If yesterday's 11-11 tie against the A's was a grab bag of good, bad, and weird, today's 7-1 win over the Rangers was what we might expect when everything goes right, even the things that go wrong. Nathan Karns, battling James Paxton for the final rotation spot, got off to a rocky start, but settled. He allowed men to get on base, but his defense helped bail him out. Nelson Cruz and Franklin Gutierrez hit very deep, handsome dingers (don't make it weird), but the bottom of order hit and walked and scored some runs, too. Handed a lead, the bullpen held. We ran a little bit, and had some fun, and did all those things while watching James Jones play center field for someone else. And now, the highlights:
In the first two innings of this game, I asked my esteemed Lookout colleagues, "What if James Paxton and Nate Karns are bad?" I had reason to wonder. Karns walked his first batter. His first batter was James Jones. Karns command was sloppy to start. He missed high, like on this double he gave up to Prince Fielder
Or on the back-to-back walks he issued in the third. But he also rallied. Former Mariner Jones was picked off at first in the first (Jonesie, but you're really only good at the one thing, so...):
And Karns went on to strike out seven, give up only one run, and walk three. He retired the last six men he faced, and seems to have put himself ahead of Paxton, at least for now. The command is still spotty at times, but he kept the ball in the yard and mostly on the ground. It wasn't perfect but it was more than enough. It is spring, after all.
Nelson Cruz hit a home run today, so you can reserve those World Series tickets now. Our long Spring Training nightmare of no "Boomstick, baby" is over. Let us be healed.
Franklin Gutierrez also hit a home run.
We're getting to the point where we need to talk about how beautiful his home run hitting is. Look at this spray chart. LOOK AT IT.
Guti in 2015: 5 HR to LF, 5 to CF, 5 to RF. What a beautiful spray chart. pic.twitter.com/Iux2MUwX4R— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 18, 2016
In 2015, he put the ball all over the dang field, and he's showing no signs of stopping with his four Spring Training homers. He might not be Death to Flying Things anymore, but this new phase has its own magical, redemptive beauty. This man makes the ball fly. Far.
But we expect Boomstick and Guti Guti Guti to produce. What was so encouraging about today was the rest of the guys. Ketel Marte, in a bit of Spring Training funk that we're not at all anxious about given our shortstop legacy, was 1-for-3 with an RBI double. Chris Iannetta reached safely in all three PA, with a single and two walks. Leonys Martin and Norichika Aoki both had an RBI. Marte and Martin both stole bases. Sure it was Spring Training and sure much of it was against Victor Payano who subbed when RHP Anthony Ranaudo was scratched with back spasms. But you can tell, this is what it is supposed to look like. This is what Jerry wants. Hits, and doubles, and home runs and speed, all coming together to cover up some shakiness from a starting pitcher, giving him long enough to settle down and win.
The bullpen was solid. It gave up no runs. It did not really scare us. We'll take it and be glad.
The Mariners have split squad action against the Royals and Diamondbacks tomorrow. Several Lookout authors, including me, will be down in Arizona this weekend, so be sure to keep an eye out for live updates on twitter. And if you're not already, follow the official Lookout Landing Instagram for fun pics and silliness.