A new-look Justin Smoak.
A developing Michael Saunders and Jesus Montero.
Coming into the game, a popular narrative was that Opening Day 2013 marked the dawn of a new age for the Seattle Mariners offense. The lineup featured respectable thumpers in the middle and was littered with young players ready to "pop." Finally, Felix Hernandez wouldn't need to put the full weight of the club on his shoulders. He had backup.
Instead, the Mariners stuck to the 2011-2012 gameplan: scrape to victory behind a single timely hit and a dominant showing from King Felix.
The Mariner lineup managed just five singles and four walks. Franklin Gutierrez drove in the only runs of the game with a single up the middle. Morse, Morales, Smoak and most others failed to make any sort of impact on the game.
Thankfully, Felix knew the drill and happily continued his tradition of ruining the A's' Opening Day. He was on cruise control for 7.2 -- two hits, no walks, 8 strikeouts -- before it suddenly became apparent that manager Eric Wedge stuck with his ace a little too long. Seth Smith crushed a double and Eric Sogard drew a walk before Felix got the hook.
The bullpen kept the A's off the board and Felix got credit for the win in another nail-biter, just like old times. The Mariners improve to 1-0.
I've been awake for 27 hours so let's jump to the bullet points:
- No, this isn't the same Mariner offense as seasons past. It's just one game. Furthermore, it's just one game against Brett Anderson, who is very good at neutralizing Major League hitters. His famed slider has not suffered through all the injuries; it looked unhittable Monday evening. He was literally unhittable in the early going, striking out the first four batters he faced swinging. His worst stretch of the game featured a walk to Dustin Ackley, a single to Brendan Ryan, and a single to Franklin Gutierrez, resulting in two runs. This is what we call a tough luck loss.
- For 7.2 innings, Felix Hernandez was at his absolute best. Against a lefty-heavy lineup, his death-change was the weapon of choice, accounting for almost all of his 18 swinging strikes (a tally he only reached twice last season). The pitch he threw to strike out John Jaso to end the sixth inning is one of the nastiest you'll see. Video at 1:38.
- Once Felix lost his ability to locate in the seventh it felt inevitable that the game would spiral out of control. Charlie Furbush relieved him with two outs and runners on first and second only to walk Coco Crisp on five pitches. A's manager Bob Melvin then pinch hit Derek Norris for John Jaso, causing Wedge to bring in Stephen Pryor. Pryor started off with a breaking ball inside for ball one. I was convinced: game over, advantage A's. Thankfully, Pryor found the strikezone with his heater, inducing a weak groundout to extinguish the threat.
- I was surprised to see Pryor in the highest leverage situation of the game. How do you think Pryor stacks up compared to his bullpen-mates?
- Brendan Ryan was the Mariner of the game, non-Felix divison. On offense he laced a single, drew a walk, displayed his typically savvy baserunning, and stole a base. Defensively, he produced a run-saving gem that saw him range into shallow center field to cut off a would-be Yoenis Cespedes single, spin, and fire a strike to first base to end the inning. Video here. Whoever replaces Ryan at shortstop is going to look like John Kruk in comparison.