Sunday, May 01, 2005

Games #20-#15

This is the beginning of the countdown of the best 20 major league games I've personally attended. See below for an explanation.

#20. September 8, 1995 at Coors Field: Rockies 10, Reds 5.

My Dad's testosterone got the best of him at a charity auction, so he, my mom, a buddy of mine and I were in the second row behind home plate for three innings (awesome), in the restaurant down the right field line for three innings (dumb), then back to the second row for three innings. This was a game with a little bit of everything...pitching for a few innings (Pete Schourek was on his game that night, in the middle of his career year for the Reds), then a nip and tuck few innings, before the Rockies blew it open in the seventh, which I watched through a headache because I had a very rare glass of wine in the fifth inning. Reds relievers were roughed up for a single, a walk, a John Vander Wal triple, a double, and a walk followed...and then they hit Larry Walker, my favorite Rockie with a pitch. We were mad. The bases were loaded, and Andres Galarraga, my other favorite Rockie, apanked a grand slam. The Rox hit for a cycle in the inning. It was almost unbelievably fun.

#19. July 30, 2002 at Safeco Field: Mariners 5, Tigers 4 (10 innings).

Other than the company of about a dozen fellow teachers on a summer weekday afternoon, I only remember one thing about this game: it featured a pinch-hit walk-off suicide squeeze single. How can that not make the list? Marc McLemore pulled it off, scoring my fiancee's beloved Desi Relaford. I remember pitcher Jeff Farnsworth desperately lunging towards the ball, trying to scoop it to the plate...no avail. I remember nothing from the nine and a half innings that preceded that, but seriously, that one play is sufficient for me.

#18. July 3, 1995 at Coors Field: Rockies 15, Astros 10.

A typical Coors Field deal. Five Rockies homers. Two Astros homers. Constant action. It's fun to watch guys hit the ball a billion feet. My dad was out of town, and I took my high school honey and her soon-to-be-husband, (and later-to-be ex-husband). A warm, dry Colorado night. The Rockies had 21 hits, the Astros 15. The score went back and forth, but Rockies' relief held them scoreless after the sixth. Yeah, I'm usually a purist...but this was damn fun to watch.

#17. April 23, 2000 at Safeco Field: Mariners 8, Royals 5.

A Sunday afternoon...my parents take me here for my 30th birthday. Cold and overcast...I think the roof was closed. Jermaine Dye homers to tie it up in the top of the ninth. Ricky Bottalico came on in relief--and gave up a walk, a walk, and a John Olerud home run. Game over. I dance in the upper deck.

By the way, Bottalico made a million and a half that year. Divide that by 62 appearances, and he made $24,193.55 for that appearance.

#16: June 29, 2003 at Safeco Field: Padres 8, Mariners 6. A gorgeous Sunday afternoon with my honey. The Mariners blew a 6-1 lead, giving up 6 runs in the ninth, blowing it all when Arthur Rhodes gives up a grand slam to Rondell White. Yeah, it bugged me, a lot, but you can't much beat a decisive 9th-inning grand slam.

#15: July 18, 1997 at the Kingdome: Mariners 5, Royals 4.

A mid-week night with a bud from the crappy job. He wasn't a fan, but I convinced him to head to the ballpark with me after work. As I recall, it was on a whim because my favorite pitcher of all time was pitching that night.

And, in fact, this game makes the list because it is all about the performance of that pitcher, Randy Johnson. I loved watching him pitch. I loved Randy Johnson when he was an Expo, for God's sake. And I've seen him pitch better than he did this night...but this night he didn't have his best stuff and had to gut it out. Seriously, Randy wasn't stellar. Case in point: a rookie, Shane Halter, hit his first career homer in the first inning (although a pissed-off Randy struck him out four times after that). Still, the crowd, recognizing that (A) he didn't have his best stuff, and (B) on his worst-ever day, the Unit was better than the '97 M's breathtakingly bad bullpen (look at those stats only if you dare), chanted his name. We yelled for the guy on a bad day. We begged Lou Piniella to keep him in through rough innings and high pitch counts. He finished. A complete-game victory--16 strikeouts, still the most I've ever seen a pitcher throw in a game. It was a wonderful night and an amazing performance, somehow made all the more impressive because it was such a struggle.

We're doing this Casey Kasem style...from here on we'll count down one game a day until we get to the top.

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