This was Safeco Field like its never been before.
Sure, part of Friday nights 5-1 win was that the Mariners were the road team for just the second time in stadium history, and playing in Safeco under National League rules for the first time.
It was odd seeing Ichiro Suzuki be the first player, not just the first Mariner, to get an at-bat. It was odder still seeing the home folks booing a pinch-hitting change. Felix Hernandez, working on a two-hitter, was lifted with a four-run lead and a man on base in the ninth inning.
The fans wanted to see Hernandez finish the game.
But the truly unusual part of the evening took place a few minutes before manager Eric Wedge was booed ever so gently for removing Hernandez. The Kings Court, a new promotion that gets Hernandez fans together in the left field corner, was rowdy all night, never more so than when they embraced not just Hernandez but his catcher, Miguel Olivo.
Theyd been delighted to see Olivo get a run home with a grounder in the seventh inning, tying the game. They were feeling good with Olivo batting in the eighth with a man on and the Mariners up 3-1. So good that they started chanting for Olivo.
“O-O-Olivo the chant went, over and over.
“At first I thought they were chanting for Felix, Olivo said later. “Then I heard `Olivo. That got me fired up.
And after a flurry of foul balls, Olivo hit the eighth pitch of his battle against Florida lefty Mike Dunn into the left field seats.
“Those `Olivo chants were awesome, Hernandez said. “I think (Olivo) heard them. He did hit the homer.
“The fans were great tonight. Those guys (in the Kings Court), you can really hear them.
For once, Safeco Field felt more like the place it was a decade ago, when the facility was new and the Mariners were averaging 90-plus wins per season. True, the attendance Friday was relatively meek at 15,279, but wasnt bad considering it was a Marlins home game the series was moved because U2 is playing this weekend in Sun Life Stadium so, there were no season tickets sold for the game.
The Kings Court the fans there all get yellow “King T-shirts with a sketch of Hernandez on them — started May 28 when Hernandez, the defending Cy Young Award winner, started against the Yankees in a 5-4, 12-inning Mariners win.
Fridays game was Hernandezs fourth start with the Court in session, and the Mariners are 3-1 in those games. The promotion has proven to be so popular that an extra section of stands was added to the Court for Fridays game.
“The fans have been great, Hernandez said.
Hernandez was reasonably spectacular himself. He allowed just two hits, and the Marlins run came from a wild pitch with a man on third base.
On top of that, Hernandez singled for the Mariners first hit against Florida right-hander Ricky Nolasco. It was the first hit of the night, not to mention the first hit ever by a pitcher in Safeco Field, thanks to the game being played under National League rules with the designated hitter not part of the festivities.
Although the Mariners needed Hernandez to get their first hit, the club did come up with a number of other hits before the evening was through. None bigger than a bases-loaded single up the middle by Franklin Gutierrez, whod only had six hits in 53 at-bats (.114) before delivering the go-ahead grounder.