With Nelson Cruz joining Mike Zunino, Ben Gamel, David Phelps, and Erasmo Ramirez on the DL, I’ll admit I didn’t have the highest of hopes for the Mariners yesterday. We’re rolling with two nobodies at catcher, left field and first base haven’t provided a whole lot on the offensive side of the ball, and there we were in San Francisco, playing in a National League park. With Seager’s usual early-season struggles in full effect, it seemed like a day where the offense might shit the bed. And, with Marco Gonzales on the mound, I more than have my doubts that he can hold it together this season.
Happily, my fears were unfounded, at least for a day. Though, with these injuries to Cruz and Zunino, the bottom of the order is pretty pathetic. The bulk of the damage yesterday was done by hitters 1-5 (Gordon, Segura, Cano, Haniger, Seager). Sure, Healy & Heredia both had their first hits of the season, but neither is really going to be an offensive force this year (or ever); more like complementary players who might chip in some production here and there.
While it was nice to see Seager get a couple hits and a walk, the top four guys are really dominating so far this season. Dee Gordon was 3/5 with 2 stolen bases and a run scored. Jean Segura was 3/4 with a walk and 2 runs scored. Cano was 1/4 with a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored. And Haniger continues to be this team’s MVP through four games, going 1/5 with a run and 2 RBI. Here’s hoping his hot streak continues at least until Cruz can come back.
Marco Gonzales looked about as impressive as I’ve ever seen him through 6 innings yesterday. At that point, he’d only given up 1 run off of 4 hits, 0 walks, and 1 strikeout on a measly 80 pitches. So, it made perfect sense to try to squeeze one more inning out of him. Heading into the bottom of the seventh, the M’s were up 6-1. Gonzo struck out the leadoff hitter, but that was followed by a single and a 2-run homer (on a pitch that was about as middle-middle as they get) to unceremoniously end his day. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great way to start his season (probably the most important season of his professional career), but God damn would it have been a lot cooler to see him only give up the 1 run. Not that I think a late-game 2-run homer will completely shatter his confidence, but I do think confidence is his friend, and the more of it he has, the better off we’ll all be. Don’t forget, he’s out of options. It’s not like we can just stash him in Tacoma for another season to work on his craft. It’s now or never!
Nick Vincent got us out of the seventh with a couple scary-looking fly-outs. Juan Nicasio struggled in his second consecutive appearance (giving up 3 hits and 1 run to make things interesting and get Dan Altavilla warming up in the bullpen). It did look like he was starting to throw harder than before, so maybe he’s still rounding into shape. I’m still sort of expecting him to land on the DL any day now with arm issues that will explain away why he’s looked so mediocre through three outings. Thankfully, Edwin Diaz is still red hot, as he closed out the game with no trouble.
I still have a lot of concerns about this offense as we continue on this week without two of our biggest boppers. Things look okay now, because we’re 3-1, but after we leave Frisco we’ve gotta go to Minnesota and Kansas City before we start to see some guys return. In that time, we’re gonna need some of these guys who aren’t hitting to pick it up in a big way. I don’t think cluster luck is going to be our friend for too much longer.