In case you can’t tell by my constant baseball talk, the MLB season is upon us once again, and with it comes annual disappointment by our very own Seattle Mariners. However, 2020 is a little different. Can a team with no expectations disappoint us anyways? We’ll see.
They kicked off the season with a four-game series against the Houston Astros down in Texas. While the Astros were definitely cheaters, exposed at the end of last year that they used cameras and garbage cans to steal signs and relay what pitch was coming to the batters, that didn’t take away from their impressive roster that will still likely carry them to the playoffs. In fact, they looked like their usual selves in the first two games, winning by scores of 8-2 and 7-2. Somehow, it was the Mariners that struck first against Justin Verlander on opening day. It was the top of the second inning when Kyle Lewis jacked a solo home run to take a 1-0 lead. After Houston tied it in the bottom of the third, Kyle Seager had a solo home run of his own in the top of the fourth to take a 2-1 lead. They held it until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Astros scored five runs and never looked back. The Mariners might have scored the same amount of runs in game two, but they never held the lead. It was already 5-0 Houston when the M’s came to bat in the top of the fifth. A leadoff single by J.P. Crawford set the stage for a Mallex Smith groundout, putting the Mariners on the board. Kyle Lewis took Lance McCullers Jr. deep for another solo home run as the only other Seattle score that game, dropping to 0-2.
Game three got off to a fast start as the Mariners scored two in the top of the first of the bats of Seager and rookie Evan White. The Astros scored one in the bottom of the first, but Seattle held the lead. Fast-forward to the top of the fourth: Doubles by Mallex and Shed Long scored two more, but were answered by a four-run bottom of the fourth to give the Astros a 5-4 lead. Long and Lewis came up big in the top of the eighth, retaking a 7-5 lead and finding their first win of the season.
For the third time in four games, the Mariners struck first. With the bases loaded, Seager hit into a double play to score Long, and White followed with a two-run home run to take a 3-0 lead in the top of the third. Of course, the Astros immediately answered with a four-run bottom of the third to cut the Mariners’ hopes short. Their lead advanced to 8-3 before the Mariners managed to produce two more runs in the top of the seventh. It still just wasn’t much as the Astros held onto an 8-5 win.
From there the Mariners made the trip to Los Angeles to play the Angels. They were slumping and scored 11 runs all season up to that point. They scored 10 in this game alone. A solo home run by Tim Lopes and an RBI groundout by Long gave the Mariners two runs, but it was just not enough. Game two was substantially more interesting. Seager hit an RBI single in the top of the fourth to take a 1-0 lead, which was answered by four unanswered Angel runs. Seattle clapped back with five runs in the top of the sixth, capped by a Dylan Moore three-run bomb. LA fought back to a 7-6 advantage in the bottom of the sixth, but from there it was all Mariner baseball. Lewis hit an RBI groundout, Seager hit a sacrifice fly. Crawford singled to score two more to make the score 10-7 for Seattle’s second victory of the year.
Are the Mariners a good team? Probably not. They’re 2-4, tied at the bottom of the AL West with the Angels. A starting pitcher hasn’t successfully pitched for more than 4.1 innings so far. For context, to be eligible for a win you need to have pitched five innings as a starter. The bullpen is downright atrocious with the exceptions of Taylor Guilbeau, Taylor Williams, and Austin Adams when he returns.
The bats can be cold at times. Dee Gordon, Mallex Smith, and Daniel Vogelbach don’t seem like the productive players they were over the last couple of years. New additions like Jose Marmolejos, Joe Hudson, and Joseph Odom have yet to impress.
Still, this is the most exciting incarnation of the Mariners I can remember seeing. They fight in and out of games. Tom Murphy will return in time as hopefully the starting catcher. Of course, every Mariners fan is waiting in anticipation for the return of star outfielder Mitch Haniger who is on pace to miss a year and a half after fouling a ball off his own testicle. And then there’s the prospects. Justus Sheffield, Yusei Kikuchi, and Justin Dunn are all young starting pitchers who can only go up. Waiting in the minor leagues like a monster just beneath the surface of the water are Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, and Cal Raleigh. Seattle also recently drafted a couple of pitchers who could see play literally in the next couple of weeks. There’s a lot of excitement for this team, even if not for this year, and I would get ready for Seattle to be a contender in the next year or two.