Wow, what a night the All Star game was. The atmosphere of New York, the star players in the spotlight, and Mariano Rivera making one last trek to the hill in the eighth while the stadium blasted Enter Sandman all made this a game to remember.
And, with a 3-0 triumph by the American League, the Seattle Mariners will have home field advantage in the World Series (I kid, I kid….maybe).
Now that the game is over and players are beginning to wake up from their post-game party hangovers, it’s time to get ready for the second half of the year. However, there are still a few achievements and memories we don’t want to bid farewell to yet.
Let’s have one last go around with the first half the year and revel in the Mariners‘ top 5 memories from this time frame.
5. Home Opener
There’s really nothing in sports that can match the grandeur of opening day at your home park in the MLB. But since the Mariners had to wait two series before returning to their home confines, their home opening came against the Houston Astros on Monday, April 8th.
A game that featured Joe Saunders on the mound, Safeco Joe made his first debut and shut down the Astros, scattering six hits over 6 1/3 innings while Kendrys Morales continued his hot start for the season, going 2-for-3 in the game while helping Seattle to a 3-0 victory in their home opener.
After the contest was over, the Mariners were sitting at 4-4 on the year, with it still being way too early to recognize some of the flaws that would eventually be revealed on the squad. But more memorable than the game was the atmosphere in Safeco.
Every year opening day at home is the greatest because there is a certain aura surrounding the stadium that just isn’t there anymore. The atmosphere brings me back to the days when the Mariners were great; when people would actually be excited to be at the ballpark watching their team vie for a spot in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, I have to use opening day at Safeco as a replacement for these times. Hopefully that will soon change.
4. Harang’s surprise performance
The only reason that I am including this memory on here is for the sole reason that I have bashed Aaron Harang this entire season, but he really surprised me against the Padres on May 27. Coming into the game with an appalling ERA, Harang not only surrendered just four hits, he did so in a complete game shutout that seemingly came out of nowhere. I mean, he was absolutely brilliant in this game.
Shrugging off his past performances during the year, he helped lead Seattle to a 9-0 triumph. This game remains memorable to me just because of how surprised I was when I was watching it.
3. Zunino’s walk off
Happening just a few weeks ago, Mike Zunino‘s walk-off base hit against the Chicago Cubs proved to be one of the more promising moments in 2013. The Mariners were steeped in their youth movement, had been putting together a rather impressive streak of games, and things were looking up.
With Hisashi Iwakuma looking out of form and getting behind the Cubs early, Seattle found themselves down 4-1 with just three innings left to play. Tacking on one in the bottom of the seventh, the Mariners managed to even things up in the eighth with a double by Morales that scored Nick Franklin and a triple by Raul Ibanez that scored Michael Saunders.
Though the teams would remain deadlocked at four in the ninth, Zunino’s heroics came through in the tenth. With the bases loaded and one out, the young catcher simply made contact and saw the ball find its way into center field for a game-winning, RBI single.
While his numbers may not be the best at the plate, this game was a testament to Zunino’s ability to come through in the clutch and really instilled hope for the future of the organization.
2. Medina flashes greatness
Seattle has had some woes with their bullpen in 2013, but for the most part, Yoervis Medina and Oliver Perez has been brilliant, with both stepping into new roles while mowing down batter after batter.
And while Perez is no player to overlook, one of the best memories I have of 2013, so far, is that of Medina’s performance against the Oakland Athletics on June 22nd.
A time when people were actually starting to recognize the potential of this young stud who had been singed with Seattle since the age of 16, Medina came into the game with 2 1/3 left to play and a 5-2 deficit. Holding the Athletics over the next two innings, he paved the way for a great Seattle comeback that was capped by a Franklin single to put Seattle up 7-5.
But as we all know, there was still one inning left to play.
Remaining in the game to try and secure a win, Medina was preparing to face Jed Lowrie, Yoenis Cespedes, and Brandon Moss, a trio that you wouldn’t exactly call easy. Giving up a single to Lowrie, Medina reared back and got Cespedes to ground into a crucial double play before Moss ended the game with a flyout to center. This game remains memorable to me because of the electricity in the stadium and in Medina’s eyes.
I believe this was his defining moment of 2013, and a moment where we will eventually look back at and see that this was the moment Medina’s ascension to greatness started.
1. Seager’s Slam
The greatest moment of this season, by far, came when Kyle Seager launched his infamous grand slam that set new MLB records. A pitching duel having taken place for the previous 13 innings, Seattle and the visiting Chicago White Sox had been unable to push a run across the plate despite some decent opportunities to do so.
But there was still fight in these boys. Down 5-0 in the bottom of the fourteenth, the Mariners laced five singles in a row to put a run on the board and cut their deficit to four. After Jason Bay failed to deliver any game-tying heroics in his at-bat, Seager stepped up to the plate.
Getting down early in the count at 1-2, Seager took the fourth pitch of his at-bat, a slider, for a historic ride. A moment that will always awe any Seattle fan, Seager crushed an unbelievable, miraculous, and downright awesome grand slam that had everybody’s mouth agape.
Mariners fans across the nation could be heard screaming, “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!” while somewhere Dave Niehaus was chuckling and reciting his trademark Grand Salami line.
As good as this moment was, Seattle fans know that it was only short-lived. But that unfortunate memory is for another post.