© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
04/06/07 11:35 PM ET
Mariners hit wall of snow in Cleveland
Club to play day-night doubleheader vs. Indians on Saturday
By Jim Street / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Second baseman Jose Lopez said "no mas" just in time Friday night, and the Mariners dodged a potential no-hit loss to Indians right-hander Paul Byrd in one of the most bizarre games in club history. There were four snow delays and a game that was supposed to start at 1 p.m. PT on Friday afternoon finally ended at 5:41 p.m. with the Indians leading, 4-0, and on the verge of making their home opener a resounding success. But one strike away from making the four-game series opener an official game, Lopez stepped out the batter's box at Jacobs Field and motioned to manager Mike Hargrove that the blowing snow was keeping him from seeing the ball. Before Byrd could throw the potential inning-ending pitch, Hargrove emerged from the dugout and slowly walked to home plate to persuade the umpires to stop the game. After a few minutes, the Indians were waved off the field for the third time, and this time, they never came back. The umpiring crew waited out a 77-minute snow delay before finally cancelling the game. It was rescheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday and will be followed by the regularly-scheduled night game at 4:05 p.m. Right-handers Jeff Weaver and Felix Hernandez are scheduled to start for Seattle. "We were told before the game started that if the players couldn't see, they should let the umpires know and they would get everybody off the field," Hargrove said. "It was borderline when [Kenji] Johjima was at the plate and real obvious when [Lopez] was up there." Lopez said he actually told plate umpire Alfonso Marquez twice that he couldn't see the ball. "He told me, 'One more pitch,'" Lopez said. "I got lucky and fouled it off, but then I turned to skip and motioned that I couldn't see." The Mariners definitely got away with one in the nick of time. If the Mariners had made three outs in the top of the fifth inning, the four-run lead would have been the final score. And even if Byrd had maintained his no-hitter, it would not have been "official" because the game did not go the full nine innings. "We were trying to get the game official if we could," said Reed, the umpiring crew chief. "Hargrove's argument was that his hitter could not see and complained to him. He went to home plate to give us his viewpoint and [Indians manager] Eric [Wedge] came out to support his team. "Both had legitimate gripes. Was the snow heavier at that point than at any other in the game? It was close. As we were having our discussion, which I think was fairly lengthy, we were all covered with snow." The bottom line, Reed said, was the welfare of the players. The messy conditions already had claimed two victims. Indians catcher Victor Martinez strained his left quad while running to first base in the third inning, and Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre hurt his right thumb while catching a ground ball in the first inning. He remained in the game but committed two more errors. All three miscues were erased by the snow-out. "After the first inning, he had no feeling in his right thumb," Hargrove said. "We had hot water bottles on his hand, even had his hand in a bucket of hot water between innings, and I don't think it did a lot." Hargrove has lived in the Cleveland area since his playing days and Friday night was a new experience for him. "I don't think I've ever seen anything this bad," he said of the weather. "I understand that it's Opening Day and they were trying to get it in. Nobody had any squabble about that. I think they did everything they could to get the thing in." There was a 57-minute snow delay at the beginning, another 22-minute delay in the second inning after Mariners left fielder Raul Ibanez took one pitch for a strike and another 17-minute delay after one more pitch to Ibanez. It was the longest at-bat of Ibanez's career -- 40 minutes long. "That was nasty," Ibanez said. "You couldn't see, and I'm glad Alfonso called timeout because I'm too stubborn to do that. The first pitch was really bad. The wind was blowing right in my face and you couldn't see the ball. After we came back the second time and I got the second strike, I just wanted to finish the at-bat." The four snow delays consumed 173 minutes of the afternoon and evening. Afterwards, there was a lot of head-shaking to go around. "I think you could second guess a lot of things," Reed said. "I wish Cleveland had been a little bit more aggressive in the fifth inning, and Mr. Byrd had not lost his control a little bit on a couple of hitters. When we got off the field, we came to the realization that we had done everything we could. We kind of left it up to Mother Nature, and she bit us." As for the Indians even playing a home game at this time of the season, when the weather can be "iffy", Hargrove pointed out, "Two days ago, it was 80 degrees here. Everyone knows how the weather can be here at this time of year." Mariners starter Horacio Ramirez avoided his first loss in his first start with the Mariners. "There were times when I would come out of my windup and couldn't see the catcher too well," he said. "The snowflakes kind of took away my concentration. I guess it's something you have to be mentally prepared for, and expect, and I didn't expect it. "It was cold out there. It really was."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.