Are The Mariners Zeroing In On A Viable Bullpen?

We all know the pitching kind of stinks on this team.  The starters have an ERA of 3.76, but that’s mostly propped up by the amazing start of James Paxton.  The starters are also largely injured, so the hope is:  if we can weather the storm, get some guys back, then things look a lot better in the second half and beyond.  Even then, Miranda has just been sort of okay, Kuma and Gallardo have been less so, and Felix is a true wild card at this point in his career.  That’s not even getting into the fact that we don’t REALLY know if Smyly is ever going to return from injury this year, or if he’ll have setbacks and maybe this thing carries over into 2018 and beyond.

That’s sort of outside of our control right now, and quite frankly not something I want to think about until I have to.  Instead, I’d like to look at the bullpen, because I think there’s a slim chance for a turnaround, and I think that’s something that should be explored.

The bullpen, clearly, has been god awful.  Gun to my head:  I think it’s the team’s number one problem and main reason why we have such a mediocre record right now.  The numbers bear that out, as the Mariners are 13/15 in the American League in bullpen ERA at 5.43, just ahead of that atrocious Rangers bullpen, and the Tigers bullpen that’s dead last.  I don’t know if there’s any helping the Rangers or Tigers, but I think there’s reason for optimism for the Mariners.

Now, obviously, all of this could blow up right in my face as the team continues to meltdown in this all-important, make-or-break season, but hear me out.

If we’re going to continue on this path of an 8-man bullpen (which, I see no reason why we shouldn’t, given all the injuries to our starters), then let’s go down the line and count ’em out.

Edwin Diaz is what he is right now.  When he’s on, he’s lights out.  When he just doesn’t have it on a particular night, he’s really bad, and it’s doubtful we’re going to save that game.  My main issue with Diaz is an issue I have with all closers:  if, for whatever reason, their command is off or whatnot, DON’T LEAVE THEM OUT THERE TO GET POUNDED.  I’m tired of managers being afraid of taking out their closers when they’re walking the world and giving up lots of hard-hit balls.

The best part of Diaz’s game is his short memory.  He’s yet to really get bogged down in a prolonged slump.  Sure, he’ll blow a game here or there, but that has seemingly no bearing on what he’s going to do the next time out (unless he has to face Kole Calhoun, then all bets are off).  Until he does have that prolonged slump, he is our closer, and more often than not he’s good enough.

The best reliever this team has right now is Marc Rzepczynski (who I constantly refer to as Scrabble, because come on), with the caveat that he’s almost exclusively used against lefties, and more often than not is out there for less than 3 outs.  But, that’s his job, and he’s the best at it on this team.  Frankly, he might go down as the best LOOGY this team has ever had, and I don’t know if there will be a close second.

Nick Vincent would be the next-best reliever this team has right now; just don’t put him out there with inherited runners because I can’t vouch for him there.  He gets a remarkable amount of strikeouts for what kind of stuff he has, but I wouldn’t call him a “strikeout guy”.  Nevertheless, if you need a 6th or 7th inning shut down with as little damage as possible, he’s not a bad option.

What this team is genuinely lacking right now is a proper 8th inning set up guy.  Someone who can shorten the game up for you that much more.  Ostensibly, Steve Cishek will be that guy, if we can ever get him going.  He’s doing his rehab now, but had to come back to Seattle for bullpen work because his mechanics were out of whack, so that’s concerning.  Cishek can definitely have his issues at times, hence why he lost his closer’s job last year to a AA guy, but if anything he’s sort of the opposite of Scrabble; a ROOGY if you will.  Pair the two of those guys together in the 8th inning, mixing and matching righty vs. lefty (this is more down the line, in September or potential playoff situations; not on an everyday basis), and I think you’ve really got something.

So, right there, that’s half your bullpen.  I don’t think anyone’s comparing it to the 2016 Indians or Cubs, but it’s decent.  It’s good.  It’s okay.

Obviously need more than 4 quality pitchers in your bullpen, though, so what about the back-half?

Well, James Pazos has been a very nice surprise, and seems to be getting better as the weeks go on.  He’s got a dominating fastball, is crushing lefties right now, and isn’t too terrible against righties.  As he develops, I’ll be curious to see how he grows against right-handed bats.  He’s so young, and so good so far, that we might have a real diamond on our hands.

Tony Zych is another young pitcher with tons of upside.  He just got off the DL, but is already being thrust into pressure situations, and has so far come out just fine.  If this team finds itself in a lot of winning situations, it’s easy to see him holding down that 8th inning role.  If he fulfills his potential, that REALLY shortens the game for us, bumping Cishek/Scrabble back to the 7th and Vincent/Pazos to the 6th.

So, now we’re six relievers into this exercise and looking pretty solid in a couple weeks when Cishek returns from the DL.  What about those last couple spots?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I like what I’ve seen from Jean Machi so far.  Granted, we’re only three appearances in, and he’s already had to be pulled due to a nerve issue in his hand, but he stayed off the DL and was ready to roll on Sunday if need be.  He’s obviously not a power pitcher, and won’t strike out a ton of guys, but as potentially a 7th guy in your bullpen, what are you asking for?  Someone to keep you in the game when you’re losing?  Someone to eat up a couple innings when it goes to extras?  Like Vincent, he’s probably not someone you want to throw in there with runners already on base, but given a clean inning, you could do a lot worse than his veteran presence.

That just leaves the long reliever spot, of which there are about a billion candidates.  One of the very small advantages to having all these starting pitcher injuries is we’ve had a chance to get a really good look at a lot of these AAA guys, to see if they’ve got what it takes – not just in meaningless Spring Training situations – but in real, meaningFUL regular season ballgames.  I’m talking about Chase De Jong, Christian Bergman, Chris Heston, and Evan Marshall (before he hit the DL) on the right side, and Dillon Overton on the left side.  They’ve all shown you SOMETHING so far in the first five weeks of the season, which is better than just having the unknown of guys only starting games in Tacoma, or Spring Training.  If this team ever gets back to full strength, you’ve got some guys in this group you wouldn’t mind seeing in a spot start here and there.  Or, even better, you could build them up into some trade bait for a bona fide starter to help this team down the stretch.

Right there, that’s the nuts of an 8-man bullpen, and I didn’t even mention someone like Evan Scribner, a veteran who was lights out in September last year, who obviously will have some kind of role on this team when he gets healthy again.  And Dan Altavilla, who started the season on the 25-man roster, and has since returned (due to all the injuries) after a short stint in Tacoma to work on his command.  Altavilla has all the upside in the world, if he can harness his pitches.  He’ll have to earn his way into staying on this team as guys start to get healthy again, but I wouldn’t put it past him to do so.  Even Emilio Pagan – who struggled in his first appearance, before getting the hard-luck shaft in his second appearance when he was the last guy in the bullpen in an extra innings game – has shown you he’s at least got quality stuff.  With the jitters out of the way of making his Major League debut, he can only go up from here, right?

Even if it doesn’t totally work out, and this bullpen unit doesn’t gel, I think there’s at least a skeleton of a good unit.  It definitely hinges on Edwin Diaz continuing to mature and improve his command.  If you can keep him on his game, and slot things down from there, this team does have some ammo to go out and trade for a dependable reliever at the deadline.  I wouldn’t mortgage the entire farm to do so, but I have the utmost confidence in Dipoto going out and making a deal for a quality reliever at some point in the next couple months.

The sky is the limit for this team if we can get this bullpen together.  With a top notch bullpen, you don’t NEED your starters to carry you.  With this offense as good as it is (hoping it can stay healthy), all you need is your starters to eat up enough innings, while keeping you in the game.  I have no problem with the way Servais has handled the rotation; he seems to have a pretty good handle on when it’s time to pull guys.  He’s not going to leave them out there for too long to get shelled the third time through the lineup.  If this bullpen can hold up its end of the bargain, and Servais eliminates some of the brain farts on his end, there’s no reason why the Mariners can’t jump back into contention and even get into the playoffs.

Mariners Overcome A Bad Bullpen To Beat The Angels

Just one night after Scott Servais made a mind-bogglingly stupid bullpen decision, he did it again.  Long story short:  Hisashi Iwakuma was rolling through five innings.  With a low pitch count, and no runs allowed, it only made sense for him to go back out for the sixth.  Then, he gave up a double to Calhoun, a homer to Trout, and a single to Pujols, and it only made sense at this point to pull him for a reliever.  In general, I trust Hisashi Iwakuma as far as I can throw him, but I REALLY distrust him the third time through a lineup (where they showed on the broadcast that he’s giving up a batting average well over .400 this season).

With a man on base and nobody out, in a game the Mariners were leading 4-2, Servais apparently thought this would be the perfect spot to introduce Emilio Pagan to his Major League debut.

I should point out that before Tuesday’s game, the Mariners made some more moves.  Casey Fien was once again DFA’d, and he once again passed through to Tacoma, where I feel like it needs to be a good, long while before he’s called back up again, because it’s getting pretty ridiculous at this point.  Also, Dan Vogelbach was optioned back to Tacoma, because he was a disaster in his brief stint in the Majors (only fuelling my fire that he’s another in a long line of first base busts for this team).  When I hear things like he’s getting down on himself for a few botched plays in the field, and that it’s carrying over into his at-bats, it leads me to believe he’s not emotionally stable or mature enough for the Majors, and likely never will be.  It’s not all going to be roses and sunshine; you’re going to have to push through some hardships!  If an error here and there is going to so devastate you, then maybe baseball’s just not your game.  I know!  Let’s have a spelling contest!

In their place, the aforementioned Emilio Pagan was called up, along with another right-handed reliever, veteran Jean Machi (to make room on the roster, Shawn O’Malley was placed on the 60-day DL).  Machi went 2 shutout innings on Tuesday, in between Diaz’s blown save and Pazos’ loss, and put in another shutout inning last night to get the win.  But, before we get to that, let’s go back to Pagan’s eventful debut.

I really want to kill Servais for putting Pagan into a situation like this, like I did yesterday when he went directly to Diaz even though he had a lefty in the ‘pen all warmed up, but I don’t know if it’s as egregious.  I mean, yeah, it’s pretty shitty to put a 26 year old rookie into a game like this, but what else was he supposed to do?  Who else was he supposed to turn to?  Dan Altavilla was sent to Tacoma, Evan Scribner is on the DL, James Pazos and Tony Zych both threw over 30 pitches the night before.  I mean, you could argue that, had Servais handled the bullpen situation correctly on Tuesday, we wouldn’t have been in such a mess on Wednesday.  Pazos likely would’ve faced just the one batter on Tuesday and would’ve had plenty of arm to go again last night.  But, with the batters coming up, I don’t know if you wanted to have a lefty reliever in there.

Still, I might’ve gone straight to Nick Vincent, who only threw two pitches on Tuesday, so you figured he had at least 2 innings in him last night.  As it turns out, that’s pretty much what he had to do anyway (1.2 innings), because Pagan could only get the one out, and that one out was a miraculous catch by Heredia robbing the Angels of a home run in left field.

Pagan gave up Iwakuma’s third run, to really sour his night, and one of his own before being pulled.  Vincent came in and surrendered a double that cost Pagan a couple more runs on the ol’ ERA, but eventually got out of the jam.  However, the damage was done, as a 4-0 lead turned into a 6-4 deficit.

The bullpen held it down after that, just long enough for the Mariners to put up a 4-spot in the bottom of the eighth inning.  With one out, Seager and Valencia singled.  Heredia’s groundout moved them up 90 feet, and Motter (pinch hitting for Zunino) walked to load the bases.  That led to Dyson’s 2-out double to right field, tying the ballgame, followed by Segura’s bouncing single through the hole between third and short to take a 2-run lead.  Edwin Diaz, this time on for just the 3-out save, gave up another homer to Kole Calhoun (his second against Diaz in as many nights), but other than hitting Trout, he struck out the side to get the save and give the Mariners a much-needed 8-7 victory.

Some people were getting on the Mariners for not doing enough on offense to this point, and in many ways I’m coming around to that thinking.  I mean, let’s face it, the way this pitching staff is going, it shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Maybe some of the injuries we wouldn’t have foreseen, but we knew coming into this season that this team’s pitching would be the weak link.  We KNEW that the offense was going to have to bring its lunch pail on many occasions like last night.  It seems like the Mariners are doing a good job, when you hear about how they’re near the top in the A.L. in runs scored, but a lot of the reason for that is due to blowouts.  8-0 and 11-1 victories are nice and all, but this team is going to need a hearty collection of 8-7 wins if it’s going to try to stay in contention.

At this point, I’d gladly settle for being a .500 ballclub by the time the month of May comes to a close.  That means going 16-12.  Obviously, playing .500 ball isn’t going to get you in the post-season, but it buys the Mariners some time until guys can start getting healthy again.  If we can scratch and claw our way to .500 by the time Felix and Haniger come back, it would set us up for a nice stretch of games in June and July.  The Mariners are REALLY going to have to get hot in the summer months if they want to crash the playoffs; between May 31 and July 30, the Mariners play 37 of 53 games at home.  It’s honestly like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and if they don’t take advantage, this season could really go sideways, as from July 31 through August 30, the Mariners are on the road for 21 of 28 before September call-ups.  I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, looking at the calendar, but I’m just trying to illustrate how important these next four weeks are.

The Mariners don’t need to destroy the month of May (though, I’d gladly accept it, of course).  They just need to win more series than they lose.  I’m not asking a lot, just a record of 16-12.  Or, rather, going forward, a record of 15-11.  Slow and steady, people!

What The Hell, Scott Servais?

I don’t rail against the manager very often, because honestly the manager doesn’t have that great of an impact on the game.  He sets a lineup, and he manages the bullpen.  Everything else is on the players themselves, the GM who brought us these players, and the umpires – who are really more of a constant than a variable – who generally do a good job, but tend to fuck up more than robots would.

So, when Scott Servais does something dumb with his ONE JOB, I’m going to say something about it.  Because Jesus Fucking Christ.

Top of the 8th inning, Mariners up 3-2.  Paxton did a pretty good job, but let his pitch count get the better of him thanks to some bad home plate umpiring and a lack of command of his fastball.  The combination of Nick Vincent and Scrabble got us to the 7th, and Tony Zych got us a couple outs into the 8th.  He hit the leadoff hitter, though, and after getting the two outs, left-handed bat Kole Calhoun stepped to the plate.  Lefty reliever James Pazos had been warming up since way back in the 7th inning (or maybe earlier, who can recall?), and was sufficiently ready to go.  Makes perfect sense, no?

Apparently fucking not, as Scott Servais had the brilliant fucking idea of bringing in our closer to get the 4-out save.

Let’s start here.  I think we all understand why someone would bring in a lefty reliever to face a lefty batter, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  Scott Servais has this bug up his ass about getting Edwin Diaz more work.  He’s a young guy and therefore his arm is ready for a bigger workload.  People have taken this to mean that the Mariners are going to use Diaz like the Indians use Andrew Miller – not necessarily to get the final 3 outs of the ballgame, but to come in during the most important late-game situations, regardless of whether it’s a save situation or not.  But, that’s false.  Servais just has no confidence in this bullpen (because why should he?) and knows he’ll need to lean on the guys he can trust to work more than just the one inning per appearance.  Diaz is still this team’s closer, but now he’s going to have to get more than three outs to get his saves.  It’s still all catering to the save statistic, so this isn’t fresh or new thinking whatsoever!

Edwin Diaz has done nothing to deserve this type of confidence, by the way.  Maybe if we were talking about Mariano Rivera in his prime, we could discuss bringing him in to work multiple innings.  But, so far, Diaz hasn’t even worked a full season’s worth of games in the Majors yet!  He won the closer job because his first month or so was electric (and Cishek really screwed the pooch), but guys know how to hit him now!  He’s not throwing 100 mph anymore.  He’s still wild, but not effectively wild like he was when the league was still getting to know him.  And, quite frankly, he’s blown too many saves to be considered an elite closer.  He’s no different than Fernando Rodney, Brandon League, Steve Cishek, David Aardsma, Tom Wilhelmsen, or any of these other jokers who have yet to be good for more than one season for the Mariners.

So, of course Edwin Diaz gave up the go-ahead 2-run homer to Kole Calhoun!  And of course the Mariners tied it up in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extras!  And OF COURSE James Pazos came into the game in the 11th inning – about 4 innings after he’d started warming up in the first place – and WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, the first batter he faced was the very same Kole Calhoun!  Did he give up a homer to the man?  NO!  He struck him out!  Because he’s a left-handed pitcher facing a left-handed batter, and that’s generally what tends to happen in those situations, SCOTT SERVAIS, YOU PUTZ!

Granted, Pazos would go on to give up two runs in the 11th inning to lose us the ballgame, but that’s not on him.  If he were used properly, in the top of the 8th, when he was warmed up and fresh, his command may have been a little more on par with the rest of his appearances this season.

Also, not for nothing, but if Pazos was brought in for just Calhoun in the 8th inning, THAT WOULD’VE BEEN THE ONLY BATTER HE WOULD’VE FACED, BECAUSE HE WOULD HAVE STRUCK THAT MOTHERFUCKER OUT!

I have no idea what Diaz would’ve done if he’d just come in fresh for the 9th inning with no runners on base, but that’s a hypothetical for another time.  In this universe, Scott Servais botched the fuck out of this one, and cost the Mariners a win they desperately needed.

Repeat after me:  Edwin Diaz is NOT the be-all, end-all of this bullpen.  He’s probably not all that much better than anyone else down there, if we’re being honest.  His consistency leaves a lot to be desired.  He’s trying to get away with just his natural gifts, and that’s not going to fly in the MLB, because those hitters have a lot of natural gifts too, and they tend to expose pitchers who throw it up there without knowing where it’s going.

God damn this season is frustrating as fuck.

What Are You Supposed To Do With A Mariners Offense Playing Like This?

At some point this week, I decided I’d take it upon myself to post a recap of all the Mariners games, even on *shudder* the weekends.  Someone needs to slap some sense into me, preferably with a couple of perky C’s.

I don’t know what to tell you.  5 hits in a 5-1 defeat to the thoroughly unimpressive Angels.  1 for 7 with runners in scoring position, another 7 left on base.  I mean, what is this?  Is this Spring Training fatigue?  The fact that these guys have been away from home for so long, and now the MLB schedule-makers have tacked on an extra 7 days to this living nightmare?  Will a simple matter of some home cooking turn this thing around?

God, I hope it doesn’t take that long.  Going 1-6 in your first week isn’t an insurmountable mountain to climb, but it sure as shit makes life unnecessarily difficult.

I mean, it’s one thing to see Kyle Seager struggle in the early going; we’ve come to expect that at this point.  And we all knew the outfield would be a bit of a depressing mixed bag at the plate (currently hitting a collective 8 for 59 (.136) with 5 walks, 2 doubles, 1 homer, and 18 strikeouts).  But, I think what’s most alarming is the funk that Cano and Cruz have been in through 5 games.

Those are our rocks!  Our studs!  Our superstars!  6 hits in 39 at-bats (.154) with 2 doubles, 0 homers, 1 RBI, 5 walks, and a whopping 13 strikeouts.  I know 5 games is a small sample size and everything, but come on!

Really, you can go up and down the lineup and pull these lunatic numbers that make you wonder just what sort of fresh hell we’re in for this season, so I won’t bombard you with all the misery.  I will say that I have no problem with Segura so far; I like that Seager has at least taken the most walks on the team to feature the highest OBP (.364), even though he’s only batting .125; and I’m starting to come around to Mitch Haniger (who leads the team in extra-base hits with 2) mostly because he seems to also have a good command of the strike zone with a .333 OBP.

As far as last night’s game is concerned, we got our first look at Yovani Gallardo.  I came away not totally sick to my stomach!  Granted, he went 5 innings and gave up 3 runs (being pulled in the bottom of the 6th with no outs after giving up a solo homer and a hard-hit single) while only throwing 90 pitches, but there were issues outside of his control that severely altered the course of the game for him.

In the bottom of the first, Gallardo gave up a leadoff single, followed by an ever-so-unfortunate double to Kole Calhoun (opposite field, against the outfield shift, just BARELY touching the chalk of the left field foul line before bouncing into the stands).  If that ball lands foul, who knows where the inning takes him?  Even still, with no outs and runners on 2nd & 3rd, he only gave up a sac fly to Mike Trout before getting out of the inning.

Then, in the bottom of the third, disaster.  A couple of singles and a strikeout preceeded Trout coming to bat.  After spotting him a 3-0 count, the Mariners intentionally walked him to get to Albert Pujols with 1 out and the bases loaded.  Pujols obliged about as well as you could ask for with a weak grounder right at Kyle Seager.  It was a tailor-made double play ball to get out of the inning still down 1-0.  Instead, Seager totally biffed it, allowing a run to score with the bases still loaded.  I couldn’t tell you how many pitches that cost Gallardo in his pitch count, but he ended up striking out the very next batter before getting out of the bases loaded jam with a ground ball to third.

And you may say, “Well, his pitch count stalled at 90 anyway, so it’s not like he was THAT over-worked,” but I’ll say this:  pitches in high-pressure situations like that, with the bases loaded and less than 2 outs, count A LOT more than pitches with nobody on base.  Sure, it was mostly his doing that got the bases loaded in the first place, but in the end, he induced a ground ball that should’ve been a double play and instead was a fielder’s choice/error that got no one out.  That’s not on Gallardo.

All in all, I thought Gallardo looked okay.  I saw him touch 94mph on the gun, he was usually in the lower 90s with his fastball, and he was able to work both up and down in the zone to pretty solid effect.  I mean, he’s never going to be anything amazing, but he’s a veteran 5th starter, so a lot of his starts are going to look like this.  He’s going to spread around a bunch of hits, hopefully not walk too many, and usually keep you in enough ballgames to justify his roster spot.  Think of a Kevin Millwood or a Chris Young type moreso than a Wade Miley or a Joe Saunders type.  At least, that’s my hope.

Casey Fien looked pretty good in his first inning of relief, then gave up a 2-run homer in his second inning of relief.  But, he’s not really a guy you’re going to count on in the 8th inning of a game you’re winning; he’s a guy you’re going to see in games like this, where we’re losing but hoping he can keep it close enough for us to come back.  I think the jury is still out on him, but I also don’t see him going anywhere anytime soon, even with Tony Zych set to rejoin the Mariners at some point in the next week or two.

Finally, Dillon Overton got his first inning of relief in the soft landing we unfortunately couldn’t give to Chase De Jong.  Overton gave up a meaningless single and netted 2 strikeouts, but I couldn’t tell you how he looked because I turned off the TV after that 2-run homer Fien gave up.

Felix Day today.  Let’s hope he doesn’t have to cover first base.

The Mariners Are Really Putting Me Through The Wringer

Tasked with the second inexperienced starter in two days, the Seattle Mariners had to put on their big boy pants to beat the Angels last night.  So, it was really a perfect time for the power in the bats to completely disappear.

After digging a hole early, Cody Martin somewhat settled down to go 4.1 innings while giving up only 2 runs.  Given our placement in the standings and how important all of these games are, combined with the fact that the Mariners just took the lead in the top of the 4th to go up 4-2, Scott Servais wasn’t taking any chances.  It was the prudent play.

The bullpen rebounded in a big way over the previous night.  Storen went 1.1 scoreless, Nuno got the final out of the 6th, Caminero made it through a scoreless 7th, and Wilhelmsen did the same in the 8th.  Perfect.  Bring on the Sugar!

Texas Tea ... Sweetener!

Texas Tea … Sweetener!

Who almost fucking blew it.

ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME???

A single and a wild pitch put the leadoff batter in scoring position.  For the most part, like the night prior, the Angels hitters were cheating, going up there looking fastball all the way and swinging accordingly.  That’s what happened with the first batter.  So, Diaz turned to his slider, and almost exclusively his slider, the rest of the way.  I didn’t understand at first, as the next batter whiffed twice at it before laying off the next two balls outside, before putting the final slider into centerfield to make the game 4-3.  After the game, I discovered he’d lost confidence in his fastball command, but either way, it was SCARY for a while there!

Diaz got a strikeout from an overly-aggressive Kole Calhoun, but then Trout singled and advanced to second on the throw as Leonys Martin tried to cut down the runner going to third.  With two runners in scoring position, and only one out in the inning, Diaz intentionally walked Albert Pujols to load ’em up.  From there, he got another strikeout before running into the final batter of the night, who hit a hard ground ball towards the bag that Seager dove on.  He was able to throw out the final runner by a half step to save the game, in what has to be the best defensive play made by a Mariners fielder all year.  Hell, it might be the play of the decade, given the circumstances (but, my memory ain’t what it used to be).

Just an unbelievable sense of relief after that.  We wrap up the 4-game series tonight, with Iwakuma on the mound.  Let’s do this thing!

Mariners Tidbit 16: Opening Day

And Seth Smith jumps out to a commanding lead for YOUR Favorite New Mariner!

Boy, that game was something, wasn’t it?  It had it all:  hits, strikeouts, leaving work before 11am, drinking during the day, incredibly long bathroom lines you had to time JUST right (meaning:  you had to step away with Cano at the plate, two outs, and a runner in scoring position, just to run up the aisle and see a man about a horse before 20 people jumped in line behind you).

I had seats right on the edge of the King’s Court, in section 147.  So, the energy was pretty jazzed up, but I got the feeling that the whole stadium was into it from the first pitch.  I don’t have a real coherent narrative, so I’ll just bust out with the random thoughts.

I thought the best at bat of the entire ballgame wasn’t anything by Seth Smith, it wasn’t Trout’s mammoth home run, and it wasn’t even Austin Jackson getting off to a great start.  For my money, you’re not going to beat Robbie Cano’s 2-out RBI single in the third to give us a 2-1 lead.  To that point, Jered Weaver was working his slow-pitch magic.  Sure, the preceding double & triple tied the game, but Weaver isn’t usually one to give up the Big Inning.  He tried to steal a cheap strike to get ahead in the count (where, I’m sure, he’s at his deadliest), and on a day where only one of his pitches surpassed 86 mph, Cano ripped the first pitch he saw in that at bat straight up the middle for the go-ahead score.  That’s what we call using the ol’ noodle.

As it has been noted everywhere, Seth Smith went 3 for 3 with 3 extra base hits (the first Mariner to ever do that on Opening Day).  They won’t all be days this great for Seth Smith, but you gotta like a guy who’s proven capable in pitcher-friendly parks in the past.  He’s put up decent numbers in Oakland and San Diego, which leads me to believe he’s ready to tangle with a place like Safeco.

The bottom two and top two spots in the order did the bulk of the damage.  Nice to see Ackley hit a bomb, nice to see Miller and Jackson get on base twice.  These are the players who will make the biggest difference between us merely contending and us grabbing the division by the horns.

What can you say about King Felix?  Another Opening Day victory, another 7-inning, 10-strikeout, 1-run performance.  You want easy money?  Put it down on the Mariners on Opening Day with Felix on the mound.

The Most Important At-Bat of the Game:  Carson Smith vs. Mike Trout.  2-on, 2-out, top of the 8th.  You might argue the previous at-bat – where Furbush struck out Kole Calhoun to get us to 2 outs – was the more important, because if he walks him there, who knows what happens after?  All I know is, Carson Smith had 9 appearances before yesterday’s game, and he was called in (over Tom Wilhelmsen, over Yoervis Medina) to face the best everyday player in the game of baseball.  And, he struck him out on four pitches.  Outstanding.

Hey!  We get to do this all over again tonight!  And tomorrow night, I’ll be back at Safeco for the second time in three days!  I think I finally understand why Dave Sims continues to be employed by Root Sports; his on-air presence compels people like me to attend more games in person just to grab a little peace of mind.