PEORIA, Ariz. – A three-run home run by Franklin Gutierrez in the seventh inning helped the Seattle Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels, 6-4, on Tuesday – the second win in three days against their division rival.
Ryan Rowland-Smith pitched six innings, Ken Griffey Jr. tied the game with an RBI double, but when it was over this game was a reminder of just how much of an impact Ichiro Suzuki can have.
There was a first-inning single and stolen base, which set up Seattle’s first run. There was one of those laser throws to catch an Angels runner off second base in the sixth inning. And then, there was Seattle’s play of the spring.
Ichiro’s second-inning catch was spectacular, an over-the-shoulder, leaping effort that ended with him sprawled on the right field warning track, his back up against the wall.
It was an all-out, maximum-effort defensive play, and it brought the Mariners and Angels to their feet in their respective dugouts – and drew an appropriate response from the Peoria Stadium fans.
“That’s as good as it gets,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Fabulous catch,” Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said.
If Ichiro has made a better catch, none of his teammates could remember one.
“There are over-the-shoulder catches, and then there are over-the-shoulder, jump-and-dive catches,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “You just don’t see plays like that often, and it’s an indication of how hard he’s playing.”
Even Ichiro was impressed.
“I’ve never caught a ball like that before, so it will stay in my memory,” Ichiro said. “If you look at the angle, usually it’s from the right or the left. But that was straight from the top. That was a tough play and was one of my impressive catches.”
It required a bit of creativity.
“Once you go around from the left or the right you don’t get to that ball. When you first see it, you imagine where the ball will land,” Ichiro said. “You go straight to that point where the ball will drop and then you will see it from up top.”
And when did he see the ball before the catch?
“When it actually passed my head. I’ve been working on this during BP, catching backwards. That helped a lot,” Ichiro said.
Yes, that’s correct. While shagging fly balls, Ichiro works on catching the ball backward.
Thinking man’s infielder
As he makes the transition to second base, Chone Figgins has a list of things that might happen that he goes over in his head between pitches.
“I’ve always done it, wherever I’m playing,” he said. “I think about the situations, where base runners are, where the ball might be hit, what I’d do in each situation.”
Cliff Lee update
Cliff Lee played catch with a team trainer, and when he was through the Mariners were pleased but uncertain when he might get on a mound again
Testing his abdominal strain, Lee said he wasn’t free of discomfort.
“I still feel it just a little bit. I played catch for 5 to 10 minutes. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s not super painful, but it doesn’t feel good, either,” Lee said. “At first I wasn’t feeling anything and was feeling good, but near the end I felt it come on a little bit. I really don’t know what the plan is. I am just kind of easing back into it and hopefully things fall back into place.”
Said Wakmatsu, “Caution has to come first. You’re looking at a long season and we have to make sure we don’t rush him back.”
Jose Lopez had two RBI in his first 24 at-bats, then picked up two more in his 25th, hitting his first spring home run. He added a pair of solid backhanded plays at third base. ...The Mariners showed the division-rival Angels what they can expect in the regular season – a running game that included stolen bases by Ichiro and, on a pitchout, Gutierrez . “It puts a thought in their minds,” Wakamatsu said. ... David Pauley’s bid for a job has now seen him pitch 12 innings for Seattle, including three consecutive appearances in which he pitched three innings. ... Two off-the-radar pitchers continue to impress. Kanekoa Texeira pitched a scoreless inning and has a 1.04 earned-run average in eight appearances. Jesus Colome pitched the last two innings for his second save.
Seattle plays San Diego today in Peoria Stadium, a 7:05 p.m. game that will be televised on the MLB network and broadcast on 710-AM. Probable starting pitchers: Seattle’s Jason Vargas vs. TBA.