Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
August 21, 2008 9:03 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Once again, Happy Ryan Rowland-Smith Day to all, as we watch this clash of AL West titans. Turns out the A's really were as bad as everyone thought they might be and just played largely over their heads in the first half. All it took was the trades of Rich Harden and Joe Blanton to push them over the top. Or, under it, I suppose.
"My, oh my! They sure let that Rowland-Smith kid throw a lot of pitches!''
Yes, they did, Dave. But he got through the seventh inning on a 113th pitch strikeout and will now leave the game after yielding just one run over seven innings. And unless his teammates figure out how to score these final three frames, Rowland-Smith will take the loss and thus become an official, blood member of the Seattle starting rotation. On the initiation scale, it's even better than pin-pricking your pinky and rubbing it together with the other four rotation members. I mean, this is shades of Felix Hernandez against the Rays two weeks ago, when his team trailed 1-0 in the eighth before rallying to win. It's still 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh. My, oh my!
Anyhow, here's a fun Rowland-Smith story. I was at Logan Airport in Boston back in early June, getting ready to fly to Toronto for the rest of the road trip after an afternoon game at Fenway Park. It was the night before Jeff Pentland was fired. Anyhow, we're in the tiny terminal where Air Canada is located and I'm pushing bags through the security X-ray machine. There were only a few people around, but the woman behind me has an Australian accent. It sounded vaguely familiar after I'd evesdropped for a while. And I decided to ask her: "Are you any relation to Ryan Rowland-Smith?''
I'd figured: How many other Aussies would be heading to Toronto from Boston in a tiny terminal this late in the day? Turns out it was his mother, Julie White. She remembered me from a long distance phone interview I'd done with her back in spring training (lasted over an hour) for this story we ran.
Anyhow, she and her second husband were on their way to Toronto to see Ryan pitch. We all got to talking while we waited the long time for our flight to actually take off (Air Canada is just a hoot, let me tell you). It's always interesting to hear a parent's take on their major league son. I won't get into it here because it was a private conversation. But it's a reminder that, as grown up as some of these guys look on TV, they're really just big-looking kids in a lot of ways.
Anyhow, the part I will tell you is how the two of them, mother and husband, went to Greece to see Rowland-Smith pitch in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. They figured (rightly) that hotel costs would be astronomical and so, they simply bought a house in the suburbs. Yes, bought one. I actually have met plenty of Aussie travelers who make lucrative purchases abroad. They live so far from anything that many tend to travel for long periods of time. So, instead of renting a car, they'll buy a second-hand one in hopes of cutting down costs. I know, it sounds strange. But buying a house?
Well, here's the thing. It turns out that house -- which they had paid for sight unseen -- was not an hour outside of Athens like they thought. It was more like four hours away. So, every day, they'd get up and drive to Athens to see Rowland-Smith pitch, then turn around and drive back. By the time they got "home" they would literally have to turn around and drive back to Athens.
It was a rather sleepless two weeks. I liked the story. Tells you about the dedication some parents have to their children.
Anyhow, the happy ending to all of this is that the family now has a nice little home by the water in a remote part of Greece. They'd just gone back on vacation there when I spoke to them and looked nice and tanned.
As for Rowland-Smith, he told me last week that the Olympics were the high point of his baseball career. The most fun and biggest thrill he's had. As for the major leagues, he figures the post-season or World Series might top it. Well, good luck to him. Hope he has lots of nice pictures in a photo album he can drag out. Because, given how this team's long-term prospects appear, he might be waiting a while.
8:35 p.m.: A great job by Rowland-Smith so far, tossing a scoreless first 5 2/3 innings of two-hit ball in what's become a pitcher's duel with A's counterpart Greg Smith. But then RRS served up a solo homer to Emil Brown with two out in the fifth inning to put Oakland on top 1-0. Still, better pitching than the M's have seen in a while. I think some of it has to do with the quality of the two teams out there. Plenty of offensive ineptitude to go around, but I'm glad Rowland-Smith is having some success. He's worked at it.
Frank Thomas got tossed one pitch into his sixth-inning at-bat for arguing balls and strikes with plate umpire Bill Hohn. Rajai Davis took over in mid-plate-appearance and managed to draw a two-out walk. But Rowland-Smith escaped from there.
8:27 p.m.: We're scoreless after two innings of play. Kenji Johjima and Daric Barton, featured in our "Worst Hitter" category from the previous post, are playing this out as expected. Barton struck out with two on to end the top of the second and then Johjima, with two on and one out, grounded into a 5-5-3 double-play. Advantage M's.
14 Mark Ellis 2B
7 Bobby Crosby SS
8 Emil Brown RF
35 Frank Thomas DH
24 Kurt Suzuki C
32 Jack Cust LF
28 Carlos Gonzalez CF
10 Daric Barton 1B
56 Cliff Pennington 3B
23 Greg Smith LHP
51 Ichiro RF
13 Miguel Cairo 1B
28 Raul Ibanez LF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
4 Jose Lopez 2B
50 Wladimir Balentien CF
2 Kenji Johjima C
9 Jeff Clement DH
5 Yunieksy Betancourt SS
18 Ryan Rowland-Smith LHP
This winter, three local motorcycle riders have been on the trip of a lifetime. Their journey: four months riding from Seattle to South America.
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