Behind Enemy Lines

My First experience as a road fan at Seattle's Safeco Field

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Safeco Field and the beautiful city of Seattle. As my luck would have it, our beloved Houston Astros were playing a crucial series against their AL West Rivals, the Seattle Mariners that week. When I planned my trip in May, I did not expect the AL West to be as tight of a division as it has been. This made my trip to Safeco that much more interesting.

Game One: Aug. 20, 2018, Mariners win 7-4

“You guys are wearing the wrong jerseys.”

Mariner fans were very welcoming to us as we took our seats in center field for the first of the three game series against the Astros. The open stadium of Safeco Field allowed for ash to fall from the sky; it’s been a brutal summer for the West Coast and their battles with forrest fires.

A 3-3 game in the sixth, I decided it was time to explore the food our AL West rivals had to offer. Ultimately, I settled on a hot dog that was bathed in grilled onions, sauerkraut and banana peppers. Robinson Cano would crush golden boy Collin McHugh in the eighth with a three run homer to center field to give the Mariners the lead. Almost instantly, fans turned to us with the biggest smirks on their faces, they were going to get the last laugh that night.

“Oh, better luck tomorrow, Astro Fan,” yelled a group of fans as my directionally inept self tried to make my way out of the stadium.

“I’ll wipe my tears with my World Series ring,” I yelled back as I walked through the same block for the third time.

Game Two: Aug. 21, 2018, Astros win 3-2

The second game was a big day for me. For those familiar with my twitter group, #FearTheCock Fan Club, it was an exciting day to see Bradley Peacock start his first game of the season. Yes, I was livid when Hinch pulled Peacock, but it allowed us an introduction to Framber Valdez. As the Astros had to get creative with their pitching staff, I got more creative with my food options.  Choosing between the dumplings and the lobster sandwich was like trying to choose between my love for Brad Peacock and my dying allegiance to Alex Bregman. I chose the sandwich. Whether the sandwich is Peacock or Bregman is for you to figure out. Spending $18.50 on a sandwich was suboptimal, much like the Astros’ franchise record six double plays on the day, but it was delicious, and the Astros tasted revenge as well when they beat the Mariners 3-2. Interestingly enough, Mariners fans were pretty quiet after the game.

Game Three: Aug. 22, 2018, Astros win 10-7

It was finally time for the rubber match, the ever so critical third game of the series. Day games typically mean nice weather. That was especially the case at Safeco Field. By the fourth inning, I do not know what was more annoying to the home fans, the Astros bats or me yelling “send the runner!” to Garry Pettis every time someone got a base hit (Shout out to my boy Johnny G). They were up 9-2 at the end of the fifth and the extra money I spent on lower level infield seats suddenly felt worth it. The sports Gods are never late to punish, though, as the Mariners made the game interesting, scoring five in the sixth. Suddenly, the obnoxious road fan was quiet. That was until Tyler “El Osito Blanco” White decided to take Adam Warren yard to cushion the lead to three runs and helped introduce one of my favorite celebrations of the season. Where were you the day the Astros introduced the group stare? Me? I was in the stands of Safeco Field witnessing history.

“Are you guys even real Astros fans?”

“ Yes,” I replied bluntly ending the conversation. A lion never loses sleep over the opinions of sheep.

All things considered, Safeco Field was an awesome ballpark  to visit. This was my first experience being a road fan, and rooting for the defending champions definitely gave me this extra sense of confidence. There was not a thing a Mariners fan could say that a reminder of who won the World Series could not fix. The atmosphere, the activities, and the food inside the stadium definitely did the city of Seattle justice.

All that being said, let us compare this ballpark to the mighty Minute Maid Park.

Safeco has a metered bullpen where fans can track their pitch speeds. Minute Maid Park has a display of artifacts from the 2017 World Series Champions in the Union Station Lobby. Safeco Field has a throne fans can take pictures with every time Felix Hernandez pitches. Minute Maid Park has a mural commemorating their World Series Championship. Safeco has a diverse taste of food representative of the Pacific Northwest. Minute Maid Park has BBQ, a cornerstone of the city of Houston (the city of the defending World Series Champions).

Looks like it is Minute Maid Park in a landslide.

 

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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