New Mariner’s season does not surprise

Spring is in the air, and what April lacks in annual festivities, it makes up for with the ushering in of the newest baseball season. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I get to eagerly follow the Mariners for about half a season before being disappointed once again. In a rare change of events, Seattle’s 2018 season started in March, and for the second time in the last decade we got to play on our home field. The opener, while slow, was still a nice win for Felix Hernandez off the back of a Nelson Cruz two-run home run in the bottom of the first against the Cleveland Indians.
Games two and three against Cleveland were notably more interesting, with both Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz homering in a 5-6 loss on March 31. Game three on April 1 was a close 5-4 win, with Haniger hitting his second home run of the season and new acquisition Dee Gordon hitting his first. A two-game series against the San Francisco Giants started off on a strong note on Wednesday, April 3 with five different Mariners bringing home runs that game. The second game the following day went substantially worse in a 1-10 decimation of a ballgame that was quite honestly difficult to watch. Thursday capped off the week in a 2-4 loss against the Minnesota Twins where Seattle failed to capitalize off a two-run lead in the first.
Boasting a perfectly average record of three wins and three losses so far in the season, there were a couple big stories coming into the year. First and foremost, the Mariners were happy to welcome outfielder and Seattle legend Ichiro Suzuki back after a few years of being passed around the league. At the age of 44, Ichiro is definitely in his closing years and at the very least the Mariners were expecting him to close his career in friendly territory, where we could honor his legacy on the team. Sure enough, that’s more or less what we’re getting from him, as he’s struggled thus far into the season, reaching base only three times in his 16 plate appearances. It’s also apparent he has lost a lot of his presence at the plate, where there’s a complete absence of his usual tendencies of dragging the bat in such a way that he could get down the first base line at record pace. Nevertheless, something feels right about seeing him in a Mariner outfit once again.
Another big story is the potential return of Felix Hernandez. An absolute monster in his prime, his last few years have been riddled with various injuries that have had him looking like a shell of his former self. After a successful first game of the season, things quickly went downhill. With only the 1-10 loss to the Giants to blame, he has allowed eight runs to score in just over nine innings pitched, leading to a 7.71 earned run average so far. James Paxton, another recognizable face for the franchise, has had similar luck with his pitching. However, his strikeout to walk ratio far exceeds that of Hernandez, and I don’t think Hernandez can say a bald eagle has landed on him while he took the field. In the big highlight of Thursday’s loss, Paxton got to experience just that during the performance of the national anthem.
The core of the Mariner’s batting lineup has performed just as well as we should have expected them to. Dee Gordon and Robinson Cano both hold a batting average above 40 percent success, with Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger following close behind. While the season is definitely recoverable, Seattle is still eagerly awaiting some valuable players to return from their injuries. Mike Zunino, Nelson Cruz and Ben Gamel are all projected to return in the next week.