Best of 2015 baseball photos take a bow

Aug 12, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma (18) bows to the fans following the final out of his no-hit, 3-0 victory against the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 12, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma (18) bows to the fans following the final out of his no-hit, 3-0 victory against the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

My end-of-year photo blog post started off including all sports, but being as I shot 54 baseball games (nearly doubling my previous record of 28), I simply had too many photos for it to make a gallery that didn’t glaze over viewers eyes – or my own for that matter. My wife/editor Jenny suggested that I make baseball a separate post, which seemed like a practical solution to the problem.

The absolute highlight of the season was covering Hisashi Iwakuma’s no hitter against the Orioles in August. It just happened to be my second career no-no while working, though I also went to another perfect game as a fan. I know, it’s an embarrassment of baseball riches.

On to the photos:

Aug 12, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma (18, center) celebrates with his teammates following the final out of his no-hit, 3-0 victory against the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field. Seattle Mariners right fielder Seth Smith (7) is at right. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 12, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma (18, center) celebrates with his teammates following the final out of his no-hit, 3-0 victory against the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field. Seattle Mariners right fielder Seth Smith (7) is at right. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Free agent signee Nelson Cruz did exactly what he was brought to Seattle for, hitting 44 home runs, or double the number of all the Mariners 2014 regular starting outfielders combined. He lead the American League in the statistic off and on during the season – including when this photo was shot – finishing second.

May 29, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA;  at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

All of the homers helped, but they weren’t nearly enough as the pitching staff suffered a substantial regression, dropping from third the previous season to fourteenth. And that’s out of fifteen teams, in case you aren’t up on how many teams  comprise the A.L.. They finished 76-86, second to last in the west division after being a popular “expert” pick to make their first World Series. Along the way their general manager was fired, too, unsurprisingly. It was a long season.

I didn’t bother to calculate just how many frames it took me to get this one of Felix Hernandez on the mound, but it was a lot. There’s a white rosin bag that is kept behind the mound, but from the 300-level, the view angle compresses and the bag appears to pop out of his hip or buttocks, which wasn’t exactly ideal. Anyway, after moving around the abundant empty seats up there on a Thursday afternoon, I was able to get a clean shot where his body completely blocks the bag.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners

Sep 10, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) throws against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Texas, 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees controversial designated hitter Alex Rodriguez returned to Safeco Field for the first time in a couple of season as he had spent all of 2014 on an unpaid sabbatical (cough, suspension for lying about drug use). The Mariner loyalists marked the occasion:

MLB: New York Yankees at Seattle Mariners

Jun 1, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners fans hold signs referring to a steroid suspension last season of New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez (13) during the fifth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

There was plenty of action during the season, including the staple of baseball coverage, the play at second base:

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Seattle Mariners

My first triple-play in eight years of covering baseball off-and-on, a bizarre sequence of events that hadn’t happened nearly sixty years. Not exactly my greatest work, but definitely unique enough to deserve some note:

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Seattle Mariners

Jul 26, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Ezequiel Carrera (3) is tagged out by Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino (3) for the final out of the fourth inning at Safeco Field. Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) stands on third base as coach Luis Rivera (2, left) watches the play. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

There were some decent plays at the plate for me this year, but they mostly consisted of catcher Mike Zunino being a little late to make the tag, a telling outcome for a defense that was poor throughout the season:

player name goes here

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners

I did see one nice tag at the plate, this time by backup catcher Jesus Sucre.

Rangers Mariners Baseball

There were some good moments now and then, like Robinson Cano blowing a bubble as he rounds the bases after hitting a home run:

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Seattle Mariners

Fans caught a few home run balls, too:

I lucked into more than my fair share of walk-off victories, which are always fun:

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Seattle Mariners

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Seattle Mariners

MLB: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Seattle Mariners

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Seattle Mariners

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Seattle Mariners

So while there were some good times, there were plenty of bad:

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Seattle Mariners

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners

Ketel Marte, Ryan Strausborger, Dale Scott

Closer Fernando Rodney (“The Experience”) lost his edge and was shipped off to the Cubs before the trading deadline. Here he strokes his goatee after surrendering a lead in the eighth inning, again:

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Seattle Mariners

Jul 25, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Fernando Rodney (56) sits in the dugout during the bottom of the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field. Toronto defeated Seattle, 8-6. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Neither of them caught the ball, in case you were wondering:

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Seattle Mariners

Jul 29, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson (16) and right fielder Nelson Cruz (23) collide while in pursuit of a fly ball off the wall during the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Felix had a head-scratcher of a season, posting his highest ERA since 2007:

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners

Sep 15, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) sits in the dugout during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners

Sep 30, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Shawn O’Malley (36) fails to catch a line drive against the Houston Astros during the fourth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It was hard to watch at times:

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners

Aug 24, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano (22) stands on the mound during a pitching change against the Oakland Athletics during the fifth inning at Safeco Field. Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon (23) and catcher Mike Zunino (3) stand at right. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Manager Lloyd McClendon was fired after the end of the season;f perhaps he’s driving a garbage truck now that he isn’t employed by the Mariners anymore:

MLB: New York Yankees at Seattle Mariners

Jun 2, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon (23) kicks dirt after being ejected during the third inning against the New York Yankees at Safeco Field. Third base umpire Tony Randazzo (11) stands at right. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Angels buzzed the stadium to conclude the national anthem during Seafair Week, which was rather cool:

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Seattle Mariners

Jul 29, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; The U.S. Navy Blue Angels perform a fly-over before a game between the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

In the midst of all the mediocrity, I tried to keep aware for nice light to make something that had redeeming value:

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Seattle Mariners

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Seattle Mariners

Yovani Gallardo

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Seattle Mariners

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Seattle Mariners

I made a few decent frames around the on-deck circle, too:

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Seattle Mariners

Including one of Carlos Correa, who was rookie of the year:

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners

(Sidenote: I L-O-V-E the new LED lights that the Mariners installed to Safeco prior to the season. A nice two-thirds stop bump of light, and, more importantly, no color shift, ever).

And finally the best sunset at Safeco Field I’ve ever seen.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Seattle Mariners

Aug 10, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Overall view of Safeco Field during the fifth inning of a game between the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s to a great 2015 and an even better 2016! Stay tuned for my best sports photos of all 2015!

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