Thursday, May 26, 2011
The Yankees are coming to town
For the first time since the Los Angeles Angels swept the Seattle Mariners in a series back in August of 2007 there will be a buzz at Safeco Field. When the New York Yankees come to town there is always packed crowds at Safeco Field but this year will feel different as the Mariners behind first year skipper Eric Wedge are playing good baseball. The Mariners have gone 8-2 over the past 10 games which saw their pitching staff dominate. This series will feature a contrast in styles as the bronx bombers like to play long ball while the Mariners like to keep games low scoring. I'm glad there will be finally an energy at Safeco although I'm aware it will feel like the Washington Huskies-Nebraska game at Husky Stadium where the visitors will have plenty of fans. Most of these "fans" for the Yankees are your classic bandwagon fans who are born and raised in Washington yet root on the evil empire. Still I'd rather see that than 18,000 fans like we have seen all year. These two teams had a nice rivalry from 1995-2003 which saw them square off in the playoffs three times against each other.
It was the first playoff meeting that is the most famous especially in Seattle as baseball was saved. The reason these teams will play at Safeco Field is because of the 1995 ALDS which saw the Seattle Mariners make their first ever postseason appearance against the New York Yankees who was the first ever American League Wild Card participant. This was a wild series which saw three classic games. In game one the Yankees won 9-6 despite Ken Griffey Jr going deep twice. Then in game two was the heartbreaker that many thought crushed the Mariners. The Mariners blew a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning then after Griffey Jr hit a home run in the 12th inning they blew the lead again. Ultimately the Mariners lost on a walk off home run in the 15th inning and were coming home down 0-2. In game three behind Randy Johnson striking 10 Yankees the Mariners won their first ever playoff game. In game four the Mariners were trailing 5-0 when Edgar Martinez hit a three run home run to cut the lead. Then with the game tied at 6-6 Martinez hit a grand slam to give the Mariners a 11-8 victory. Martinez set a postseason record with seven RBI's which set up the game that saved baseball in Seattle. In game five Randy Johnson pitching on one days rest allowed a run in his third inning of work in the 11th so the Mariners trailed 5-4. With first and third and nobody out Edgar Martinez lined a double down the left field line which scored Joey Cora and Ken Griffey Jr from first base to win the series. That is when baseball in Seattle was saved and a rivalry was born.
Well after 1995 the Mariners made the playoffs three more times and had six more winning seasons through 2003. While the Yankees went on a run winning four of the next five World Series and five of the next six American League championships. In 2000 it was the Mariners who were the Wild Card team facing the Yankees for the right to go to the World Series. After winning game one in New York the Mariners lost the next three. The Mariners did win game five when Edgar Martinez hit a home run off Jeff Nelson in the fifth inning. Then in game six the Mariners had a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning when Arthur Rhodes blew up once again. The Yankees won 9-7 against the Mariners in what would be Alex Rodriguez final game as a Mariner. In his final game he went 4-5 with a home run and two RBI's and two runs scored. The following year the Mariners tied a major league baseball record with 116 wins as they once again squared off with three time defending World Champions Yankees. The Yankees won both games in Seattle then the Mariners won game three in New York. Once again the Mariners saw a late inning lead disappear in the Bronx as they led 1-0 in the eighth when Rhodes gave up a home run to Bernie Williams. In the bottom of the 9th closer Kaz Sasaki gave up a walk off home run to rookie Alfonso Soriano giving the Yankees a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Yankees would kill the Mariners 12-3 to finish off the Mariners. The rivalry was hot at that point. I remember going to a game in 2002 where my dad paid $100 a ticket for us to watch the game. That game the Mariners lost 4-3 on a sunday when you guessed it Rhodes blew the game. Rhodes was a great reliever for the Mariners but had his problems against the Yankees. That is all in the past now as the Mariners face the Yankees this weekend at Safeco.
The Mariners this weekend will be throwing their top two pitchers at the Yankees which should get the fans excited. On Friday you'll see Michael Pineda(6-2, 2.16 era) going up against A.J.Burnett(5-3,4.02 era) on Friday. This is a matchup of two power arms and for Pineda a chance to make some noise all across the nation. This will be Pineda's first real pressure game as he has never faced an opponent like the Yankees. For Burnett you don't know what you are going to get. Last year he lost to the Mariners as he went seven innings allowing 12 hits and six earned runs. For his career against the Mariners he is 2-2 with a 3.83 era. Then on Saturday the Mariners will be throwing reigning Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez(5-4, 3.01 era) against Ivan Nova(4-3, 4.29 era) in a matchup the Mariners should like. Hernandez has dominated the Yankees the past two seasons. Last year against the Yankees in three starts Hernandez went 3-0, threw 26 out of a possible 27 innings while posting a 0.35 ERA while striking out 31. In Hernandez last four starts against the Yankees he is 4-0 and has thrown 35 out of a possible 36 innings and has allowed just two earned runs and has struck out 34 guys. For his career his 5-3 with a 2.73 era against the Bronx bombers. As for Nova like Pineda will be making his first career appearance against the Mariners. Then on Sunday afternoon the Mariners will be throwing Jason Vargas(3-2, 3.86 era) against veteran Bartolo Colon(2-3, 3.77 era) in what should make for an interesting series. Vargas last year against the Yankees went 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and for his career he is 0-1 with a 6.05 era against the Yankees. As for Colon he has had plenty of battles with the Mariners including two starts in the playoffs. Colon for his career is 14-11 against the Mariners with a 4.13 era. In the 2001 ALDS he went 1-1 with a 1.84 era against the 116 win led Mariners. The Mariners seeing how they are throwing their two best pitchers and avoided C.C.Sabathia have a great chance to win this series and gain more momentum going forward.
In conclusion, I'm just happy that there will finally be a buzz at Safeco Field. If you live in the Seattle area and are a Mariners fan please make it to the game. I'm tired of the last few years where the Yankees and Red Sox fans taking over our crowd. I remember growing up laughing at southern California fans when they would take over their crowds. Let's take back Safeco Field fans and make this a playoff atmosphere. I would say the Yankees are clearly the better team but the Mariners should be slight favorites in Friday nights game, overwhelming favorites in Saturday's game and underdogs in Sunday afternoons game. Still if the Mariners win two out of the three that would put them at .500 on the season which everyone would take. I'm excited to see how young Pineda does in a big moment in front of a national audience. This is a chance for the Mariners to make some noise this weekend and show the baseball world we are for real. I'm excited for the Yankees coming to town and I hope city of Seattle shows up to support this team.