ever seen; I know it was in Saint Paul, but that didn't mean a Minnesota Wild game had to break out. Anyway, this was largely to the advantage of Team Finland, who was able to have a very physical and tight-checking and trapping game to take away Team USA's speed and any sort of flow they hoped to get.

Finland had already proved it was the most complete team in the European pool, and they took their game plan to the United States tonight and pulled off possibly the biggest upset in Finnish history, coming up with a goal late in the third period to move on to the World Cup final on Tuesday.

Robert Esche was in net for the USA, and Miikka Kiprusoff took the net once again for the Finns.

Once again, times are approximate. There's possibly a big gap in the first period due to me trying to edit a certain Mariner post and both the computer and Blogger going nuts on me.

16:50 Ken Klee was pad-stopped from the right circle, and Jeff Halpern was stopped in close on the left side by Kiprusoff
16:38 Esche made a pad save on Tuomo Ruutu's shot from the right side

The Finns established their tight-checking game plan early on.

8:01 Jason Blake misses the net wide right
7:27 Ossi Vaananen lets an elbow fly high and hit Chris Chelios. The officials missed the call
4:30 Ville Nieminen delivered a big hit on Paul Martin
3:00 Tuomo Ruutu put a shot off the left side of the net
2:10 Bill Guerin's shoot-in met the right pad of Kiprusoff
1:11 Teppo Numminen was stopped from the blue line
0:45 Ville Peltonen's shot into traffic was stopped
0:00 decent-sized scrum in the corner

I haven't been listing shoot-ins in past WCH recaps, but I already warned that this was a Wild game. Shots were 4-3 in Finland's favor in the first period.

Once again, the Saint Paul fans' lack of intensity was noticed by the CBC panel (McLean/B Burke/Hrudey). Burke said that the fans were "dead before the game started." The panel also noted of the center-lock defense that the Finns were using to clog the neutral zone. Hrudey also noted that it'd be bad for the Finns if Nieminen started letting his elbows fly around and getting unnecessary penalties.

19:34 Esche corralled a loose puck slowly moving toward the crease
14:24 Jere Lehtinen's shot from between the circles sailed high, just over the crossbar
12:58 Brian Smolinski's long range shot was easily gloved by Kiprusoff, who saw the shot all the way
12:48 A deflection off a skate was involved on another Smolinski shot, which was once again gloved
12:03 Blake was on the rush and missed his shot from the left side
11:02 A Numminen shot from the blue line was blocked by Steve Konowalchuk
9:13 A Mikko Eloranta centering pass was nearly buried in close
9:08 Toni Lydman was stopped by Esche
8:46 Kiprusoff made another stop, but I didn't get the shooter's name

At this point in the game, Team USA was able to kick up the tempo a bit and get some decent scoring chances. They were also aided by an untimely penalty by Canuck Jarkko Ruutu, a play in which he delivered a big hit, and still kept going with the roughage, which the refs call. They'll let it slide if you're Peter Forsberg, but not if you're Jarkko Ruutu.

7:33 On the power play, Bill Guerin was stopped by Kiprusoff
7:15 Kiprusoff flashed the pad save on Scott Gomez on the power play
**7:03 Off a faceoff win, Scott Gomez fed a pass across the ice and through Ossi Vaananen's legs to hit Doug Weight coming in through the back door on the left side. Kiprusoff had no chance (USA 1-0)
4:45 Esche makes two big stops, a pad save on Teemu Selanne on the doorstep, and a stop on Saku Koivu on the rebound
3:57 Behind the net, Mike Modano chopped his stick in on Lydman, who was trying to move the puck out of the zone. The puck came loose and almost went in off Kiprusoff's skate
2:01 Koivu (I think younger brother Miko was scratched in this game) had a golden scoring opportunity on the rush, but tried to put one too many moves on Esche rather than putting a shot on the net. Klee bumped him off the puck
0:08 Konowalchuk had his shot gloved from the left point

The Jarkko Ruutu penalty proved to be costly. As for shots, there really weren't many more. The USA had the edge in shots by a 10-7 margin. Yes, the goalies were getting peppered with pucks, but at a rate of once every five minutes or so.

19:29 Koivu shot wide
**14:56 Tuomo Ruutu created a giveaway, leading to a shot that rebounded off Esche and went off the skates of two players. Olli Jokinen got control of the puck and lit the ol' lamp to tie the game (1-1)
11:25 Off a giveaway, Tuomo Ruutu fired a shot that went off the knob of Esche's stick
10:36 Team USA had a fluury of scoring chances by players whose names I didn't pick out quick enough. Nonetheless, Kiprusoff made a save off a shot from the blue line and stopped two close-range shots in quick succession
8:59 Mike Modano's shot from the blue line met the pads of Kiprusoff
7:37 Jukka Hentunen was slowed down on the rush and his shot from between the circles was stopped
4:31 One of the Finns fired an 80-foot shot or so, and Esche didn't make the cleanest stop on it
**3:53 Vaananen made a cross-ice pass behind the defense to Koivu, who was left uncovered by Tony Amonte and Brian Leetch on the right side. Koivu easily scored, and the Finns were the recipients of the first lead change in the tournament (FIN 2-1)
3:04 Aki Berg went to the penalty box for elbowing, and if it wouldn't have been that, it would have been because he left his feet to make a hit. Either way, this put the Finns' lead in a precarious position with just over three minutes to play
2:44 Kiprusoff made a huge save off a one-timer
1:22 Blake smelled the glove from the right circle
0:39 Kiprusoff came out unscathed after another high-traffic flurry in front of the net
0:30-0:10 Kiprusoff loses his stick, but no shots make it to the net
0:04 The USA won a faceoff from the left circle and ripped a quick shot, and Kiprusoff made the stick save for his 15th of the game

After the game, Burke noted that a key ingredient to the Finns' win was the double-shifting of Jokinen. Hrudey said the Finns remind him of the Flames, a team that adheres to whatever system the coach wants to play, and then plays as a cohesive team. Color man Greg Millen said that Team USA played right into the Finns' hands, and Hrudey seconded this, saying that the USA was playing poorly and lackadaisically in their own zone, and that some of the statesiders weren't finishing their checks.

CBC's three stars: Saku Koivu, Olli Jokinen, Doug Weight

Well, Team USA slips up, doesn't take their game to the opposition, and is out of the tournament. I've seen a team do something like this before, except I had more of a vested interest in the Canucks last spring and it took seven games (and a couple overtime games) instead of one for them to be eliminated.

It's the Czech Republic and Canada from Toronto tomorrow for a 3:30pm faceoff.

Finland will play in the final in Toronto on Tuesday at 4pm against the winner of the other semifinal game.

But what a night for the Finns, and what a night for Saku Koivu. If you don't know what Koivu has come back from, then take a look at this.

[Edit ~8:03p -- Bonus points for anyone who was able to pick out the Spinal Tap reference.]

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HBO will premiere the documentary "Nine Innings From Ground Zero" this Tuesday night at 10 p.m./9 p.m. Central. As you can tell by the title, it has to do with baseball post-9/11 in New York. Of course, all Mariners fans know all too well about baseball post-9/11.

I'm still bitter about 2001. Bitter as hell. Not so much that the Mariners didn't get the job done after winning 116 games. But bitter because of the fact that the Mariners and their fans were treated as the enemy. Along the lines of "if the Mariners beat the Yankees, then the terrorists have won" sort of deal.

From the HBO site linked above:
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Americans felt uncertain about how to proceed with their lives. The game of baseball provided welcome relief as the country found itself rooting for the New York Yankees, who had come to symbolize the city of New York.

Believe me, I felt for New York during that time. But I didn't feel for the Yankees one bit. It wasn't like any of their players were killed on September 11. Keep in mind that it wasn't just New York affected by the 9/11 tragedy. I believe there were planes that crashed in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. as well.

I'm not sure how the rest of you feel about this. But it still burns me to this day as a Mariner fan. The entire country was pulling for the Yankees just because they were based in New York. Give me a break. I sure as hell wasn't.

Did I feel good for New York when the Yankees advanced to the World Series? Absolutely not. Is that being insensitive? Absolutely not. If anything, it wasn't like the fans there needed another championship.

Basically, I'm not a fan of this HBO documentary at all. Maybe I'll watch it if there's nothing at all on TV. But I doubt it.

This is about as political as I'll get here. Don't expect too much of this. After all, we're not about being political here.

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[Archive by weeks: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17, playoffs 1 2 3 4]

OK, so I missed out on picking the Colts-Patriots game last night.

But here's the first edition of the Pick Me Up. (Note: Tennessee-Miami has been moved to tomorrow afternoon because of Hurricane Ivan)

My picks in bold

Tennessee at Miami
CBS: Dan Dierdorf, Todd Blackledge, Armen Keteyian
(Dierdorf is doing play-by-play, since Dick Enberg is covering the U.S. Open)


Seattle at New Orleans
FOX: Ron Pitts, Tim Ryan (UGH!)

Arizona at St. Louis
FOX: Dan Miller, JC Pearson

Baltimore at Cleveland
CBS: Kevin Harlan, Randy Cross

Cincinnati at New York Jets
CBS: Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots

Detroit at Chicago
FOX: Kenny Albert, Brian Baldinger

Jacksonville at Buffalo
CBS: Don Criqui, Steve Tasker

Oakland at Pittsburgh
CBS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Bonnie Bernstein

San Diego at Houston
CBS: Gus Johnson, Brent Jones
(Houston is my Week 1 Survival Football pick)

Tampa Bay at Washington
FOX: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Cris Collinsworth, Pam Oliver

Atlanta at San Francisco
FOX: Curt Menefee, Tim Green

Dallas at Minnesota
FOX: Sam Rosen, Bill Maas
(The "No Hawk Ramble" Game of the Week)

New York Giants at Philadelphia
FOX: Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

Kansas City at Denver
ESPN: Pat Summerall, Joe Theismann, Paul Maguire, Suzy Kolber
(Mike Patrick won't be back on ESPN until October)


Green Bay at Carolina
ABC: Al Michaels, John Madden, Michele Tafoya

--- --- --- --- ---

The games that will be shown in Arkansas on Sunday:

12 p.m. Oakland-Pittsburgh (CBS) and Tampa Bay-Washington (FOX)
3:15 p.m. Dallas-Minnesota (FOX)
7:30 p.m. Kansas City-Denver (ESPN)

And of course, Green Bay-Carolina on Monday.

The fact that FOX is sending Ron Pitts and Tim Ryan to the Seahawks-Saints game is an insult to 'Hawks fans. But as the season goes along, they won't dare make that mistake.

Oh, and I don't get to see the Florida State-Miami game until 8 p.m., because of an Arkansas football special (they're playing Texas tomorrow night). Son of a bitch.

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January 4, 2004.

"We want the ball and we're going to score."

Needless to say, we all know how that turned out.

Fast forward to September 2004.

It's a new season. People from all corners of America are touting the Seattle Seahawks as Super Bowl contenders. The Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl contenders? Yes, it's true. But the hype surrounding a franchise that has not won a playoff game since 1984 is warranted.

For the first time since 1986, the Seahawks won 10 games in 2003. They were undefeated at Seahawks Stadium. However, they were only 2-6 on the road, which killed their chances of winning the NFC West.

So why are many people expecting the Seahawks to do big things in 2004?

It's the offense, stupid.

Matt Hasselbeck made a few fans eat their words in 2003, throwing for 3,841 yards and 26 touchdowns. He made his first Pro Bowl appearance as well in 2003. Clearly head coach Mike Holmgren was on to something when he acquired Hasselbeck from Green Bay in 2001.

Shaun Alexander doesn't get nearly enough credit from the national media. Hell, he doesn't even get enough credit from some of his own team's fans. But Alexander has been one of the most durable backs in all of football, never missing a game in his career. He ran for 1,435 yards and scored 14 touchdowns in 2003. Alexander is a free agent at the end of the 2004 season, so don't be surprised if he has his best season yet as a Seahawk. Look for Maurice Morris to get a few carries along the way as well, to spell Alexander.

The receiving corps were notorious for dropping way too many balls in 2003. But Koren Robinson, Darrell Jackson, and Bobby Engram have worked very hard in the offseason to eliminate that problem. They have no choice but to eliminate that problem, because if they don't, the Seahawks will not go very far.

Robinson is a very talented athlete who has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but he has to play well on a consistent basis to prove that the hype on him was justified coming out of North Carolina State.

Jackson has been compared to Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith on more than one occasion, and it's easy to see why that is the case. He scored 9 touchdowns in 2003, leading the 'Hawks receivers. It's hard to think that Jackson was only a third-round pick coming out of Florida in 2000.

I call Bobby Engram "Third Down". When it's third down and you need a big play, you throw to Engram. He's the best third receiver in football, bar none. Championship teams have players such as Engram. He's also returned punts for the Seahawks as well.

As far as the tight ends go, the Seahawks could very well have the best 1-2 punch in football this season. Itula Mili has been the starter for the past few seasons, but the coaching staff have named Jerramy Stevens the starting tight end. Stevens, who has had his fair share of trouble off-the-field, has a load of talent. If he can keep his head on straight, there's no reason why he can't have a big 2004 season. Mili is no hack, believe me. Look for him to get his share of touches as well.

The Seahawks may have their best offensive line in franchise history in 2004. Left tackle Walter Jones, left guard Steve Hutchinson, center Robbie Tobeck, right guard Chris Gray, and right tackle Chris Terry have proven to be one of the best units in all of football. The left side of Jones and Hutchinson just might be the best left side in the game today. However, the line must protect Hasselbeck better in 2004, as he was sacked 43 times. But one thing to keep in mind is that for the first 4 games of 2003, Terry was suspended by the NFL for violating the substance abuse and personal conduct policy. Terry is ready to play in 2004, however. There's no doubt in my mind that barring injury, this offensive line will be one of the best in the NFL. And they'll keep Hasselbeck upright as well.

The Seahawks defense was 19th overall in 2003. It was a big improvement over the pitiful 2002 season. But the funny thing is, defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes isn't happy at all. Did I mention how much I love Rhodes being in Seattle?

The defensive line should improve with the free-agent signing of Grant Wistrom. He's a proven winner at Nebraska and with the Rams. Can he carry some of that championship mojo to Seattle? We shall find out. Chike Okeafor was a nice pickup for the Seahawks in 2003, and should do more of the same in 2004. In the middle, the Seahawks drafted Marcus Tubbs in the first round out of Texas. Tubbs has played sparingly in the preseason due to injuries and his mother's health. But with the tutelage of Rhodes, I see big things for Tubbs. Along with Tubbs, the Seahawks are counting on Rashad Moore to not suffer the sophomore slump, as Rocky Bernard did last season. Cedric Woodard had 57 tackles last season, and should be able to improve on that in 2004.

Losing Chad Brown until late October hurts the linebacking corps. But the Seahawks are hoping that Isaiah Kaczyvenski can hold the fort until Brown comes back. Anthony Simmons needs to justify the hype that's been given to him througout his career. I believe he will do just that in 2004, earning his first Pro Bowl appearance. With Brown hurt, Simmons will have the opportunity to show the Seahawks that he can be the player that he has been hyped up to be. At middle linebacker, Orlando Huff will start the season. But I look for rookie Niko Koutouvides to take over as the starting MLB later in the season. He's going to be a good one.

The secondary is the Seahawks' defensive bright spot. Marcus Trufant and Ken Hamlin made a big splash on the scene in 2003 coming out of college. Fans were yelling at the 'Hawks for not selecting Penn State DT Jimmy Kennedy in the 2003 first round, but needless to say, those same fans are happy as hell that Trufant is in Seattle, not Kennedy. Hamlin is a hammer. Hammerin' Hamlin earned his way into Seattle fans' hearts early on in 2003 with a crushing hit to the Saints' Donte Stallworth. One great thing about being a Seahawks fan in Arkansas is that there are a few people that will want to give me the time of day simply because I'll be out and about wearing my Seahawks gear. They'll say, "how's Hamlin doing?", relating to the fact that Hamlin is a former Arkansas Razorback. I'll just say, "ask Donte Stallworth". It gets a big rise out of the locals, let me tell you.

Hamlin should improve in a big way thanks to Bobby Taylor, who signed with the Seahawks in the offseason from Philadelphia. Taylor and Hamlin trained together all offseason down in Houston. As with Wistrom, Taylor brings a winner's mentality to Seattle. He hasn't been 100 percent up to this point, but he should be as the season goes along. But if there's one guy who's primed for a big season, it's Ken Lucas. He's had a great training camp. It's time for Lucas to show up. I believe he can. If he can, the Seahawks defense will be much better off. Michael Boulware has been moved from his college position of linebacker to safety. He'll have to play well early, considering that Damien Robinson is on IR.

The Seahawks special teams should be solid once again in 2003. Josh Brown had a stellar rookie campaign coming out of Nebraska, but must improve on his kickoffs. I wasn't too hyped up about Tom Rouen for the majority of the 2003 season, but he's more than capable of doing the job one more time in 2004.

All and all, we're just like you. We like the Seahawks chances in 2004. YES, IT'S FINALLY NOW TIME.

I see 12 wins for the 2004 Seahawks. They should win the NFC West easily. The Seahawks will be playing at Seahawks Stadium/Qwest Field in January. In other words, they will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. This team is good enough to be in the Super Bowl this season. Hell, they are good enough to win it all.

Do not be afraid of the hype, Seahawks fans. Embrace it. After all, it's much better than being picked to finish at the bottom of the league. Screw this whole "I'd rather be an underdog" bullcrap. The Seahawks are not underdogs. They are contenders.

Get used to it.

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You know, I've been rooting for Bobby Madritsch to do well since I first heard of him sometime around last year, and it's nights like tonight that make it all the more gratifying. Eight shutout innings against a red-hot Red Sox team was the name of the game tonight, as the Mariners won 7-1.

Before we go any further, I'll post the Ichiro update...

Tonight, Ichiro was 2-for-4, and his batting average stands at .378.

For Ichiro to break Sisler's record before the end of the season...
>> if he averaged four at-bats per game the rest of the way (23 games remain), he would need to go 28-for-92 (.304).
>> if he averaged five at-bats per game, he would need to go 28-for-115 (.243).

But the real goal for Ichiro, at least in my mind, is breaking Sisler's record in 154 games (i.e., how many Sisler played in 1920). To do this...
>> if he averaged four at-bats a game for the next 16 games, Ichiro would have to go 28-for-64 (.438)
>> if he averaged five at-bats a game, he would have to go 28-for-80 (.350)

Ichiro has had one day off this year, so I've figured that in accordingly.

Of course, the reality is that the Mariners have a remaining schedule that's full of contending teams that most liely won't hesitate to walk Ichiro if he comes to the plate in any sort of threatening situation. Thus, the likelihood of Ichiro getting five at-bats a game consistently from here on out is low, or at least I think so.

But really, the story tonight was Madritsch, Jose Lopez, a couple of errors by the Sox, and not one of the greatest outings out of Tim Wakefield.


Mariners on defense/pitching (bad to good)
massacre < terrible inning < some damage < fighting out of jam < decent inning < 1-2-3

Mariners on offense
I hate this team < come on, y'all < ho, hum < minimal damage < some damage < big inning

TOP 1ST -- fighting out of jam
Mark Bellhorn hit a one-out double off Madritsch, and a runner in scoring position can be quite the precarious situation with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz due to come to the plate. But Madritsch got a flyout from Manny, and a whiff from Ortiz to end the inning.

BOTTOM 1ST -- minimal damage
Ichiro kept the hit parade going (228), singling into centerfield on the sixth pitch after being down 0-2. He stole second on the first pitch to Randy Winn and scooted to third on a passed ball by Doug Mirabelli before Winn walked. Two outs later, with Jolbert Cabrera at the plate, a bad pickoff move by Wakefield scored Ichiro (SEA 1-0). Then Cabrera was beaned and was writhing in pain on the dirt of the batters' box in pain. Okay, not really; it's a knuckleball, after all. Greg Dobbs celebrated his first Major League start by flying out and lowering his average to .500.

TOP 2ND -- fighting out of jam
This time Madritsch gave up a one-out single to Orlando Cabrera (too many Cabreras in one game...), who would end up stealing second. But Madritsch caught Mirabelli looking and got a ground ball out of Bill Mueller to end the threat.

BOTTOM 2ND -- ho, hum
Not really much in the inning other than a two-out double by Jose Lopez.

TOP 3RD -- 1-2-3
Madritsch got through former K-Swiss Minor League Player of the Year Gabe Kapler, Johnny Damon, and Bellhorn with relative ease.

BOTTOM 3RD -- minimal damage
Consecutive doubles by Winn and Bret Boone greeted Wakefield (SEA 2-0). Boone moved to third on an Ibanez groundout before Jolbert Cabrera was nailed again by Wakefield. He would steal second (bet that wasn't too hard). Dobbs netted himself yet another RBI for his young Major League career, grounding out to second to score Boone (SEA 3-0).

TOP 4TH -- 1-2-3
I reckon that there Illinois boy done struck out the side. Manny, Ortiz, and Kevin Millar all whiffed.

BOTTOM 4TH -- ho, hum
Jeremy Reed led off with a first-pitch groundout. Through three Major League at-bats, Reed saw five total pitches in a sign of early hacktasticity (miniscule sample size, of course). Lopez hit his second double of the game, and Ichiro walked. Winn (popout) and Boone (whiff) would make sure the runners were frozen.

TOP 5TH -- fighting out of jam
Madritsch had two on and one out thanks to a Mirabelli walk and a first-pitch Mueller single. Luckily, this is were a double-play ball off the bat of Kapler came in really handy.

BOTTOM 5TH -- some damage
A leadoff single by Raul Ibanez and a walk by Jolbert Cabrera opened up the inning against Wakefield. One out later, Dan Wilson's fly ball to Manny in leftfield that should have been a flyout was dropped, letting Ibanez and Cabrera score (SEA 5-0). Reed popped out to third on the first pitch (that's six pitches in four ML at-bats). Then Lopez scored the big blow, a two-run blast to left (SEA 7-0). Yes, the rout was on. Then Ramiro Mendoza came in to mess with everyone's timing, and to get Ichiro to fly out.

TOP 6TH -- 1-2-3
Damon, Bellhorn, and Manny are no match for Madritsch, who gets three groundouts.

BOTTOM 6TH -- ho, hum
Winn singled to lead off. Mendoza balked him over to second with Boone up. Boone had a full count and a runner on second with nobody out. Boone flipped a ball over the rightfield fence the night before with two strikes on him, but it wasn't to be tonight, as he flew out instead. Ibanez grounded out on 2-0 and Cabrera flew out to end the inning.

TOP 7TH -- fighting out of jam
Madritsch threw 23 pitches in the inning, but runners didn't make it into scoring position until there were two out. He walked Ortiz to lead off. Ortiz stood on second after being moved over by a groundout. Mirabelli singled him over to third, but Mueller lined out to Dobbs at third.

BOTTOM 7TH -- ho, hum
Terry Adams was on to pitch for the Red Sox, and at least this crappy inning's contributors had fresh faces. A Wilson whiff was sandwiched inbetween a first-pitch groundout by Dobbs and a six-pitch at-bat by Reed (he took some pitches!) resulting in a groundout.

TOP 8TH -- fighting out of jam
Madritsch had thrown 100 pitches through seven innings, and he trotted out there once again for the 8th. A one-out walk to Damon wasn't a good thing, and neither was the single by Bellhorn. Manny fouled off four pitches in his eight-pitch at-bat before grounding into a fielder's choice. Madritsch's last batter would be Ortiz, who grounded out to him.

Bobby Madritsch's line: 8 innings, no runs, 5 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts, 126 pitches (76 strikes). Definitely his best performance yet, in terms of runs and innings. I still laugh when I hear Ron Fairly say "the Red Sox are facing young Bobby Madritsch for the first time." Sure, I know he's young in terms of ML experience, but the dude's 28 years old. Jose Lopez is young, not Madritsch or Sherrill.

BOTTOM 8TH -- ho, hum
Other than Ichiro beating out a grounder in the infield (229), the inning only featured the return of Mike Myers. Mariner fans probably were thinking more of the former than the latter.

TOP 9TH -- some damage
Scott Atchison didn't have the greatest inning. Orlando Cabrera smashed a 1-2 pitch over the wall in leftcenter to spoil the shutout (SEA 7-1). Atchison gave up consecutive singles to Mueller and Mirabelli before getting a pinch-hit double-play ball off the bat of Doug Mientkiewicz. To whom it may concern, I typed Doug's last name straight through without stopping until I typed in an "x" where the "c" should be.

Total side note, but it was a weird night for the Cabreras. Orlando was 2-for-4 with a steal and a solo shot. Jolbert's line stuck out like a sore thumb in the boxscore because he only had one at-bat, whereas everyone else had four or five (0-for-1, 1 walk, 2 beanballs).

Gameball: Bobby Madritsch. I can't upstage Bobby's performance tonight with that of Jose Lopez (3-for-4, two doubles, two-run homer), I just can't. Not on a night when he threw eight shutout innings, I can't.

Goat: Dan Wilson. 0-for-4, striking out twice and stranding two.

Two words come for tomorrow, and those two words are "bombs away."

Schilling. Franklin. Tomorrow.

[Edit ~4:25p -- Jeff got me on the score. I don't usually post the score in the intro paragraphs of the recaps, but the one time I do, I get it wrong. Go figure.

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Thursday, September 09, 2004


Before I get started with my 2004 NFC preview, I have a nickname for Patriots rookie tight end Benjamin Watson.

Benjamin "You're Just What I Needed" Watson

He's going to be a good 3rd down option for Tom Brady, I can already see it.

Anyways, here's my 2004 NFC Preview.


NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
---The Eagles have lost 3 NFC Championship games in a row. So what have they done in the offseason to make sure that they won't lose a 4th NFC Championship Game? They now have Terrell Owens in the fold as well as The Freak, Jevon Kearse. But can Donovan F. McNabb shake the Chunky Soup and get this Philadelphia team to the Super Bowl? No. The Eagles still don't have enough to win the Super Bowl. Other than Owens, their receiving corps is crap. Todd Pinkston? Come on. But since they are in the NFC East, they will earn a first-round bye very easily.
Washington Redskins (9-7)
---All summer long, I wasn't sure about the Redskins. But I think they're going to be a playoff team this season. Clinton Portis will give the Redskins the running back that they have needed since Stephen Davis left. Joe Gibbs is class all the way, and the NFL is better off for having him back in the game. While I don't see him enjoying the same success he had during his first tenure in Washington, he's not going to struggle either. It's about time for the Redskins to show up. Gibbs will definitely have this team show up in 2004.
Dallas Cowboys (7-9)
---The Cowboys' defense will give them a chance week in and week out. But Vinny Testaverde is not going to get the job done in Dallas. At least I don't see it happening anyway. Bill Parcells will clash with Jerry Jones more than once this season, I'm calling it right now. This relationship has the makings of an ugly split.
New York Giants (5-11)
---Eli Manning will take over as the starting quarterback by Week 5. Or sooner, if Kurt Warner is a vegetable by then. New York fans are hoping that Kurt's wife Brenda keeps her yapper shut. Fat chance though.

NFC North
Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
---Daunte Culpepper is going to have a big year. Big shock. Michael Bennett is fragile as hell. Even a bigger shocker. The defense is still shaky. You get the picture. But the fact is, the Vikings are primed for a big run. They are the team that I think will challenge the Seahawks, not the Eagles.
Green Bay Packers (10-6)
---Brett Favre is tough as hell. However, I still hate Al Harris, that dreadlocked bastard. Go Pack Go Away.
Detroit Lions (8-8)
---Darkhorse alert! Darkhorse alert! Seriously, the Lions are going to be much improved in 2004. They have not won a single road game since the 2000 season. But that will change in 2004, starting with this weekend's opener in Chicago. Joey Harrington has weapons. Charles Rogers and Roy Williams should form a nice 1-2 receiving combo. And I think Kevin Jones will be the running back the Lions have desparately needed since Barry Sanders retired after the 1998 season. All of this should be enough for Matt Millen to keep his job in the Lions' front office.
Chicago Bears (6-10)
---Thomas Jones is the Bears' starting running back. Not a good sign.

NFC South
Carolina Panthers (10-6)
---Go ahead and write them off as a one-year wonder. Sure, why not? However, the Panthers won't be a one-year wonder. John Fox is an excellent head coach. Their defense is intact. I do worry about their offensive line, but they should shore that up as the season goes along. The NFC South is up for grabs. And I see the Panthers coming out on top in the end.
Atlanta Falcons (8-8)
---I had the Falcons winning the NFC South all summer long. But something changed along the way. Deangelo Hall gets hurt, Michael Vick is having trouble learning the West Coast offense, etc. Oh, and the Panthers simply aren't that damn bad. In 2005, I expect the Falcons to be contenders. But for 2004, they aren't there yet.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
---Things are ugly in Tampa Bay. Well, they certainly aren't as ugly as their old gay pirate uniforms. That being said, this team is headed for a meltdown. Brad Johnson is near the end of the line, Keenan McCardell is holding out, and the defense is weaker. However, Jon Gruden will keep his job, because the fans in Tampa are still basking in their Super Bowl glory of 2 seasons ago.
New Orleans Saints (6-10)
---January 3, 2005: ESPN's John Clayton reports that the Saints have fired head coach Jim Haslett.

NFC West
Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
---I'll have a much bigger Seahawks preview tomorrow. But I'll add a few words here. This team is as good as the hype. There's a reason why the Seahawks are being considered as Super Bowl contenders.
St. Louis Rams (7-9)
---Marc Bulger? He's not an elite quarterback. Not even close. This team is going down in flames. Maybe Mike Martz loses his job in the process. But as a Seahawks fan, I'm all for the Rams keeping Martz as long as possible, heh.
Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
San Francisco 49ers (4-12)
---Even uglier.

Seattle (home field advantage)
Philadelphia (first round bye)
Minnesota (division winner)
Carolina (division winner)
Green Bay (wild card)
Washington (wild card)

Wild Card Round

Divisional Playoffs

NFC Championship Game

NFC Champions: Seattle Seahawks

NFC Offensive MVP: QB Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks
NFC Defensive MVP: DT Kris Jenkins, Panthers
NFC Offensive Rookie: WR Keary Colbert, Panthers
NFC Defensive Rookie: CB Sean Taylor, Redskins
NFC Comeback Player: QB Mark Brunell, Redskins
NFC Coach of the Year: Mike Holmgren, Seahawks

February 6, 2005
Jacksonville, Florida
Seattle Seahawks d. New England Patriots
Super Bowl MVP: Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks (who leads the 'Hawks on a game-winning touchdown drive in the 4th quarter)

Enjoy the 2004 NFL Season. It's going to be great.

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Finally, it's here.

The 2004 NFL season will kick off tonight in Foxboro with the Colts and Patriots. If you can't get fired up for the NFL right now, then I don't know what I can do for you. Oh, and Michael Irvin sucks. I'm shocked that he's still on ESPN. But anyways, here's how it will go. Tonight, I'll post my AFC preview. Tomorrow, my NFC preview will be up. Or it could be up later tonight, who knows. But for now, here's my 2004 AFC Preview.


AFC East
New England Patriots (11-5)
---Please stop the "Tom Brady is Joe Montana" comparisons. Until he can lead his team on a game-winning touchdown drive in the Super Bowl, he's nowhere close to Montana. Corey Dillon will help the Patriots' running game. But he's not going to be a choir boy. That's just not his style. The defense will be solid once again in 2004. I do think that the Patriots will miss Ted Washington in a big way, however. No way does this team have another post-Super Bowl hangover (see 2002).
Buffalo Bills (9-7)
---Drew Bledsoe, 2004 AFC Comeback Player of the Year. The defense was one of the NFL's best in 2003, so there's no reason why they can't be as good, if not better in 2004. Look for Willis McGahee to take some carries away from Travis Henry. But Henry will be the main running back for the Bills in 2004. McGahee will have his chance. It just won't be this season.
New York Jets (8-8)
---Can Chad Pennington play all 16 games in 2004? If he can, the Jets may very well be a playoff team. They have one of the easiest schedules in football, but I don't see them being better than 8-8. But if there is a darkhorse in the AFC, it's the J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets.
Miami Dolphins (5-11)
---Dave Wannstedt, Dead Coach Walking. There's nothing to be said about this South Beach mess.

AFC North
Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
---As good as Jon Kitna was in 2003, I believe that Carson Palmer could be better in 2004. Marvin Lewis knows what he is doing in Cincinnati. I also believe that Rudi Johnson will make people say "Corey Who?", if he hasn't already. The AFC North is a toss-up between the Bengals and Ravens. In the end, it will come down to which unproven quarterback plays better, Palmer or Kyle Boller. I think it will be Palmer. The Bengals have not been to the playoffs since 1990. This organization is due.
Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
---It won't be Prime Time in Baltimore for Deion Sanders. I don't see this ending well at all. But as for the rest of the Ravens, they will challenge the Bengals for AFC North supremacy. Jamal Lewis won't come close to 2,000 yards this season, though. And I hope the Madden Curse hits Ray Lewis. The Ravens will finish with the same 9-7 record as the Bengals, but will lose the AFC North due to tiebreakers.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-9)
---Ben Roethlisberger will replace Tommy Maddox by Week 6.
Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Bark like a dog, Soldier, I mean, Kellen Winslow, Jr. Not even Jeff Garcia can save this team. The Dawg Pound will be hurting one more time in 2004.

AFC South
Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
Can Peyton Manning lead the Colts to the Super Bowl? Sure. But can the Colts defense stop anybody? That's the question I have about the Colts. Marvin Harrison will be Marvin Harrison. Edgerrin James is primed for a big season, since it's his contract year. They should be back in the AFC Championship Game once again.
Tennessee Titans (10-6)
---No Eddie George, not too big of a problem. Steve McNair is the toughest quarterback in the AFC. I could say the entire NFL, but there's some guy named Favre in Green Bay who claims the title of "toughest quarterback in football". Watch out for tight end Ben Troupe. Early in the season, he probably won't get too much publicity. But as the season goes on, I see Troupe becoming a big part of the Titans offense. As long as McNair is in Tennessee, they have a chance to win.
Houston Texans (7-9)
---Year Three of the Houston Texans is here. Before too long, we will call David Carr one of the best quarterbacks in football. Domanick Davis had a solid rookie season last year, and should do more of the same in 2004. The Texans have been competitive in their short existence. Expect this team to be competitive again in 2004.
Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)
---The Jaguars are a year away. If you wanted to come to a website that isn't kissing Jacksonville's ass, this is the place for you. I like Byron Leftwich, but he needs a little more time to develop. By 2005, the phrase "Byron to Reggie (Williams), Touchdown Jacksonville" will be popular in Northern Florida.

AFC West
Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
---See the Colts review. Great offense, poor defense. Could this be the final hurrah for Dick Vermeil? It's shocking to think that this is already his 4th season in Kansas City, while he only spent 3 seasons in St. Louis. As for the personnel on the field, Trent Green should have another great season. Priest Holmes is a fantasy football lock. The receiving corps is not as strong as it has been, with injuries to Johnnie Morton and Marc Boerigter. But expect the Chiefs in the playoffs again in 2004. Yes, they will force the opposing offense to punt in this year's postseason.
Denver Broncos (8-8)
---The most overrated team in football. While Champ Bailey is a great pickup for the Broncos, they will miss Clinton Portis dearly. I don't believe in Jake Plummer. I never have, I never will. Mike Shanahan is on the hot seat this year. Is that crazy for me to say? I don't think so. Remember, this is a team that has done absolutely nothing since John Elway retired.
Oakland Raiders (6-10)
---Norv Turner is a head coach in the NFL again? Yikes. This is Mike White and Joe Bugel all over again. Screw the Raider Nation. If there's one thing I miss about the Seahawks not being in the AFC anymore, it's the fact that they don't get to play the Raiders every year. Damn, I miss that rivalry.
San Diego Chargers (3-13)
---Marty Schottenheimer should never coach in the NFL again. LaDainian Tomlinson is the only reason why this team is still relevant in today's NFL. Oh, and Philip Rivers will start by Week 7.

Indianapolis (home field advantage)
New England (first round bye)
Kansas City (division winner)
Cincinnati (division winner)
Tennessee (wild card)
Buffalo (wild card)

Wild Card Round

Divisonal Playoffs
NE d. KC

AFC Championship Game

AFC Champions: New England Patriots

AFC Offensive MVP: QB Peyton Manning, Colts
AFC Defensive MVP: DL Richard Seymour, Patriots
AFC Offensive Rookie: WR Lee Evans, Bills
AFC Defensive Rookie: LB Jonathan Vilma, Jets
AFC Comeback Player: QB Drew Bledsoe, Bills
AFC Coach of the Year: Marvin Lewis, Bengals

My NFC Preview will be up either later tonight or tomorrow.

1 hour, 45 minutes until kickoff in Foxboro.

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I'm sure two of you out there are wondering where the Slovakia/Canada World Cup post is, but I regret to inform you that there isn't one, and there won't be one to that extent because I didn't get out of work until 4:30 yesterday.

I got home with the (scoreless) first period nearing its end and figured I should just make myself something to eat (okay, I didn't really make ice cream) instead of taking incomplete game notes. That and I'd just enjoy the game for once.

I sat down for the second period and Canada just went nuts. Four goals were scored in a rather short amount of time, and the game was effectively over.

I've got to say that if it weren't for the massive choke job by the Swedish team, the Slovakian team would be the biggest disappointment of the tournament. A team with Hossa, Gaborik, Satan, Zednik, and Nagy only managed to put up four goals in four games. Sure, I realize they faced Canada twice, but the names I just listed have raised a decent amount of hell in the NHL the last couple years. It's safe to say they never jelled as a team.

I had no idea the brackets were crossing over, but they are.

Finland will face the United States in Saint Paul on Friday, and the Czech Republic will face Canada in Toronto on Saturday.

I'll leave you with this semi-cheesy piece on Marty Brodeur.

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I'm telling you, I was so glad when I found out that the last word in Cha Seung Baek's name was pronounced "Beck," because I get countless post titles out of it, and until Baek has a non-crappy start, I'm going to keep using Beck references to "Loser." And yes, there's another unfortunate tie-in to it.

Main stories for tonight
-- Ichiro went 1-for-5, moving himself to 227 (remember that TV show?) hits, with the record being 257. If Ichiro plays in every game for the rest of the season, he'll have played in 161 games (24 games remain). George Sisler set his mark in 154 games. So, if Ichiro wants to set a record without it being 257*, he'll have to break the record in his next 17 games. If he got four at-bats per game for the next 17 games, he'd need to go 30-for-68 for a .441 clip. If Ichiro got five at-bats per game for the next 17 games, he'd need to go 30-for-85, a clip of .353. Of course, given the tougher schedule coming up with Boston and all the divisional rivals (most of which are playing for something), those teams are going to reeeeaallly want to win, and walking Ichiro will definitely be an option for all teams involved. So, the pace that Ichiro will have to set will probably be something inbetween those two numbers I posted, unless opposing teams start walking him at a Bondsian rate. Then Ichiro breaking the record in 154 games probably won't happen.

-- Two homers for Edgar. Way to go, Papi. And for those who don't know, don't believe what you hear. The SECOND syllable is the stressed syllable in "Papi," because the last "i" is supposed to have an accent mark on it.

-- Greg Dobbs massively upstages the Major League debut of Jeremy Reed by mashing one about twelve rows deep in rightfield in the 9th.

-- Oh, the team? They still suck. They've lost seven straight, but I think at this point in the season, we're numb to all the losses.

-- Bucky Jacobsen is done for the year and will have knee surgery. I haven't seen reports yet other than the ESPN Bottomline, but I'm betting it had something to do with the fluid in his knee that made him sit out every few days, or made Melvin sit him out. Sadly, no more BuckyBlasts for the season. Tears hath been shed. Not just because of the lack of BuckyBeltings for the rest of the year, but because we'll see more of...

-- Willie Bloomquist playing first base. What have I...what have I...I'm going to stop this because I've already used the Pet Shop Boys reference once this season.

Now, the recap.


Mariners on defense/pitching (bad to good)
massacre < terrible inning < some damage < fighting out of jam < decent inning < 1-2-3

Mariners on offense
I hate this team < come on, y'all < ho, hum < minimal damage < some damage < big inning

TOP 1ST -- some damage
The night started out ominously for Baek, as Coco Crisp led off the game with a double. After getting two flyouts, Baek yielded a dinker off the bat of Victor Martinez that plated the Crispy One (CLE 1-0). Travis Hafner, a.k.a., Steve Sandmeyer's pick for 2003 Rookie of the Year, whiffed.

BOTTOM 1ST -- minimal damage
Ichiro didn't lead the game off with a hit. Randy Winn was caught looking, and then Edgar mashed one out to leftcenter to tie the game at 1-1. Bret Boone hit a single, but Jolbert Cabrera flew out to Omar Vizquel at short.

TOP 2ND -- 1-2-3
Whaddaya know? Baek set down Casey Blake, Ben Broussard (I always want to call him Steve when I see his last name...Seahawk fans would understand), and Ron Belliard on 13 total pitches.

BOTTOM 2ND -- ho, hum
Hiram Bocachica enjoys what should be his final month in a Mariner uniform by singling with one out, and watching a Jose Lopez flyout, and an obligatory Bloomquist whiff, this one after he was ahead 2-0 in the count.

TOP 3RD -- 1-2-3
Baek extended the streak to seven Indians retired, getting through Jody Gerut, Crisp, and Vizquel on a mere nine pitches.

BOTTOM 3RD -- some damage
Ichiro flew out to left, so no dice there. Winn walked on four pitches, and Edgar blasted a 2-1 pitch over the rightfield wall to get the Mariners the lead (SEA 3-1). Nothing else really happened in the inning, other than a four-pitch walk with two out by Cabrera. Cliff Lee had two four-pitch walks in the inning, and didn't end up lasting in the game very long.

TOP 4TH -- terrible inning
Granted, a good portion of the terrible inning isn't Baek's fault. On the first ball in play, Matt Lawton hit a grounder that went to Boone's backhand side and appeared to be a routine play. Boone had it go in and out of his glove, and Lawton was safe at first at this point. But where Boone REALLY screwed up was when he was so pissed off at himself that he let the ball go into shallow rightfield without chasing after it. Lawton scurried over to second before the ball came in to the infield. That play was purely pathetic. In another somewhat related note, I heard Harold Reynolds on Baseball Tonight say that Orlando Hudson might get a Gold Glove this year. Frankly, I didn't know what to think.

There was more to the inning after the Boone muff, though. Lots more. Victor Martinez' groundout pushed Lawton to third, and an infield single by Hafner (I saw this one, but it's hard to describe; kind of a 'tweener) drove in Lawton (SEA 3-2). Blake then tagged a double into leftcenter and moved Hafner to third. One out later, Belliard visited the leftfield seats above the manual scoreboard to put the Indians back on top (CLE 6-3). Cleveland would hit two more singles in the inning before Baek got Vizquel to fly out and end the inning.

BOTTOM 4TH -- ho, hum
Levine's Law applies once again, as Bocachica drew a leadoff walk, stole second on a 2-2 whiff pitch to Bloomquist, and went to the dugout after Ichiro tried to bunt and did so, to the pitcher. I heard Niehaus lamenting the bunting decision, saying something like "he's the team's best hitter with runners in scoring position, and they have him bunt?"

TOP 5TH -- fighting out of jam
Lawton singled to right in what would be Baek's final inning. Baek also would walk Hafner later in the inning. With runners on at first and second with one out, Baek got Blake to whiff and Broussard to bounce into a fielder's choice. Baek's line: 5 innings, 5 runs (1 earned; Boone keeps Baek's ERA down tonight), 8 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 90 pitches. He only walked one, which was good, but he threw a first-pitch ball to seven of the first 11 hitters he faced (four of five in the 1st). But the Cleveland hitters were tagging a lot of his pitches, and the Belliard homer with two runners on didn't help. Neither did Boone's error though. Anyway, it was a better start for Baek than the one in Toronto, so let's just hope the next one is a bit better. Maybe at this pace he'll throw seven shutout innings in his last start of the season.

BOTTOM 5TH -- some damage
Boone gets down 0-2, watches a couple pitches, and fouls one off. After the first two pitches, he was in that two-strike stance, or the maybe-I-just-like-having-a-bat-in-my-hand-while-I-mime-taking-a-dump stance, and on a 2-2 pitch, he just put one of those quick wave/swipe motions at the ball and hit it out to rightfield. It was a testament to bat speed and quick hands, or something like that (CLE 5-4). The homer brought the Mariners within one run in an otherwise lackluster inning.

TOP 6TH -- 1-2-3
Matt Thornton hasn't got shelled lately, though I'm waiting for him to do just that. Seven pitches was all he needed to get through Belliard, Gerut, and Crisp, with the batters not named Gerut getting out on their first pitches.

BOTTOM 6TH -- ho, hun
David Riske comes in and blows down Miguel Olivo and Bocachica, and gets Lopez to fly out to left

TOP 7TH -- some damage
Lawton singled off Thornton with one out. He would end up on third via stealing and via a wild pitch. Hafner would walk and Blake would single to score Lawton (CLE 6-4).

What a great time to put Ron Villone into the game. On his third pitch after entering the ballgame, Villone joined the Wild Pitch Party (I don't think they qualified for federal election funding though), which allowed the runners to advance into scoring. As a member of the Wild Pitch Party, Villone's campaign promise is to do whatever he can to allow opposing hitters to having runners in scoring position so that they're easier to drive in with a single. He's got Ben Broussard's vote (CLE 8-4). And just for the hell of it, Villone walked Belliard on four pitches after that. But he figured it had to stop somewhere, so Gerut was caught looking to end it (concession speech).

BOTTOM 7TH -- ho, hum
Rafael Betancourt was the second man out of the pen tonight in a game that would feature the Wheel o' Relievers for Cleveland. New pitcher, same result for Bloomquist (strikeout). Ichiro singled to tally his hit of the night, and stole second before nothing else of note happened.

TOP 8TH -- fighting out of jam
The game was basically over already, so it was an okay time to bring in Shigetoshi Hasegawa. Shigster immediately gave up two singles, and a groundout moved the runners into scoring position. However, Hasegawa got a quick flyout from Victor Martinez, before putting Hafner on base and getting a ground ball from Blake.

BOTTOM 8TH -- ho, hum
Levine's Law again. Boone walked to lead off and didn't score. Also of note in the inning: Cabrera had a 3-0 count and whiffed, and Bocachica later had a 2-0 count and also whiffed.

TOP 9TH -- some damage
Aaron Taylor's nickname is Big Country. Bryant Reeves had the same nickname and didn't do a lot in the NBA. Sure, he was great in college, and shattered the backboard in the Kingdome and everything, but my point is that the OSU Big Country didn't do anything in the NBA, and that Aaron Taylor is TBD, though I'm leaning toward him not doing anything in the Majors.

Other than an absolute no-doubter by Gerut to rightfield, and a walk by Crisp, it wasn't that eventful of an inning.

BOTTOM 9TH -- minimal damage
Greg Dobbs came in an made his Major League debut, pinch-hitting for Jose Lopez against Bob Wickman. Dobbs had a pretty good at-bat, fouling off a few pitches and working the count full before launching a no-doubter that was every bit as equal to Gerut's in the top half of the inning. Unfortunately for Jeremy Reed, the awe for Dobbs hadn't died down until after he hacked at the first pitch and bounced out to short in his first Major League at-bat. Ichiro grounded out and Winn was caught looking to end the game.

Some homers, a couple of Major League debuts, and hit by Ichiro on the way to what hopefully will become history. The only thing missing was a win, but I haven't been expecting those for a while now.

Gameball: Edgar Martinez. 2-for-4 with two homers and three RBI as he continues the farewell tour.

Goat: Willie Bloomquist. 0-for-3 with a hat trick. What more could you want out of a corner infielder?

Hey, that team from Boston is on a bit of a roll...

Wakefield. Madritsch. Tomorrow.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2004


[VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: This post was ready to go at 7:30pm last night, and Jeremy's post below regarding Ichiro was ready around 6pm last night. They are finally being published today (Wednesday) around 4:40pm. Who to thank for this? Blogger, of course. I know the hosting is free and everything, but I kept trying from last night to this morning at 9:30 before I left for work and the damn thing wouldn't publish. Basically, as you read these posts, imagine yourself wherever you were the night before.]

Before I get to the USA/Russia game, I must say that this morning's matchup between the Czech Republic and Sweden was not recapped by me because, well, it was my first day on the job again at ye olde electric warehouse that I've worked at for parts of the past three summers. I haven't seen much more than a linescore and a short clip, but I know that the Czechs won 6-1, Milan Hejduk scored twice, and Brian Burke thinks that the Swedes just lost confidence in their goaltending, and the roof fell in. As a result, it's the Czechs and the Finns in the European final, and one could argue that the Finns were one tip-in (Mikko Eloranta) from being upset by Germany.

But now, today's game. The Russians skated circles around the USA the first time, only being kept in the game by the stellar play of Robert Esche in net. Though Rick DiPietro netted the USA's only win (against the Slovaks), but coach Ron Wilson put Esche back out there tonight, and scratched Brett Hull once again. Yikes. Ilya Bryzgalov was in net again for the Russians.

Once again, times are approximate.

18:12 Aaron Miller was stopped from the right point
16:37 Viktor Kozlov (I'd had him confused with Vyacheslav in earlier posts) had his shot from the right circle meet the pads of Esche
15:57 Bryzgalov put his chest on a Keith Tkachuk breakaway shot from the right side. Don't worry about Tkachuk, he'd have a decent night
12:15 Bryzgalov stopped a bad-angle shot from the right circle by Brian Smolinski
**8:40 Mike Modano rifled a shot from the blue line which was redirected in front and into the net by Keith Tkachuk (USA 1-0)
5:08 Alexei Kovalev misfires from in close on the right side
3:06 Pavel Datsyuk misses from about 10 feet on the right side
1:34 Chris Chelios hooks Alexei Yashin on a breakaway
0:06 A flurry by the Russians yields a lump of coal. Esche chest-stopped a shot by Ilya Kovalchuk and gloved Daniel Zubrus' shot off the rebound

Russia outshot the USA 7-5 in the first period. The crew praised the early play of Tkachuk, and noticed that a bunch of people were fanning on the puck.

**18:04 Bill Guerin made a key pass from the end boards to Tkachuk in front of the net. He easily buried the shot from the right side (USA 2-0)
16:46 Chelios was unsuccessful from the right circle
16:01 With Russia shorthanded, Yashin's shot went off a skate, and Alexander Frolov smacked the puck out of the air and into the net. Problem? It was a high stick. Goal waved off
13:37 Esche made a blocker save on Yashin's shot from just beyond the circles
**12:46 Dmitry Afanosenkov took a pass from Artem Chubarov (Canuck) and beat Esche on the stick side from the faceoff dot (USA 2-1)
12:05 Chris Drury was stopped from the right circle
11:50 Jason Blake had a penalty shot. He tried to go five-hole on Bryzgalov, but the hole closed, and the shot hit Bryzgalov in the chest
11:45 Another chest stop for Bryzgalov, this time on Jamie Langenbrunner
10:10 Doug Weight was about a foot away from the net, but he couldn't squirt the puck through. Bryzgalov put a pad save on the shot and smothered the puck
9:40 A loose puck was covered by Bryzgalov
9:03 A redirection by Kovalchuk was stopped by Esche

At this point, the hard hits and checks were getting a little more plentiful as the level of physical play stepped up in the game.

6:13 Bryzgalov put the chest on a shot by Scott Gomez from beyond the circles
4:32 With the Russians shorthanded, Daniel Zubrus put a shot toward Esche, who put the stick on it
1:54 Alexander Frolov was stopped by the pads from the left side

After two periods, the USA outshot Russia 14-13.

**19:24 The USA gave away the puck near their own blue line, and Russia was on a 3-on-1 breakaway. Daniel Zubrus would beat Esche high to the glove side to tie the game and make it verrrrrrry interesting (2-2)
17:47 Weight's backhand shot was steered away
**15:35 Tkachuk jumped on a turnover, and his shot went off Alexander Khavanov's stick and in the air to Gomez, who potted his shot from the left circle to put the USA back in the lead (USA 3-2)
**15:13 A nice cross-ice pass from Bill Guerin enabled Tkachuk to beat Bryzgalov to the glove side (USA 4-2)
13:58 Esche madde a big stop on Kozlov
9:13 Esche made a left pad save on Kozlov's shot from the left side
**8:56 Kovalchuk on the one-timer from Sergei Samsonov put a puck under the pad stack of Esche to bring the Russians back within one (USA 4-3)
8:32 Kozlov was once again stopped from the left side
6:50 Esche came up huge again, this time on Kovalchuk
**0:55 The Russians pulled Bryzgalov for an extra attacker, but they couldn't keep the puck out of their zone. In swoops Thachuk for goal number four (USA 5-3). A golden sombrero for Keith Tkachuk in the best individual performance so far in the tournament
0:30 Bryzgalov put a belly save on Weight, but the game was over

CBC's three stars: Keith Tkachuk, Mike Modano, Alexei Kovalev

Total aside: has anyone else noticed that the backs of the Russian and German jerseys looked a lot like the backs of the San Jose Sharks' jerseys, except just switching the colors? The numbers look the same, and the nameplates look the same, though I think the Sharks do the semicircle thing with their names. Other completely unrelated backs-of-uniforms note, the pre-Juicebox Houston Astros had uniforms where the numbers and names on the back that looked exactly like what the Sonics that went to the NBA Finals against the Bulls had. I told you it was unrelated, so don't scoff.

The European final is set. It's (3) Czech Republic against (1) Finland. It's been said that the Czechs might have been lying in the weeds and waiting until the elimination round to strike, but even with Sweden's inept goaltending, I didn't think they'd put up six goals. Craziness.

The North American final will be (3) United States against (4) Slovakia or (1) Canada. Canada might go up in a ball of flame if they don't beat the Slovaks tomorrow night.

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