Slow but Optimistic Start for Mariners 2022 Season

Photo by Wei Zeng from Unsplash.

A week into the season and the 2022 Mariners have had a mixed bag of results. Going 2-4 in six games against the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox could be considered an objectively negative outcome, but the perspective shifts when you look at the bigger picture.

Opening Day was delayed by one day thanks to inclement weather, but proceeded without any further inconveniences. Reigning American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray took the mound for the Mariners, facing off against the Twins’ rookie Joe Ryan. It was a quiet affair, with the two runs Seattle scored in the first inning off of Mitch Haniger’s first home run of the year being enough to secure a 2-1 victory. Ray put together an admirable seven innings of work, allowing just the one run.

The second game of the year was the second win as the Mariners locked down a 4-3 victory. Logan Gilbert faced off against Sonny Gray in his first start and put together a strong outing of allowing one run in five innings, striking out seven. Young flamethrower Andrés Munoz had his first appearance as a Mariner, where he, unfortunately, gave up the lead in the eighth inning by way of a Byron Buxton home run. However, Julio Rodriguez’s first career hit in the league kicked off a three-hit, two-run inning to retake the lead.

From there, it went downhill. Marco Gonzales put together a rough outing in his first start of the year, allowing six runs in two innings en route to a 10-4 loss. In the final game of the series, Seattle mustered zero runs on just two hits as the Twins split the series 2-2 with their 4-0 win. From there, the Mariners moved locations to Chicago to face off against the reigning AL Central champion White Sox. The story of this game was Matt Brash getting his first Major League start, and it was a doozy. Going over five innings, he did allow two runs and got the loss but looked fantastic by any stretch of the imagination. He is something special, and he sure showed it against one of the better teams in the league. If you read the opening paragraph, you should know how their next game ended up. The rain was torrential on Wednesday, forcing the game back an hour before the teams decided to just put up with it. Ray’s second outing of the year was a rough one, allowing six runs in 6.1 innings, but I largely give him a pass for having to pitch in those conditions.

Now, 2-4 is not where Mariners fans wanted the team to be at the end of the first week, myself included. But in a season of 162 games, a rough start is little more than a rough start. The 2019 Washington Nationals infamously started their season 19-31 before going on to win the World Series. This doesn’t mean the Mariners are World Series-bound, but it does mean we aren’t panicking yet.

The bats seemed to be in jeopardy after the Twins series, but they did heat up in the last few games and seem on track to improve further. J.P. Crawford and Ty France missed no time at the plate, leading the team with eight and six hits respectively. Eugenio Suárez might not have the best stat line so far, but he is hitting the ball hard and has unfortunately been on the wrong end of some great defensive plays. Jesse Winker isn’t lighting up the scoreboard right now, but has already walked seven times, which ties him for second in the league. However, Jarred Kelenic and Rodriguez, both supposed to be the faces of the league, have not flashed their superstar talent as of yet. Rodriguez in particular is off to a slow start with just one hit in his first five games. This looks particularly bad in the wake of Kelenic experiencing similar issues and with some rookies clearly jumping out in front, in terms of star factor.

The rotation has put up admirable performances, with the exception of Gonzales’ start. Ray still looks like a front-of-the-rotation arm, with Brash right behind him as a truly electric young player. Gilbert and Chris Flexen both showed solid signs of life as well.

Behind them, the bullpen has more than pulled their weight. Matt Festa has been the primary choice of relievers, appearing in his third game on Wednesday, and has been nearly perfect save two unlucky home runs in his first showing of the year. The pitching staff as a whole has proven themselves to be above average across the board, which is a good sign when contemplating the sustainability of this roster. Hopefully, they will be able to limit injuries in this department, as Sergio Romo was the first to fall victim to the injury bug. The 39-year-old had thrown two scoreless innings and will now be replaced by Matt Koch for at least the next 10 days.

With 156 games still to go, it’s far too early to count the Mariners out. They will be coming home on Friday for an extended homestand that will feature the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, and Kansas City Royals coming to town.