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G23: Rangers win best game in ages against Mariners, 2-0

As this game went along, around the 7th or so, when it became obvious I Colby Lewis was spiritually taken over by the pitching ghost of Nolan Ryan, I had a much different idea on what I was going to write. I’m going to put my initial report here first, and then write about what did happen.

ORIGINAL IDEA FOR REPORT:
Check out these lines..
Colby Lewis: 8IP, 3H, 0R, 1B, 10K
Cliff Lee: ??IP, 3H, 0R, 8K
Neftali Feliz: 1IP, 0H, 0BB, 3K, 1SAVE
In the bottom of the ninth, when it was obvious what was happening, I called my wife in and showed her the score (as she was busy doing other stuff). She knows enough baseball to get it from just the pause of the game, which showed Lewis still in, and the game 0-0 in the bottom of the ninth. When I told her that Colby Lewis was our STARTING pitcher, she said Wow!. I followed up by saying, you know, of the major professional sports, baseball is the only one where a tie game at the end isn’t considered a bore. Basketball technically can never have a 0-0 game. Hockey & Football have, but if you end up with a 0-0 tie in either of those, you’ve watched a boring game. In baseball, if you have a 0-0 tie, you’ve seen something spectacular most likely. And that’s what I saw tonight. A spectacular win!

Now granted, I formulated most of that in the 7th to 9th innings, so the line numbers aren’t right. Also, my paragraph about 0-0 games doesn’t take into account the shootout in Hockey, but the point is – if you get to a shootout in hockey that’s 0-0, it’s pretty boring – I know, I’ve sat LIVE through a few of those. 0-0 in football means it’s a pretty bad game. 0-0 at the end of nine on this night in Seattle was awesome!
Even after eight, the game was pretty darned awesome. When it finished nine innings tied 0-0 with Colby Lewis on the hill still, it was even better. The way it ACTUALLY finished – wow! One of the best I think I’ve ever seen.
These late games are ones I tend to skip around more than most. Since I had the thing TiVo’ed, my wife and I watched an episode of FlashForward (which is a great series – if you haven’t been watching it, you’re missing out). I have a part time job that I work one hour a night from 11PM to Midnight, so I started skipping forward in blocks because I wanted to get more of the game in than not when it was time for me to start my shift. I watched the Rangers bat – in 30 second skips, and fast forwarded through Colby Lewis pitching. After about an hour of that (in real time, not skip time), I thought “Hmm. This looks like it’s pretty good”, so I actually started watching the game around the 5th or so. It was still 0-0. And it remained 0-0. Colby Lewis was dominating.
All that Colby gave up happened early. Single to Ichiro in the first. Walk to Milton Bradley in the second. Single to Adam Moore in the second. Another single to Ichiro in the third. And that was it. From the second batter in the third inning to the third and final batter in the ninth inning, Colby got ‘em all. All TWENTY ONE IN A ROW. That was seriously impressive. I mean wow. Colby Lewis struck out 10 Mariners tonight. Colby Lewis is leading the American League in strikeouts. How freakin’ wild is THAT? Colby Lewis has now struck out 10 batters 4 times in April. The only other Rangers pitcher EVER to do that was Nolan Ryan. Holy crap, this is good stuff. Not used to this.
After seven, Cliff Lee came out. I didn’t think he needed to come out, but it was his first start of the season, I guess the M’s were protecting him. He was followed by Mark Lowe & David Aardsma. I have to confess when I saw Lowe coming out instead of Lee, I thought we had it in the bag. I was emotionally banking on the fact that the departure of Lee, who had us doing nothing was going to be enough to turn the tide. It wasn’t. Lowe and Aardsma were as good as Lee. In fact, only Lowe gave up anything – one single.
So we hit the end of regulation with the same score we started it with. Donut. Had the game ended there with one of us winning 1-0, it would have been a great enough game. But it’s what happened after that which brought the game into the stratospheric level.
In the top of the 10th, the Rangers went quite quietly. Guerrero lined out, Kinsler struck out, and Garko grounded out. No noise there.
We get to the bottom of the 10th, and I did confess I would have loved to have seen Lewis come back out there. Baseball reasoning and my brain knew why he wasn’t coming back, but man, the fan and the heart wanted to see Colby go 9+ this game. After all he had set down 21 in a row, right? Still, Darren Oliver came out, and he’s been pretty successful this season. Darren got into immediate trouble, giving up a single to Ken Griffey (who was lifted for pinch runner Eric Byrnes (more on him later)). Right after that, Milton Bradley doubled, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. After the way we got here, I had all my usual thoughts about how I hate the 10th inning, and how Colby deserved better than that, etc, etc, etc… They decided to pitch to Casey Kotchmann. At the time Lewin & Grieve said that they probably were doing that to avoid the possibility of Ichiro batting with the bases loaded and two outs. Anyway, Kotchman popped out to short. The Rangers then intentionally walked Adam Moore, bringing up Jack Wilson. So begins the chess match. The Mariners brought in Mike Sweeney to face the newly changed pitcher, Darren O’Day. It was said that Sweeney had good numbers against Darren Oliver, which is probably why Darren O’Day was brought in. With one pitch, O’Day got Sweeney to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, ending the inning. While his face wasn’t to the camera, you could clearly see Sweeney mouth some sort of expletive. His body language (even backwards) was quite evident that’s what he was doing. So we dodged a huge, epic level bullet. Was quite a surprise that we were going to the 11th to be honest.
So we get to the 11th, and the Rangers go down in a hurry again. Smoak grounds out, Treanor strikes out, Murphy lines out. Bam – Bam – Bam! That scared me. Being the road team in games like this means if you’re gonna win, you have to face the home team twice before you win when you do nothing like that. Blah!
Bottom of the 12th. Frank Francisco comes in. UH-OH! Can’t say there’s a ton of fan confidence in him at the moment. While he’s been better now than the early part of April, I can’t say I was looking forward to this. And I was right. Ichiro is up first (what is this a rehab assignment game? He always seems to be up first), and singles to right. Chone Figgins also singles, putting men on first and second. Nobody out. Frank gets Frankin Guiterrez to strike out, and then the real fun begins.
Jose Lopez walked. Was I think one of those unintentional intentional walks. The bases are loaded. Ichiro Suzuki at third. One out. Eric Byrnes at the plate – this is the bit I mentioned earlier would come up. The Mariners tried a squeeze play to finish the game. It probably would have worked too, except that Eric Byrnes apparently missed a sign, and didn’t so much as try to get a bunt down as just stand there and look stupid. “Oh wait – Ichiro’s running towards the plate, I better get my bat out”. Francisco’s pitch was a pitch in the dirt – and Byrnes didn’t “offer” at it until after the ball was already in the dirt – it was really quite a pathetic attempt at covering the fact he missed a sign. Anyway, Ichiro would have been a dead duck normally. Excpect that the pitch was in the ground, and there was a small moment where Treanor couldn’t find the ball. He did recover in JUST enough time to tag out Ichiro coming home.
It was at this point I checked into the live game feed over at USS Mariner, and found some rather amusing quotes from the fans about this play, although my single favorite was this one:

This is the beautiful thing about the Mariner offense. They give fans new and inventive ways NOT to score runs!

That made me laugh out loud. Anyway, after Ichiro was called out, Ron Washington came out to argue that since it was a squeeze play, and Byrnes offered at it (even as pathetically as he did), it should have been called a strike. Which is probably right, but it got Wash ejected, which is a rarity for sure. Then he went off, which is something you don’t normally see the guy do. He went away, and then you realized that bench coach Jackie Moore was still away after the death of his child, so it likely fell to Clint Hurdle to be the acting manager, although that was not officially confirmed. After that, Eric Byrnes was called out on strikes, and we escaped a second bullet. I mean WOW. Just FREAKIN WOW!
On to the 12th, and at this point I was now quite late in starting my work shift, but I wasn’t about to leave this game now. Elvis Andrus leads off the 12th with a strange single that off the bat looked like it was going to go over the second baseman’s head, but instead landed in the sweet spot between second and the pitcher’s mound where there’s no time for anyone to get it. Single. After that, Michael Young has a chopper off the ground that went incredibly high up in the air. He was safe at first, but a throwing error by backup shortstop (Matt “Guy who way too many letters in his surname”) threw the ball away letting Elvis get to third, and Michael to second. OK, tables are turned. The Rangers now have second and third with nobody out. And then the first run of the game finally scored on the 299th overall pitch of the game. It was a wild pitch. Wow. After all that time, the Rangers take a 1-0 lead in the 12th on a wild pitch by Brandon League. Elvis Andrus scored, and Michael Young took third. This prompted another smart alec response from a Mariners fan over at ussmariner..

Oh! That’s how you score a runner on third! Hope guys in the dugout were watching.

Josh Hamilton was intentionally walked, and Julio Borbon drove in the second run of the game with a ground out to third. Kinsler & Garko couldn’t add to it, so it went to the bottom of the 12th and Neftali Feliz came in. Got Bradley, Kotchman, & Moore with no troubles. The game was over.
One of the best games I’ve seen in a long time. It was fantastic. It was definitely worth waiting up for. Colby Lewis has won me over. Another pitcher I owe an apology to for my pre-season “Why this guy” feelings. This is awesome.
Last words: Time of Game: 3 hours 14 minutes. If this were Yankees, Red Sox, they’d be in the middle of the sixth. We got 12 innings in all, and a better baseball game than I’ve seen out of Yankees Red Sox since about 2004 in the playoffs. There – I said it.