The Seattle Mariners won one Saturday, May 31, but the rare victory wasn't even the main novelty of the game. Better than that was seeing Kenji Johjima steal home, watching irritable Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland get tossed, and witnessing hard-luck starter Felix Hernandez actually get run support. Almost as much fun: Fans (some 33,000 for a, yes, rare 1 p.m. start) got to see the roof go both east and west, seemingly moving at warp speed compared with ice-flow-slow Joh's pace from third to home.
The 5-0 victory meant the M's, if they could tame the toothless Tigers (who suffered their ninth shutout of the young season) in the Sunday, June 1, finale, would win two series in a row. The new month would dawn with Seattle still struggling at 21-35, but there was good news. Item one: A team could take a pair with a Joh-slow, sub-.230 "hitter" (Jose Vidro) in the three hole. Item two: Richie Sexson hadn't played for 29 innings, not that the gentle giant had been playing in any satisfying way the past two seasons. Could it be that the moribund M's were ready to take a subsequent series or two and limp back toward respectability?
It required quite a suspension of disbelief, given that manager John McLaren must pencil in starting lineups with five guys batting .245 or worse. Moreover, the final three of the home stand would feature the Los Angeles Angels, once again the class of the American League West division. Seattle would be sending out two of its least-effective starters against the Angels. Especially dubious was the prospect of sending Carlos Silva (the scheduled June 3 starter) anywhere but the bullpen after the right-hander held up his end of a $48 million multi-year contract by giving up seven runs in the first inning of the Detroit opener Friday, May 30. Jarrod Washburn (2-6, 6.54 earned-run average) was slated for Monday mound duties, followed by Erik Bedard, the better of the two lefties.
The M's have other problems, coaching among them. During the first frame of the Saturday matinee, Seattle had the bases loaded with one out when Adrian Beltre hit a sinker to left-center field. Instead of having Jose Lopez tag up at third and easily score after the diving put-out, the runner was sent down the line, only to return to the base. Lopez would eventually score but it didn't erase the memory of another base-coaching mistake.
Yet, the game was enjoyable, with several instances of solid, smart situational hitting. Indeed, many of us in attendance no doubt appreciated the notion that the best part of an M's game could be something other than watching the roof open and close.