Gonna be interesting…
The Seattle Mariners took on the Oakland Athletics in the first half of a 4 game opening series. The first 2 games took place in the Tokyo Dome in Japan and the second half of the series will begin Friday, April 6 in Oakland when the rest of MLB starts their seasons.
The trip to Japan made sense, but it was scheduled awkwardly.
There is a week and a half gap in between game 2 and 3 in this opening series. In between those games, the teams travel back to their Spring Training site and finish off Spring Training before re-starting the season up.
Here are my thoughts on the first 2 games of the Seattle Mariners season that were split 1-1 with the A’s in Japan.
Felix is back and better than ever
Felix Hernandez pitched opening day for the Mariners and pitched yet another great game. He went 8 innings, gave up 6 hits, 1 run and struck out 6. The Mariners won the home opener behind King Felix’s dominant performance.
The sad part? He got a no decision.
This was a common thing last season. Hernandez’s record would have you think he had a very mediocre season on the mound. Contrary to that belief, he was in Cy Young form as he was absolutely dominant, but just couldn’t get run support.
The biggest pain from last year struck on day one this year. And Felix is getting the worst of it.
Not only is his pitching on point, but his attitude and sense of humor are shining though brighter than ever. When Mariners legend Harold Reynolds interviewed King Felix for a tv special, he asked Hernandez what his best pitch was. Felix’s reply? “All 5.”
Felix is back, baby!
Youngsters showing promise
Game 1 was Ackley’s night to shine as he was 2-5 with 2 runs and 2 RBI. He also had a stolen base and was the first player in the MLB this season to hit a home run.
Game 2 was Smoak’s turn to shine as he went 1-4 with a home run of his own. 1-4 isn’t stellar, I know, but seeing him start the season off by showing some power is something every Mariners fan should have enjoyed. We’ve been longing for power hitters for a while and we may see one developing.
If these two youngsters can play at a high level all year, it could spark other young guys like Jesus Montero who could take off himself once he finds his groove.
Run support issues…again
As mentioned before, Felix Hernandez got robbed of his opening day win due to lack of run support. The Mariners did win the game, but it took them til the 11th to put up more than 1 run.
When your starting pitcher gives up 1 single run in 8 innings, he should win EVERY time.
This has not been the case with this Mariners teams the last couple years.
This is the same problem carrying over from last year. Felix’s record did not show his excellence because while he held teams to 1-3 runs per game, the Mariners couldn’t match or pass those same numbers.
Same goes for the second game of this opening series. Jason Vargas pitched well. Not brilliantly, but he also held Oakland to 1 run. Then the bullpen came in and gave up 3 home runs. And all the while, the Mariners only managed to put up 1 run…the Smoak homerun.
I realize it’s the first two games of the year. I realize Spring Training hadn’t even completed yet. And I realize they had to fly overseas to play in a foreign country at 2 and 3am where they normally play. But with this talented, young lineup, the Mariners should’ve got off to a quick start and flashed some potential reasons to worry other clubs. They failed this time around.
Ichiro back to old form?
I know it’s early and I know Ichiro Suzuki had added benefit to perform well in his home country of Japan. But going 4-5 on opening day, including 2 infield hits, is impressive no matter how you look at it. He also had an RBI in the game.
He does look more comfortable in the 3rd spot in the batting order and hopefully he will get even more comfortable over the season and go back to the Ichiro from 2 seasons ago.
If Ichiro can keep his average up this season while adding a few power numbers to his stats, it could prove his worth.
Wedge is doing the best he can
Mariners manager Eric Wedge didn’t have much to work with last season. Despite the bad year, Wedge instilled some things in his players and the fans that have turned both groups into believers of the veteran skipper.
This year he continues that sentiment. He has already shaken up the team with his batting order changes and now he’s doing it in the field as well.
Wedge went against the grain and put Ichiro at the 3rd spot in the batting order and moved struggling Chone Figgins to the top of the order.
These changes were huge mainly in part due to Ichiro’s 10 year death grip on the #1 spot. It is no more.
To go beyond that, Wedge is using every tool he has, including Figgins. Figgins has become a routine face at third base, but Wedge plans to change that up.
In order to find where he is most useful, and to get different players some playing time, Wedge is moving Figgins around the field.
He practically played every position in Spring Training except pitcher or catcher.
In game 1 of the opening series, Figgins played third base. In the second game he played left field.
Take what you will from this, but it goes to show that Eric Wedge means business and he’ll get the job done no matter what it takes.
You have to respect the iron will of arguably the best manager the Mariners have seen since Sweet Lou.