Game 1, Mariners at Astros

marc w · July 24, 2020 at 3:38 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Justin Verlander, 6:10pm

This is the strangest opening day we’ve ever seen, in the strangest year we’ve ever seen. Felix is gone, the Mariners are terrible, and start the year off facing the Astros, who beat the M’s in 18 of 19 contests last year. There are very good arguments against *having* a baseball season this year, and I don’t blame any of you for taking a year off. I’ve found it hard to think about baseball for several months after the lockdowns started, but I’m shocked to find that I’m pretty excited about it now. Yes, it was cool to watch some KBO games to scratch a baseball itch for a while, but my sleep schedule wouldn’t allow it long term. I’ve really missed the pleasing background hum that baseball adds to summer, even if that hum is made up of the details of yet another M’s loss.

The idea that “people need baseball” was a somewhat grating part of the rancorous dispute between the players’ union and ownership before the season began. It seemed so vain, so clueless, at a time people were dying due to shortages of life-saving equipment in New York and elsewhere. Baseball’s background noise can’t make up for the country’s manifest failures at dealing with Covid, and an institution like baseball sure can’t solve institutional racism. But I’m kind of stunned how good it feels to have it on in the background right now. Is it nostalgia for a time before Covid? Before the myriad horrors the news delivers us each day? Is it just a familiar distraction? I don’t know, and don’t much care. It is not enough, but it’s something. It feels like help, somehow.

In the absence of a playoff chase, we can follow the development of Shed Long, JP Crawford, and the M’s young starters. I’m fascinated by Yusei Kikuchi, and how he’s able to put 2019 behind him and figure out a way to become a consistent starter. Tom Murphy’s follow-up after a shockingly good 2019 will be delayed a bit, but we’ve all got plenty of time. And if the M’s appear ready to have Dee Gordon and Mallex Smith man the outfield corners *simultaneously*, well, hey, why not. In a strange year, I’m fine if the M’s get a bit surreal this season.

The Astros are coming off a very rough off-season that saw them punished by MLB for a long-running sign-stealing scheme. In the Before Times, we speculated how this affect them, and if their players would see a big drop-off in their batting lines. Now, it seems like a hazily-remembered story or rumor. Every team now has a hell of a lot more to worry about, and in any event, the Astros could be significantly worse, and still plenty good enough to make the playoffs (even before yesterday’s random and odd move to increase playoff teams from 10 to 16). They’ve lost Gerrit Cole, Jose Urquidy’s hurt, but it doesn’t seem to matter a whole lot. With a perennial MVP candidate at 3B, one of the game’s best SS, and Justin Verlander, they’re the easy pick as AL West champs, despite the improvements in Anaheim and Oakland.

Still, they’re going to need to fill the innings Cole gave them, and the easiest thing would be for one of their youngsters to step up and stake a claim on a rotation slot. Josh James seemed like he’d be another perennial All-Star after blowing up the minor leagues and making his MLB debut in 2018, but he scuffled out of the bullpen for Houston last year. Framber Valdez was slightly better despite ugly K:BB numbers, but he’ll have to stop walking so many people to be a long-term answer as a starter. They do get Lance McCullers back, but this would be a great year for perennial top prospect Forrest Whitley to turn his incredible talent into actual, on-field production.

Last year, Marco Gonzales started the year well, going 5-0 by the end of April. However, his velocity was noticeably lower; his 88 MPH average fastball in April was the lowest of any month in his career. He got around it by moving the ball around and keeping his pitch mix unpredictable, but he got hit hard in May. Tonight, I’ll be fascinated to see how hard he’s throwing, and how he adjusts to an Astros line-up that’s seen him a ton these past two seasons.

Your opening day line-up:

1: Shed Long, 2B
2: Evan White, 1B
3: Kyle Seager, 3B
4: Kyle Lewis, CF
5: Dan Vogelbach, DH
6: Austin Nola, C
7: Jose Marmolejos, LF
8: JP Crawford, SS
9: Mallex Smith, RF
SP: Marco Gonzales


7 Responses to “Game 1, Mariners at Astros”

  1. Longgeorge1 on July 24th, 2020 5:22 pm

    Since we are normally well out of the pennant race by July 24th it will be comforting to see that we will be only one game behind the division leading Astros when I read the news in the morning.

  2. SeattleDan on July 24th, 2020 6:31 pm

    Kyle crushed that one. No help from trash can banging either.

  3. Westside guy on July 24th, 2020 8:04 pm

    Man, I hope this is just opening night jitters on the part of Mallex Smith. He has not looked good in the field tonight.

  4. marc w on July 24th, 2020 8:50 pm

    Nice to see Kyle Lewis destroy a ball, but yes, it’s been a bit of an ugly game. Mallex Smith’s throw from RF on the ball that scored Toro was concerningly bad. And the IF defense wasn’t great, either. Bullpen wasn’t solid, but I guess no one really thought it would be. Not great night from White, but hey, he’s officially made his debut.

  5. marc w on July 24th, 2020 8:53 pm

    Hey, there you go, Evan. First MLB hit. Swinging bunt, but it still counts.

  6. Westside guy on July 24th, 2020 9:39 pm

    It was nice to see Evan get his first hit in his first game, in any case.

    I thought Sims and Blowers did a good job calling the game remotely.

  7. mmason0071 on July 25th, 2020 12:27 am

    Looked like a spring training game with the major league team playing one of their AA teams. Guess which was which.

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