Ackley and Pineda Shine As Mariners Beat Phillies

by Scott Rinear

And without further ado, I bring to you the excitement that is the 2011 Seattle Mariners! Every now and again the stars in the baseball universe align in such a way that situations like the present state of affairs in Mariners land come to pass. Even before tonight’s game, the first of three against the cream of the National League crop Philadelphia Phillies, the buzz and excitement had stirred up the hibernating butterflies in my stomach. The good kind of butterflies; the kind you feel when baseball games actually mean something.

First, Dustin Ackley made his Major League debut tonight in one of the most highly anticipated Mariner debuts I can remember. Add to that some recent multi-hit games by Ichiro “double-trouble” Suzuki, a lucky but game-winning 2-run single by Carlos Peguero, and Greg Halman’s first big league home run to dead center field no less, and what you get are two of the most valuable intangibles in any sport: momentum and confidence.

Tonight’s game included a brilliant rookie vs. veteran pitching matchup with Mariner rookie sensation Michael Pineda taking on the Phillies’ Roy Oswalt. Pineda was looking to get back to his dominant winning ways after a couple of rocky starts, and he was threatening to do that in a big way as he flirted with a no-hitter through 5.2 innings.

But first, the moment we’ve ALL been waiting for, “The Debut.”

Mustached magician Eric Wedge decided to put Dustin Ackley in the 7th spot in the batting order, and in the top of the 2nd, Ackley stepped into a Major League batter’s box for the first time. I can only imagine what was running through the young kid’s head as he shifted around in the box and took some practice swings. I watched the game on TV and even from my couch I could feel the immediate embrace by the Safeco crowd. And it was loud! “Welcome To The Show Ackley!” was the hand-drawn sign Root Sports chose to point a camera at, and it was certainly an electric welcome by the fans.

Facing Roy Oswalt pitching for the Major League’s best team is not the softest of landings for a young rookie. The first pitch was a 90+ mph fastball near the middle of the plate. Ackley probably decided at some point prior to the game that he would take a look at the first pitch, and why not? It’s the biggest moment in his life. If it were me I’d want to soak up every second. The 0-1 pitch was off the plate away, but the home plate umpire called it a strike, his own personal “Welcome to the Show, Rookie.” Oswalt’s 0-2 pitch was a beauty, painting the outside corner at the lower realm of the strike zone. But, like most naturally gifted hitters, Ackley fouled the strikeout pitch off. Still no balls and two strikes, Oswalt came in with a low change-up, hoping to fool Ackley after three straight fastballs.

Dustin Ackley singles in first Major League at bat / photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com

As Ackley’s base hit made its way past Oswalt, over the mound, and into centerfield, I found myself screaming and jumping up and down in my living room. The large crowd at the Safe did the same. I haven’t heard Safeco that loud in while. And so the Dustin Ackley era begins with a single up the middle, the place where every hitting coach instructs a player to attempt to hit the ball. I still remember my dad telling me that over and over again at an early age, that my approach at the plate should always be: “Think up the middle.”

It’s not very often you get to write about and describe a successful Major League debut, but there were other fireworks in this game. Ichiro continued his torrid hitting with his sixth multi-hit game in a row, this time with 3 base knocks. Miguel Olivo broke out of his slump with his 11th home run of the season, and Brendan Ryan found his stroke again with an RBI triple in the 3rd and RBI single in the 7th.

Michaeal Pineda flirts with no-hitter / photo courtesy of komonews.com

Michael Pineda was lights out for the first five innings, holding the potent Philadelphia offense hitless until a 2-out single by Shane Victorino in the 6th. Pineda finished his night’s work with 5 K’s and 1 earned run in six innings. Brandon League closed the door in the 9th for his league leading 20th save as the Mariners won 4-2.

The Mariners remain a half game out of first after a Rangers win, but it’s getting harder for people to ignore this team, especially if they can take game 2 tomorrow with Felix Hernandez taking the mound. Dustin Ackley lived up to the hype. One game in you can already tell he’s going to hit, and he played solid defense. The anticipation of his debut now transitions into the anticipation of how good he might be, and, after beating the best team in baseball, how good the Seattle Mariners might be. Go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com

Comments

  1. Ross says

    Well done Scott. Our manager should be called Eric ” the entertainer” Wedge. He has found a way to create exitement out of a bunch of rookies and blue collar guys. It is just fun to watch.

  2. Scott says

    You said it. It’s fun watching a team where the clean up batter bunts the runners over and weird looking shortstops line RBI triples into the gap. And how bout that rookie crop of ours?

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