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I tell friends of mine, most of which are non-baseball fans, that the end of the World Series isn’t a joyous occasion. It most certainly is for the winners and the fans of the winning team, but while the unkempt Red Sox were celebrating last October I was in a somber mood. The final out of the World Series signifies the imminent wet, cold winter ahead. The final pitch is the start of a long break with no baseball.
After baseball, the sports landscape becomes dominated by the Neanderthal sports that rely more on sheer athleticism and size than skill; racing against a clock in confusing sports that is mostly defined by running in a straight line. Oh, and hit someone. Play physical.
But yesterday that all came to a crashing halt, sure basketball will still be played well into June and the general public shifts into football come September. But for the months in between, only the thinking man’s game remains and for many baseball fans, that is all there is.
I worked during most of the day games, another gentle reminder that I need to start taking that day off in the future. Yet I was available during the Mariner game, Felix day! and sunshine and lollipops (credit: Lookout Landing).
It was a weird feeling throughout the game, I’ve become numb to this team from year to year because…Mariners. So while a lot of the Mariner community is feeling optimistic about the signing of Robinson Cano, Taijuan Walker starting his first full season, Kyle Seager still being a boss and Brad Miller projected to be a high-end starting SS, I feel level. The glass isn’t half full or half empty, there is simply half left. The Steamer and Oliver projections that have this team around 80 wins seem fair. And through the first six or seven innings of the first game it felt exactly like that.
The Mariners boringly manufactured a run in the second after Justin Smoak doubled and was moved to third after a productive out, he later scored on a Saunders sacrifice. In the sixth Seager doubled off the wall and scored Smoak but Logan Morrison thieved a run from his own team with his glacial movements around the bases as he was thrown out at home. Mix in some suspect defense from Dustin Ackley in left and an error from Seager at third base and it was 2013 all over again. Especially when coupled with the fact that Felix was absolutely dealing while getting little support from his offense.
But then something happened, Mike Zunino TRIPLED! to bring home Ackley and was later scored by an Abraham Almonte hustle double. In the ninth Smoak absolutely crushed a 3-run homerun, no doubt stringing along the desperate fan base just a little bit longer. Ackley hit a bases loaded triple in the same inning to extend the lead to 10-3, also stringing along hopeful fans. (Man, the Mariners must keep a large supply of yarn in the basement of Safeco Field.) Even the bullpen looked dominant as Tom Wilhelmsen was able to complete four outs without completely imploding.
Sure it’s early and it’s wise to temper expectations especially given the extreme small sample size of only a single game. But maybe this was the long game of Jack Zdurienik, build up a strong prospect base, fortify the ever important bullpen, make a splashy signing and lean on your stars until the youngsters come along. Only time will tell if it’s sustainable, but my glass might be half full now.
On to some bullet points!
- Almonte hit in the leadoff spot for most of Spring Training and there were thoughts about whether that would be a good move going into the season, especially with more appropriate choices (Miller). But Almonte worked a seven pitch at-bat in his first appearance and later singled in that at-bat. He finished the day 2-5 with a double and drove in a run. He also attempted to steal a base in the first inning, perhaps representative of how Lloyd McClendon plans to use him.
- Mike Trout hit a 2-run homerun off of Felix in the first inning that seemed impossible. A breaking ball that landed in the lower inside corner. But dude is strong and good and shit man, why can’t he be in another division?
- Smoak doubled in the second and nearly doubled again later in the game that went just foul. McClendon said during Spring Training that Smoak could lead the league in doubles. It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses.
- Ackley took a horrible route to a ball hit by Albert Pujols in the third that ended up scoring a run. This defense will still be an adventure from time to time, although not quite as bad as Raul Ibanez.
- Speaking of Raul, he K’d three times and looked silly doing it. At least they’re DH’ing him.
- Cano’s first hit was cued off the end of his bat and went about 35 feet. He hustled to first and was safe. So much for that no hustle thing.
- Morrison looked out of sorts. Missing everything thrown his way while striking out three times. To his credit, Jered Weaver is a crafty dude. And also, Morrison looks like Private Pyle.
- Felix was, is and will always be the man. After the Trout homerun he got visibly mad and then mowed down most everyone in the Angels’ lineup. He threw 30 pitches in the third that included Ackley’s terrible route in left and Seager’s error but he still made it through six innings while striking out 11 hitters. His changeup was filthy all night.
CJ Wilson versus Erasmo Ramirez next time out, hoping the glass stays full. ‘Til next time.