New Mariners Win Like Old Mariners

Jeff Sullivan · April 1, 2013 at 11:48 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

For the Mariners, this was an offseason of change. There was change within the front office, somewhat in terms of personnel, but more in terms of philosophies. And this was reflected by change on the roster, as the Mariners added some experienced dinger hitters in an effort to add experience and dinger hitters. These Mariners just set a club record for dingers in spring training, and there’s been talk that for the first time in years, the Mariners have a legitimate core of the lineup. So on opening day the Mariners beat the A’s 2-0 thanks to excellent pitching and a groundball single.

Feeling like a pessimist? Argue that the changes didn’t make any difference. Feeling like an optimist? Argue that the Mariners didn’t even need the additions to chip in to win. Feeling like a realist? Argue nothing because it’s been one game of a baseball season. Do you remember how long these things are? Imagine how long you think a season is. Multiply that by seven and then add 40 more games. Don’t worry right now about the big picture. Worry about the little picture, in which the Mariners just won a regular-season baseball game. A game it feels like they’ve played a dozen dozen times before against the Oakland A’s alone.

Since 2008, now, the Mariners and A’s have played 96 times. In 19 of those games, one of the teams was shut out. In 96 of those games, at least one of the teams looked entirely, woefully inept. The A’s might be coming off a playoff berth, but when they get together with the Mariners, all that old familiar magic is rekindled, to the possible delight of some.

When I used to recap regularly, I think after every opening day I’d say the same thing: even though it’s only one win, it’s a meaningful win. If you expected the Mariners to win X% of 162 games, now they’d win X% of 161 games plus one win. Every win matters and you never know when they’ll really matter. This is the Mariners’ seventh opening-day win in a row. After the previous six opening days, they’ve gone 431-535. I can’t pretend to be super excited anymore, not over one win, but I can be generally pleased, over one win and over having the baseball soundtrack back. I didn’t expect today to feel as refreshing and enjoyable as it did. Not just the Mariners, even; all day, there was real baseball on TV, and it does make me feel a little more centered.

How meaningful is this win? Again, this is the seventh straight year the Mariners are starting 1-0. Last year, they started 1-0, and Dustin Ackley hit a dinger. The year before, they started 1-0, and Chone Figgins hit a dinger. The year before that, they started 1-0, and Rob Johnson hit a dinger. Tonight, nobody hit a dinger, and Felix Hernandez was excellent. There’s nothing to read into, nothing to extrapolate — the meaning is that Felix was excellent and that every fifth day, the Mariners aren’t actually at a disadvantage. This was a game on opening day that easily could’ve been a game in the middle of August. It didn’t feel special; Felix felt special, and the game felt mostly normal. Be happy to have baseball back, and to have one fewer day of possible complaining.

I’m not going to make a habit of doing this. I might not do this five times — it’s one of the main reasons I left Lookout Landing in the first place. I’m moving on from nightly Mariners recaps, but tonight gets an exception because tonight is opening night and there’s only one of these a year. Or, three of these, for Major League Baseball as a whole. Something has to be written about Felix dominating again on opening day, even if this is starting to feel like old hat. It would be weird for the outcome of the game to not be acknowledged.

Felix was actually perfect into the bottom of the fourth, when he coughed up a double to John Jaso. Prior to the game, Felix gifted Jaso with a Rolex out of gratitude for catching last year’s perfecto. This is precisely why Felix equipped that Rolex with a self-destruct mechanism operated remotely. The A’s didn’t get their second hit until the sixth, and it sucked. The third hit came in the eighth, and it was legitimate, and then Felix issued a walk when he was fatigued. Up until the end, Felix was incredibly strong, and his changeup was so lethal it literally killed six guys, the game stopped for ambulances and everything. Felix did have to grimace through some bullpen anxiety, and this easily could’ve wound up another no-decision, but the memory of all those no-decisions makes this winning decision all the more sweet. In that way the Mariners have actually been good for Felix’s psychological health.

Felix would’ve allowed a run were it not for Brendan Ryan in the fourth. With two down and a runner on third, Yoenis Cespedes bounced a grounder up the middle that Ryan fielded on the outfield grass. He spun and threw a strike to first, across his body yet strong and on the fly. Cespedes was retired by a step and Ryan returned to the dugout unencumbered by carrying a heavy Gold Glove in his pocket. It was Ryan who made the defensive play of the day, and it was Ryan who went 1-for-1 with two walks. Brendan Ryan said he wanted to play more like David Eckstein, and it was mission accomplished tonight, as Ryan was annoying.

As for Jaso, if you miss him, he popped out, he doubled, he struck out on ten pitches, he allowed a stolen base, he missed a few borderline strike calls, and he was pinch-hit for against a lefty reliever. So Oakland got the same John Jaso experience we all basically got to have last season. It’s a fine experience that doesn’t measure up to the Felix Hernandez experience. The Mariners’ new regular catcher, Jesus Montero, had a ball foul-tipped so hard off his mask in the ninth inning it gave the ROOT Sports camera feed a concussion. Kenji Johjima used to make a habit of getting hit in the junk. Jesus Montero is making a habit of getting hit in the head. He and Franklin Gutierrez are not allowed to be friends.

The Mariners scored on a walk, a single, and a single. They did nothing else, although in fairness Brett Anderson is terrific. Tonight it was enough. Most nights it will not be enough, but most nights the Mariners probably won’t be limited to two runs. Mariners relievers threw just 12 strikes out of 27 pitches and that’s how this game actually got interesting, but it’s good they did that in retrospect, because it made things more electric. The Mariners now have the same record as the Astros. Happy opening day.


30 Responses to “New Mariners Win Like Old Mariners”

  1. MarinersBoy on April 2nd, 2013 12:16 am

    Out of everything,I thought the best thing was seeing Smoak lay off an up and away pitch and then draw a walk. Last two seasons he would swing at those and strike out every time.

  2. Breadbaker on April 2nd, 2013 2:13 am

    I’m not ordering playoff tickets yet. But so long as they make us play the A’s to open every single year (which, particularly when we have to play them in their mausoleum with their one sold-out non-Giants crowd each year, is a freaking bitch), at least we’ll have Felix to show them what for for the foreseeable future. Oakland may as well mark their schedule “LOSS” for the first game, forever.

  3. gag harbor on April 2nd, 2013 3:22 am

    Can you believe they still have those dang vuvuzelas blowing all game in Oakland? I used to drive up from San Jose to watch the Mariners play the A’s and I have to say, that stadium is not fun at all. I think we should feel lucky to have Safeco Field for a home.

  4. lemonverbena on April 2nd, 2013 5:21 am

    A Jeff recap on USSM is awesome, albeit a little like watching the game through live look-ins on MLBN punctuated by hollerin’ Harold Reynolds. OK way better than that.

  5. New England Fan on April 2nd, 2013 5:38 am

    A Jeff recap is cool. I am now locked out of reading the Times stuff by their new paywall, and LL has gone in a sad direction.

  6. bookbook on April 2nd, 2013 5:57 am

    New Mariners Recap Feels Like Old Mariners Recap
    even if it only comes 5 times this year, it’s good

  7. John W. on April 2nd, 2013 6:18 am

    Thanks for the write up Jeff! I thought baseball love had been beat out of me these last couple of seasons, but darned if I don’t feel excited about this season. And I don’t know why either! I hate almost everything this front office has done this offseason! But that doesn’t matter now, because the mariners won a baseball game, and all my favorite writers are still writing about it.

  8. Paul B on April 2nd, 2013 6:42 am

    Ryan had a great game (in addition to Felix), I saw him save a run with a great play, he had a hit and a couple of walks.

  9. Westside guy on April 2nd, 2013 6:44 am

    One game doesn’t matter, I am aware. But I took a tiny amount of perverse pleasure out of the fact that our new veterans didn’t do much offensively. Longer term, I hope that’s atypical – but, for opening day, it was perfect.

    That Brendan Ryan play was amazing. He does that and makes it look routine. Eric Sogard made a great play of his own, and it looked like a great play. It’s sort of like when I’d see highlights of Jim Edmonds making diving catches – yes, he could occasionally flash the leather, but what differentiates a truly great defender like Gutierrez is the way they mostly manage to get to everything without it hardly ever looking difficult.

  10. currcoug on April 2nd, 2013 7:48 am

    What isn’t mentioned is the increased stress on a stud like Anderson, having to get through a lineup which actually has seasoned, middle-of-the-order hitters in it (Morales, Morse). That helps everyone, including guys like Ryan, and it eventually leads to less innings by opposing starters.

    It is also a good thing for a team to have the flexibility to win games in different ways, particularly if this club manages to get to the playoffs. I found that encouraging, not distressing.

  11. stevemotivateir on April 2nd, 2013 8:28 am


    So, did you take note of how many pitches Anderson threw to Morales and Morse early? Did they really make him work, stress him out? Did you take note of how he started the game striking out Guti, Saunders, Morales, and Morse?

    What about the relief factor, of Anderson being able to relax a little once he’s past the tougher hitters? Could that explain why Seager struck out 3 times or why Montero was 0-4?

    You win games by scoring runs, while preventing your opponents from doing the same. We saw good defense from Ryan, which is typical of what we saw last year. We saw the scoreboard read 2-0, with a handful of hits, which is typical of what we saw last year.

    Anderson’s a great pitcher, so that’s important to take note of. But I fail to see how anything in that game was encouraging. Ryan got a hit, wonderful. The Mariners still scored just two runs. Way too early to say there’s a difference, positive or negative.

  12. CCW on April 2nd, 2013 8:50 am

    Pretty sure currcoug is Geoff Baker’s mom. Or maybe his comment was tongue in cheek.

  13. currcoug on April 2nd, 2013 8:54 am

    To some extent, I can understand the pessimism, and not wanting to get one’s hopes up. However, I spent a week in Peoria this Spring, and the team just looks and feels different. Moreover, it goes without saying that Anderson and the rest of the AL West would rather face the 2012 M’s lineup of kids, versus the one with Morse and Morales in it. Unfortunately, there is an element just itching to say “I told you so” in regards to the moves made by Zduriencik/Wedge.

    It was encouraging to see Morse get a hit, and make the routine plays in LF. It was encouraging to see Morales hit the ball hard. It was encouraging to see Ackley get on base, and beat Reddick’s throw. It was encouraging to see Ryan swing the bat with some confidence. It was encouraging to see Pryor do his job. Most importantly, it was encouraging to see Felix live up to the expectations the new contract generated. Personally, I thought the umpire squeezed Felix in the AB where Jaso hit the double.

    As for Anderson, unless I am mistaken, he is significantly tougher on RHB.

  14. gopilots70 on April 2nd, 2013 9:07 am

    What we saw tonight was a great pitcher beating a very good pitcher. Anderson was dominant early but Felix carried the day. Seager got a hit against a tough lefty and worked the count very well in his other abs. Montero should have had an rbi single but stopped “running”. And he looked good at catcher, blocking many balls in the dirt and one with his chin. Smoak looked relaxed and confident at the plate and had a walk and a hit. Guti looks like a stud in cf and at the plate and got the game winner. Ackley looked good at the plate and continued to hit line drives that get caught. I blame this on Eric Wedge. At the end of his torrid rookie season, Dustin hit a dinger against Kansas City that tipped off the glove of Ichi-lady and into the glove of Jeff Francouer. For some reason, Eric Wedge did not asked for a review perhaps because there were no veteran managers in the dugout to show him how the game should be played or managed. This led to a lack of chemistry, resulting in an apathetic September manager.

    A few innings later, capitalizing on this lack of leadership, the hated Jeff F. robbed Ackley again. Ever since, Dustin has been the league leader in hard hit balls caught. I believe Dave did a write-up on this in October, 2011.

    Jeff, good to see you back. You are a true writer and will never stop your compulsion to write and share.

    My favourite was a great column you wrote in Fangraphs a year or so ago. The first comment was “a few too many jokes at the beginning, but after that I agree with your points”.

    Where do you people come from? Stop reading Geoff Baker who seriously believed this spring that Jason Bay was seriously being considered for the leadoff spot. 161 games to go and we are tied for first.

    My apologies for not referring to any players or coaching staff with a “y” placed after their first or last name. Can you forgive me Sully?

  15. terryoftacoma on April 2nd, 2013 9:12 am

    I’m in the “Argue nothing because it’s been one game of a baseball season” camp. I’ll take the win and I’m hungry for more. I’m not going to cry over Jaso, Vargas,Figgins, Olivo, and Wells not being on this team nor am I going to celebrate that Morse, Morales,Saunders,Shoppach,Bay and Ibanez are. Long season ahead, I look forward to it. I want to see how this season plays out but I’m not in either camp so don’t look for me to argue.

  16. HighBrie on April 2nd, 2013 9:54 am

    I enjoyed the part about Kenji, Franklin, and Jesus. I bet Kenji’s junk jolted somewhere when Jesus got rung. I wish I could insert photos on USSMariner. This picture shows how Brendan Ryan has been assigned to guard Franklin against the temptation of the Jesus.

  17. currcoug on April 2nd, 2013 9:55 am

    He is not on our club, but does anyone else think Reddick looks like a moron with that beard?

  18. Westside guy on April 2nd, 2013 9:58 am

    Reddick looks exactly like a guy I drove past yesterday on my way to work. He was at a stoplight begging for money.

    Normally I take transit to work, but when I drive this guy is always at the same light – the exit from 520 to Montlake Ave. His hair’s a bit darker than Reddick’s, though.

  19. MrZDevotee on April 2nd, 2013 10:05 am

    You mean Josh “Macho-Macho-Man” Village-People Reddick.

    Bad ass. Jaso’s got his work cut out for him down there.

    I hear Grizzly Adams reruns are a hit with Oakland fans.

    On the serious side, we really know nothing after last night. We faced one of the better pitchers in the AL and squeaked out a win on a ground ball that just happened to not be in reach of anyone.

    Good pitcher -vs- good pitcher games are hard to gauge.

    We’ll know a LOT more about our new guys when they face #3-#5 pitchers (and even those guys are pretty good on the A’s).

    But Felix looked great. The bullpen had a mild bump then closed the door on the comeback attempt.

    Other than a 10-0 rout with all 9 guys going yard, I think we performed like we need to when facing tough pitchers and solid ball clubs.

    And Brendan Ryan shoved a Gold Glove in the world’s face last night on that play up the middle– there are only a handful of guys anywhere that turn and make that cross body throw.

    Go M’s! (Happy Iwakuma Day)

  20. currcoug on April 2nd, 2013 10:50 am

    Reddick looks a bit like Redford in “Jeremiah Johnson”. I know the A’s revel in their bad boy image, but this is silly.

    Great arm, great bat, what a mistake by Boston…wonder when Beane pulls the trigger and deals Reddick?

  21. djw on April 2nd, 2013 11:07 am

    We’ll know a LOT more about our new guys when they face #3-#5 pitchers (and even those guys are pretty good on the A’s).

    No, not really. It would be a pretty big mistake to change our view on any hitter–rookie or veteran–on the basis of a handful of games.

  22. MrZDevotee on April 2nd, 2013 11:26 am


    “It would be a pretty big mistake to change our view on any hitter–rookie or veteran–on the basis of a handful of games.”

    No not really… I didn’t say a handful of games, I said against mid-to-lower-rotation starters. Because those are the games you need to win that we’ve struggled to win. The games you SHOULD win. Can’t contend until you win those. And our offense has made meager pitchers look like Cy Young in recent years– almost everyone agrees on that.

    Win MOST of those games and you’re closer to being one of the elite teams in baseball.

    Everyone struggles to hit the Verlanders, Hernandez, Kershaws, Strasburgs, etc.

  23. Choo on April 2nd, 2013 11:38 am

    Pretty sure Reddick spent the off-season living in an abandoned bus deep in the Alaskan wilderness.

  24. miscreant on April 2nd, 2013 11:44 am

    this would have been a nice read if you didn’t waste the 1st two paragraphs trying to be cute and witty.

  25. Paul B on April 2nd, 2013 12:21 pm

    this would have been a nice read if you didn’t waste the 1st two paragraphs trying to be cute and witty.

    That’s pretty good, for a second there you had me thinking you were serious. The lower case first letter was a nice touch.

  26. zrgore on April 2nd, 2013 12:50 pm

    This might actually be one of the most entertaining recaps I’ve read in recent history. Bravo.

  27. Milendriel on April 2nd, 2013 2:08 pm

    Apparently we think the season is 17.4286 games long.

  28. Celadus on April 2nd, 2013 2:16 pm

    Regarding facial hair:

    Yep, it would be more entertaining to watch players with spiked hair, particularly when they’re in the field. I wonder if there are any rules against impaling an otherwise uncatchable baseball with a titanium reinforced cranial spike.

    Actually, now that I think about it, spiked hair ought to be mandatory.

  29. Choo on April 2nd, 2013 2:56 pm

    I missed Casper Wells last night. *sad face* Any buzz about Wells as a possible trade target of the Reds? Perfect fit with Ludwick out 2-3 months.

  30. BigJared on April 4th, 2013 12:48 am

    Jeff recaps, yay!
    Hopefully you do more than five but significantly less than the number you were doing before. I can’t imagine how daily recaps of Seattle Mariners baseball could become tiresome.

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