April 11: Dave Neihaus would have loved this one..
It's the seventh inning, and the Blue Jays hold a 7-0 lead after roughing up Felix Hernandez. No real surprise here; the Mariners were stuck in a seven-game losing streak. A stretch during which they went 9-52 with runners in scoring position.
Many in the record-low crowd of 13,056 had already started to depart Safeco Field, hoping to beat the traffic. Little did they know what was about to transpire.
A solo home run in the seventh from Milton Bradley made it 7-1, but hardly brought a reaction from the crowd,
But then the Mariners scored five more runs to make it a one-run game. Three consecutive bases loaded walks followed by a two run double from Justin Smoak, and suddenly things were getting interesting.
A dramatic finish was set up in the ninth when the struggling Michael Saunders led off with a double and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Brendan Ryan. Adam Kennedy grounded out, and then Ichiro walked and stole second in a huge play that had those remaining in the crowd yelling and stomping with everything they had.
Utility man Luis Rodriguez, who had come into the game as in injury replacement for Chone Figgins, put together a 10-pitch at-bat before launching a long fly ball off Toronto's Shawn Camp into right field that scored Ichiro and Saunders and set off a celebration reminiscent of a World Series win.
It wasn't the World Series, it was just one game.
But boy, did we need it.