TOP OF THE SEVENTH: MARINERS 9 (6) – 8 ATHLETICS
It’s official. Remember the name. Dae-Ho Lee. Future folk hero of the Pacific Northwest. Precursor to a new wave of talent coming over from the KBO. Sole reason for keeping Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song” alive and well in the arsenal of stadium PA system playlists. Dayyy Oh! Me say day, me say day me say day. Dae-Ho come, and he wan’ go hooome.
He did it against the Rangers, a walk-off home run that started a run toward the top of the AL West. And he’s done it here against the A’s. Twice. His nicknames, all two of them listed on Baseball Reference, include “Big Boy” and “Pig Tiger”. He’s 33 years old. He weighs 250. And he carries a paunch with him like he’s got a hidden bag of groceries tucked inside his jersey. The only word to describe all that? Hero.
See: The Big Inning #9
So to set this up, the Mariners have been on a 10-3 running sprint out of the AL West cellar, looking to sweep Oakland, but they get down big in the middle innings. Then: Nelson Cruz comes up with a massive home run in the 5th, and Dae-Ho Lee hits one in the 6th. Inches a little closer. Now they’re up in the 7th inning, down 8-6.
It’s Nelson Cruz again, up first against an A’s pitching staff with no sense of nerves, like the unwitting victims of a giant storm—forgetting to check the forecast as some huge force brews quietly in the dugout, waiting to creep up to the on-deck circle, then the batter’s box, then, the scoreboard, the standings, the news headlines. Hurricane Dae-Ho on the way.
The A’s have opted for the Aquaman uniforms today, the bright yellow-green combination that’s sorely missed in big-time sports these days (I think only the Green Bay Packers otherwise). And they’ve got the best shoulder patch in baseball, by far—the jumbo elephant balancing on a circus ball, which I guess depicts an “Athletic”?
With Sean Doolittle on the mound, Nelson Cruz strides up, to the plate looking to continue a rally they’ll need more of to gain the respect of the baseball punditry. Along with Giancarlo Stanton and Matt Adams, Cruz holds the bat like a caveman, ready to down some ice-age mammal, as he chops through the zone on the first pitch and slices a follow-through back to his set position.
He fouls the next pitch off his foot and the tongue comes way out, a move we would’ve gotten years of had Michael Jordan stuck with baseball. Then a long series of sharp foul balls, and finally a walk. No outs.
Franklin Gutierrez, who’s one of two active Franklins in the MLB (along with Franklin Morales), comes up and hits a ground-ball to Chris Coghlan, at third. Cruz is out at second, but Gutierrez safe at first.
Kyle Seager up now, by now one of the Mariners’ senior sluggers, and a wild pitch from Doolittle sends Gutierrez to second. Might be able to sneak a run home here.
And he does: Seager floats an opposite-field hit to left, dropping in the gap behind short, and it’s now 8-7 with Doolittle on his way out and John Axford jogging in from the bullpen to hold down the narrow lead–his impressive 0.73 ERA soon to change.
The #Mariners just keep on chipping away. Seager with a flare into left to drive in Guti and we’ve got a one-run ballgame. It’s 8-7.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) May 4, 2016
So now, with Chris Iannetta up to bat, we see the great Dae-Ho strutting up to the on-deck circle, with the smooth, swaggerous posture of a guy who’s just hit a home run an inning earlier (he has). Next to Nelson Cruz, Lee is easily the least intimidating guy to see come up with two outs. But he’s done it before.
Iannetta grounds out on a defensive check-swing, so now two outs, but Seager’s in scoring position at second, Lee just needing a crafty single to tie things up.
Axford comes with two sloppy curveballs in a row—2-0 count to Lee.
Then it’s 3-0, and gets a fastball painted just barely on the outside corner. 3-1. Next pitch we enter into the Dae-Ho zone, the history books, the click-clacking away at Korean-language newspaper headlines, with the TV announcers going bananas and Harry Belafonte’s estate laughing their way to the bank—for the man practically born to revive that song. Dayyy-Ho!!
— H.S.RYU (@swimminbass) May 4, 2016
He hits one way high, soaring deep toward the foul pole in left field, and it’s out. Just past the reaching hands of a fan lounging on the Weber Grill landing, bouncing onto the concrete aisle in the bleachers, and it’s 9-8 Mariners. The guy, without a doubt, is a hero. But has he peaked?
Let me tell you something: Dae-Ho Lee hasn’t even begun to peak. And when he does peak, you’ll know. Because he’s gonna peak so hard, everybody in Seattle is going to feel it. He’s a winner. He’s in his prime.
Stay on your toes, All-Star voters. New guy in the running.