Mariners Analysis: Have A (Birth)day
By Adam Levi
#3 Raul Ibanez Does It All (6/2/06)
Raul Ibanez had an impressive 11-year scattered career with the Mariners, but he failed to shine on his special day until he turned 34. On his first breakout birthday, Ibanez managed to do a little bit of everything, pushing the Mariners to a rare shutout win in the 2006 season.
In an early June affair between the Kansas City Royals and the Mariners, Ibanez, the ex-Royal, didn’t wait long to showcase his value on a day the candles would shine a little brighter on his cake. In the second inning Ibanez treated the home fans to a piece of great hitting as he wrecked a long double to left field. The team couldn’t get him home, eventually stranding Ibanez at third base, but that first big hit set the tone for what would be one of the best Raul Ibanez birthday shows of his career.
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In the fourth the New York native displayed his patience and control on a day where most players admittedly feel especially jittery. This time when he dug in to face Royal pitcher, Bobby Keppel, he took advantage of his first 6-pitch at bat, and forced a walk on yet another half-dozen of throws. Although he was stranded again by innings-end, his pitch count against Keppel and the Royals was rising, allowing him to see the ball more fluidly, making it easier to read pitches and thus, be able to hit the ball. We would see the impact of his aging-wisdom when in the 7th Ibanez would make his loudest statement of the night.
Through the first 6 innings the game had been a fairly uneventful stalemate. At 0-0, something had to give, and when Jose Lopez came to bat, it finally did. A home run on the first pitch after the 7th-inning stretch put the Mariners in front with Ibanez coming to the plate to follow him. In one of the best “whatever you can do, I can do better” acts, Ibanez blasted the first pitch he saw (the 13th of the game) to complete the back-to-back home runs to pad the Mariner lead to 2-0. Ibanez was now 2-2 with a solo home run and a walk.
In the 9th Ibanez had another chance to follow Lopez who had just brought in 2 more runs on a double of his own, but could not capitalize. He did manage to bring the count to 3-2 for the 3rd time of the night, finishing with having seen 19 tosses, but this time he lined out to center field to end his birthday bash. More importantly, the Mariners won, although it wouldn’t make an impact on the teams playoff hopes, but Ibanez being the team player he is, was surly satisfied that he tried everything he could to put his team on the winning side.
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