Mariners get what they need in win over Detroit
Miguel Olivo, right, smiles with Ichiro, left, after hitting a solo home run against the Tigers in the second inning. (AP)
Sometimes things just go right.
How much did you want to see Justin Smoak hit a home run in his return to his team just three days after burying his father? How much did Miguel Olivo and his teammates need to see a break go their way in dramatic fashion?
Forget the record, sometimes the guys just need an opportunity to breathe. They got that last night.
The Olivo home run will be seen for years to come on highlight (or lowlight) reels. After watching a series of hard-hit balls find gloves last week, a web gem catch by Coco Crisp that robbed him of an extra base hit Sunday looked like it might be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Olivo.
Instead, he told reporters, “I can’t control that. I just need to keep doing it. It is like ball in the air, I can’t run over there and do some magic to the ball but there is nothing you can do about it.”
Well maybe it was magic that shot the ball off the top of Ryan Raburn’s glove and into the middle of the Tigers bullpen for Olivo’s first home run of the season. He will take it, even though he thought at the time the ball had been caught.
“I saw when the ball hit his glove and I thought he catch it,” Olivo said. “And I say it is so fabulous, all the balls I hit everyone catch. Then the second base umpire says it is a home run and I think, ‘Oh thank God, my luck is coming back.'”
Olivo knows the breaks go both ways in baseball. It was time that one went his.
“It happened to me today,” he said. “I think it is God looking for me, giving me the opportunity to breath a little bit. Just keep on doing what I am doing and never give up.”
The home run that Smoak hit needed no help landing in the seats behind the bullpen. Smoak had just rejoined his team and was anxious to get right back into the lineup despite the fact that he had missed six days. Eric Wedge was happy to oblige, saying that they would do what was best for Justin.
Olivo was the first to greet Smoak and did so at home plate after scoring from second. While he didn’t see his own home run, he did see Smoak’s.
“When he hit it I got chills,” Olivo said. “I think his father did that for him. I told him, ‘Hey, that was for Papa.'”
After Smoak hit the home run his teammates were there to greet him in the dugout with high fives. At the end of the line was Felix Hernandez with a hug. Felix had trouble finding the words to describe what it meant to see Smoak hit the ball out and his voice shook a little when he said, “He’s just coming back. He looks like he feels ready. It is tough those things that happened right now but he is going to be better.”
Smoak is dealing with something horrible right now and he asked that we the media keep the conversation to baseball. For now he can only take things one day at a time.
“It has been a whirlwind,” he told us after the game. “Today was good; we will see what happens tomorrow. It is hard not to think about it. Things happen for reason, and I am excited to be back and be with the guys here and I am going to try and keep my mind off everything and take care of business here.”
There was a touching scene before Justin spoke with the media as two members of the Japanese media presented him with a card that was signed by all of the reporters. On presenting the card one of them told him solemnly that they understood what it was like to be so many miles from home when things happen. It is a tough thing.
It is the hardest part of baseball and a part you often do not see because things that go on in the players’ lives are shared with those they know, not those they don’t. For every story you hear there are many more that you don’t. As I said before life does not stop February through September while they play. It is something that they have to deal with day in and day out, on the job.
It is one of the things that brings them closer. They are all in the same boat. They are family away from their families and they look out for each other. That home run that Smoak hit meant something to every man in the dugout.
“It’s special,” Chone Figgins said after the game, “but even more special was just seeing him back in the clubhouse this afternoon.”