Figgins and Ichiro: Fear the 'Gnats!'

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The Seattle Mariners have clearly put their focus on defense and pitching since Jack Zduriencik took over as general manager.

A team with little power figures to have even less after letting slugger Russell Branyan leave via free agency. But offensive concerns aside, they should at least be a major pain at the top of the order with Chone Figgins batting second behind Ichiro.

They’ll both get on base – Ichiro by racking up hits, Figgins with a fine eye for the strike zone – and once there, they’ll both drive pitchers nuts with their speed. A fine example occurred during Thursday’s Cactus League game against the Giants.

Ichiro led off the game with a double off Tim Lincecum. Figgins walked. The speedsters pulled off a double steal, then scored on a single by Ryan Garko.

This prompted Giants manager Bruce Bochy to utter this phrase (from Kirby Arnold of The Herald):

“Those two guys at the top of the lineup are going to be like gnats.”

Bochy might want to trademark that one real quick, because that sound you hear is the Mariners’ promotional team scrambling to come up with a whole new line of “Gnats” products.

That’s gold, Jerry!

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Another young fan was struck by a foul ball, this time at Guaranteed Rate Field

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ESPN reports via the Associated Press that a young boy was struck by a line drive foul ball but was not seriously injured during Sunday afternoon’s game against the Royals. The boy and a woman were escorted by a first aid crew to the concourse area and the boy was later eating ice cream in a luxury suite.

A woman was struck in the face by a foul ball also on the first base side at Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday, but she didn’t request medical assistance.

Last week, a young fan at Yankee Stadium was hit by a line drive foul ball, which motivated several teams to commit to extending protective netting at their ballparks. The Yankees, strangely, were not among them. Nor were the White Sox.

Diamondbacks clinch NL Wild Card

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Losses by the Cardinals to the Pirates and the Brewers to the Cubs on Sunday clinched an NL Wild Card berth for the Diamondbacks. Their walk-off, 3-2 win over the Marlins earned them hosting rights for the Wild Card game.

The D-Backs, now 90-66, trailed the Marlins 2-1 going into the bottom of the eighth. Daniel Descalso tied the game at two apiece with an RBI single off of Brad Ziegler. Second half hero J.D. Martinez secured the win with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth against Javy Guerra.

The Rockies beat the Padres on Sunday to increase their lead over the Brewers (+2) and Cardinals (+2.5) for the second Wild Card slot. One of these three teams will visit Arizona for the Wild Card game.

The Diamondbacks are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, when they lost the Division Series in five games to the Brewers.