SEATTLE -- A Seattle Mariners game was delayed for four minutes last weekend when fans threw hundreds of promotional baseballs into the outfield.
It was an unusual act of protest by the normally reserved Kingdome crowd and an odd sight because few balls have been dropping in the Mariners' outfield this season.
By adding Eric Anthony to play alongside center fielder Ken Griffey and right fielder Jay Buhner, the Mariners have established one of the best defensive outfields in the game.
"We take pride in our defense," Griffey said. "We don't like to give up triples, nothing in the gaps."
Unless the ball is hit through the infield, the trio doesn't give up much. They tracked down sure hits a half dozen times in a recent series with the Milwaukee Brewers.
"They can run down gappers, and if they don't catch it, they gun the guy down trying to take the extra base," said Seattle starter Dave Fleming. "It helps the pitcher."
Though defense may be its trademark, this outfield has put up some impressive offensive numbers as well. Each has hit four home runs, and, until recently, all three were hitting over .300.
"We have one of the best outfield trios in the league," Buhner said. "We all have speed, strong arms and we can hit."
Buhner showed his power in Yankee Stadium Tuesday night with 869 feet of home runs with two swings of the bat. Griffey has hit over .300 in each of the past four years and is batting .345 this season.
It is the addition of Anthony, one of seven players to hit a ball into the upper deck of the Astrodome, that solidifies the Mariners' lineup.
"He's a good hitter," Griffey said. "I don't have to hit the three-run homer for us to score runs anymore. I just have to get on base."
Griffey used the new outlook to start a five-run inning against the Brewers with a drag bunt. Buhner followed with a sharp single to the opposite field, and Anthony brought them home with a double down the right-field line.
With right-handed Buhner sandwiched between the two left-handers, it makes things difficult for opposing pitchers.
"It's kind of tough to pitch around," Buhner said. "We've got them surrounded."
It was an intentional walk to Griffey that drew the fans' ire last Sunday. Two pitches into the at-bat, the balls began flying.
APlaying in perhaps the weakest division in baseball, the Mariners have a shot at the postseason for the first time in their 18-year history. They have a strong pitching rotation led by Randy Johnson, and manager Lou Piniella said this team could be better than his 1990 world champion Cincinnati Reds.
"We have the capability to get things going," Anthony said. "It's very important that we have big years."