Welcome back, Major League Baseball!
MLB’s opening week always brings out the optimism for fans. No team has fallen out of contention yet. Hope is alive. For fans of the Seattle Mariners; however, this hope does not usually last long. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2001. A lot has changed in the world since 2001. You know what hasn’t changed, though? Defeat still brings on the agony. Watching your team perpetually lose hurts as bad now as it did then. Plus, now, through the availability of all of the different sports viewing packages, we fans get to watch all of the stinging defeats live or on replay. Back then, a team’s losing ways was normally confined to regional coverage. Yeah, thanks for that… Anyway, in the spirit of opening week optimism, this is the year, though, right?
This is the year the Mariners will break through and get to the playoffs.
The year the opposing team will have to score more than two runs to win the game.
The year the situational hitting will improve. (No more stranding a runner on third base when all it takes is a sacrifice fly to score the run.)
The year Mike Zunino will quit killing rallies. (Okay, maybe this is going too far.)
Anyway, you get the picture. Onward to the opening week games.
Game one – Mariners vs the Houston Astros
The Mariners started former Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez – the King. Felix’s fastball may have lost a little steam, but he can still pitch a dominant game and usually pitches well on opening day. The right pitcher for the Mariners to get the season started. What could go wrong?
How about a first-pitch home run courtesy of Astros’ George Springer? Then, Felix pulled a muscle while covering first base on a ground out, which of course forced him to leave the game a couple of innings later. Before leaving the game, he gave up another solo home run along with a sacrifice fly, and this was more than enough runs for the Astros to come out on top. Seattle’s major threat came in the 8th inning when Robinson Canó came to the plate with runners on second and third, hit the ball hard, but right at the right fielder. Astros won 3-0.
Hey, it’s a long season. One game down. This does not mean that this year’s team will continue to lose close games.
Game two versus the Houston Astros
Seattle’s starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma pitched well, but he gave up two runs, which again was enough to beat the Mariners as the Astros “one-upped” the Mariners 2-1. Seattle scored its run in the 4th inning off an infield single. Additionally, they managed to load the bases in the 4th inning, but almost as likely as the sun setting in the west, Mike Zunino grounded out to end the inning. Yet another bases loaded failure.
Seattle caused a little bit of ruckus in the 9th when outfielder Jarrod Dyson doubled with only one out in the inning, but the remaining batters failed to get that all important hit.
Game three versus the Houston Astros
The Mariners scored first in this game, hitting the majestic “Two Run Cap” in the 5th inning when Jean Segura homered off of Charlie Morton. James Paxton provided six innings of scoreless innings. Things looked great for the Mariners heading into the 7th inning with a 2-0 lead over the Astros. Then, the Mariners brought in three different relief pitchers, desperately trying to hold onto their lead – the strategy failed. The Astros tied the game. The 9th inning came and went with the score tied at 2. Let the record reflect that from the 7th inning on, I expected the Mariners to lose. (This is what years and years of one-run losses will do to you.) No belief in a Mariners’ victory even after the Astros tried their best to give the game to the Mariners by walking in the Mariners’ go ahead run.
The defining foreshadowing moment in this game happened when the Mariners had the bases loaded in the 13th inning with no outs, and they only managed to score the run gifted to them by the Astros pitching staff. Once again, keeping the status quo regarding the lack of production with the bases loaded, the Mariners failed to produce a timely hit.
Anyway, it’s hard to accurately describe the frustration of watching a team squander a bases loaded opportunity; especially, when all that was required was to put the ball in play deep enough for a sacrifice fly. Heck, even a routine double-play ball would have allowed an additional run to score. Does anyone really need the details of the Astros bottom of the 13th rally? They got timely hits and a walk-off home run to win the game 5-3. Oh, one detail that should get mentioned is that their batter batting ninth in the lineup fought off a two-strike count, delivering a game-saving single past third baseman Kyle Seager.
In the interest of saving time and space, there will be no recap of any other games for this week, because the general theme of the Mariners’ opening week has already presented itself – nothing has changed. The Mariners still can’t provide run support for their starting pitchers. The “Two Run Cap” still exists. Their situational hitting has not improved. Sure, it’s early in the season with lots of baseball left, but even with opening week’s optimism lingering in the background, their way ahead doesn’t appear to hold much hope for a playoff appearance.