I'll admit....I looked at my son and said, "So much for our opening day winning streak." The last few years have jaded me as a Mariner's fan. Here's to hoping that they prove me wrong this year.
Fascinating Opening Day game. As we take our baby steps toward being the organization we dream of being and try to leave behind the last decade of wandering in the wilderness, I’m looking for signs that there really IS an oasis up ahead and it’s not just another mirage. We won our first game of the season, but we’ve done that in the previous 7 seasons too. What might make this different, might help us compete into June and beyond instead of calling the season dead half-way through May? To that end, here’s five things that cheered me greatly about the opener and about our chances to make this year a competitive one:
1) No fear, and no quit. Weaver was dealing. He looked great, and we were losing, and this is the sort of game that the Mariners tend to lose, the hard-luck losses of “two bad pitches and an error hang a loss on the King…” headlines, but it didn’t happen. We kept fighting at the plate, even when mistakes were being made on the basepaths and in the field (see #2) but we kept making the Angels work. Once Smoak jacked the game out of reach I thought we’d hang it up, but we made the Angels throw 20-something more pitches that inning and get to another pitcher out of the pen. We didn’t need the second set of runs. We didn’t have to work walks and try for more. But we played every pitch of the 9 innings – if we keep that up, good things HAVE to follow.
2) Young mistakes didn’t shake confidence. Almonte turned a great hit into an aggravating out by attempting a stolen base with his MOTO coming up behind him and needing to plate a run to get Weaver out of his groove early. Morrison was thrown out by 10 lengths – who even sends him once you see Trout whip it back in off the wall like that? Ackley loses a double in the lights to score an unearned run allowed by Seager’s fielding goof. We were not picture-perfect by ANY means… but we didn’t take those mistakes back to the plate with us. Nobody pressed too hard (well, Morrison was pressing by swinging at a ball two feet over his head but still drew two walks to go with his hat trick). Almonte needed another hit in this game with a RISP and he got one. Miller legged out a single, guys were drawing walks and staying patient… it was impressive.
3) Comraderie. Watching Smoak, he of the gritted teeth and placid expression, laughing and cavorting in the dugout was a good sign. Seeing him grab the 240 Million Dollar Man by the scruff of the neck, shake him lovingly and pat him on the head like, “see, I told you I’d back you up, you big lug” was hilarious – and amazing, since a guy making a quarter BILLION dollars might be untouchable, aloof – certainly shown deference. There was no deference on display, just a younger hitter enjoying the company and support of a more accomplished one. The fact that they can do that after hanging out together for a month is a Big Deal.
4) Blue-chippers playing like it. Seager was on base 3 times with a nice double to boot. Smoak bombed one, laced a double and also strolled to first. Ackley took a lefty to the wall for a triple, walked and snagged another hit besides. Zunino called a great game and hung in there against RHP (even while notching a golden sombrero) to get the big hit of the game. Cano had a quiet two-fer with a walk, Miller “only” had his leg-single, but the whole lineup showed up to the game today. Saunders and Morrison did not look especially good, but they were at the plate battling and Saunders especially just missed one pitch.
On the effort scale, LoMo stole a base. I dunno if you realize this, but Logan had stolen 3 bases in his 1500 PA career before last night. Seeing him take off for second and make it was almost as impressive as Almonte’s leg-double. Taking that risk after messing up the stolen base earlier is either an indication of large stones and a small memory bank, or that Abe has the baseball IQ of a radish. Things To Watch. ;) But that right there looked like an offense. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one, but the lineup pressure was fun to see. Against lefties I’m sure it will be less fun, but RH starters are gonna hate us.
5) Felix is a monster… but the pen brought it home. If Medina or Furbush or Wilhelmsen gives up even one run, an entirely different set of Angels relievers would be in the game and life might have been different, regardless of the at-bats we were putting up. But though Furbush took a liner off the leg and the Angels got their MOTO up against relievers I have trouble trusting, for this game we held them down and kept the lead we needed to face the relievers we would take advantage of to put the game out of reach. It still feels very much like a piece-meal effort in the pen, without some of the arms I expected there, but as long as Farquhar can be nasty and Wilhelmsen can throw an accurate fastball and Medina can stay aggressive without piping balls it’ll be hard to argue with it. We’re gonna get some good starts this year – we just need to lock down the finishes. Also, please come back soon Mr. Furbush. We kinda need your lefty expertise.
Great game to watch. Tensely fought for almost all of it, and then the cracks in that dam burst wide open and turned it into a laugher. I’d take a bunch more of those in our favor, por favor. Starting with Game 2 tonight. Let's see some more baby steps toward building a contender. Your 2014 Mariners: Why Not Us?
including me. And I share your hopes as well.
...but when it was 3-1, I actually thought we were sill very much in it...I tihnk I was reading the way the Mariners were reading Weaver's pitches.
True, the extra three runs in the ninth were not needed. But that fact that they made the guy throw 30 pitches so the Angels bring in another reliever is a good thing down the road. Getting the other guy to use more of his bullpen every night can alter how games three and four of a series play out. The guy that throws 30 out of the pen likely isn't going to be available the next night, and anything that messes up how they use their bullpen is a good thing.
On LoMo's stolen base, I think someone missed a sign. Maybe I'm wrong (in fact, it's probable) but sending Morrison on a straight steal, when you've been so careful all spring while he continues to recover from the knee surgery, seems unlikely. That had to be a hit-and-run.
On Trout's homer Felix missed his location by a lot. Zunino was set up low and outside but the pitch came in low and inside. That's over a foot of distance laterally - very un-Felix like. Afterward, Felix just looked pissed off at himself and really bore down.
I saw just about all the same stuff you did, G.
... you felt like Ackley lost the ball in the lights? that would be reassuring. Wonder if the same happened to Josh Hamilton?
Saunders is definitely plus in RF, it looks like Almonte is an improvement in CF, and Ackley (once he gets acclimated) ... they could go from -50 runs in the defensive outfield to even steven.
Sure hope you keep the postgames comin'. Slap me silly. You'll have a coupla thousand SSI denizens hanging on yer every word.