If I can take a step back from the Knee-Jerk Reactionary persona for a minute, I’d like to quietly and calmly reflect on the series win down in Texas that just wrapped up yesterday.
For starters, that defeat on Opening Day was the epitome of what this baseball team has come to represent under the old regimes. Some quality pitching, but ultimately some pathetic hitting and doing whatever it takes to lose a ballgame (in this case, walks and errors in one supremely ugly inning, from which the team could not recover in a 1-run game). So, when fans collectively shrugged and said, “Same Old M’s,” they had every right to feel that way, despite what some know-it-all media members might say.
The last two games, however, were much more promising. Obviously. Because the Mariners won. But the WAY the Mariners won is what caught my eye.
In 2015, there were only two times all year where the Mariners won by 8 runs or more (while there were PLENTY of times where that team managed to lose by 8 runs or more). Already, in the second game of the season, the Mariners poured it on to the tune of a 10-2 victory. The Mariners staked themselves to a 2-0 lead, let the Rangers tie it, and both teams were held scoreless for a few innings as you wondered if this was going to be yet ANOTHER “Same Old M’s” situation. But, we rallied for two runs in the 7th, and piled on 6 more runs in the 8th to sock the game away.
You don’t see a lot of games where the Mariners are able to play Add On, and in this case a lot of it started with the bottom of the order getting the job done. Seth Smith, Iannetta, Sardinas, and Martin were all critical in that 10-2 victory. Same thing with the bottom of the order yesterday. Once again, the Mariners started out with a lead early and gave it away in the bottom of the 6th inning. This time trailing by two runs, the Mariners had three innings to claw back and re-take the lead. They were again led by the bottom of the order; guys like Sardinas, Marte, and Aoki in a pinch hit role. We got 1 run back in the 7th inning, and put on an impressive 5-run rally in the top of the 9th against their closer to win the game 9-5.
Of course, you can’t give all the credit to the bottom of the order. Robinson Cano has been a man possessed as he is single-handedly out to make ex-Mariners coach Andy Van Slyke look like a bitter, drunken old fool. He and Seager and Cruz have all come to play, which is big for this team. Obviously, it’s only three games, and obviously those three games took place down in Texas (where it’s notoriously easy to hit), but you like this over the alternative anyday.
And, we can’t forget the role players. Seth Smith, Leonys Martin, Chris Iannetta, Nori Aoki, and Luis Sardinas have all looked like the real deal so far. Ketel Marte had a rough first two games, but broke out yesterday with 3 hits. The only guys really struggling so far are the first base duo of Adam Lind and Dae-ho Lee, and you figure at least one of those guys will come around eventually.
The real pleasant surprise in all of this has been the bullpen, which has yet to give up a run in three games (across 9 innings). Obviously, that won’t continue, but hopefully – if the rotation ever settles down – we won’t need the bullpen to be perfect. And, if it can be better than expected, then that’s a huge boon for this team.
Of course, it has been the starters through three games who have looked shaky. Felix with his five walks; Iwakuma with his three walks and his 5-inning start; Miley looking pretty respectable until that last inning where he got beat around. You don’t expect Felix to be that off with his release point very often, but with the other two guys, you’re certainly going to run into a fair share of games where they’ll struggle and the offense will need to pick them up. I mean, with the starters looking this mediocre – and we haven’t even seen Karns throw a pitch yet – it’s a little concerning.
All in all, though, we’re talking about a net positive. Last year’s Mariners would have been 1-2 or 0-3 in this series. This year’s Mariners currently sit at 2-1 and have the early lead in the A.L. West. To do that against last year’s A.L. West champs – a team many have projected to be just as good yet again – will always get a gold star in my book.
Now, we’re onto the home opener, for which I’ll be in attendance. Club level, with a bagel dog in each hand, nursing a tallboy because I had a bunch before the game at Sluggers. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.