The Mariners beat the Rangers on Sunday, which is a series of words I hope to type again and again here on this website once the season picks up. Writing them is akin to experiencing a massage, a drink of water from the holy grail after years spent in the desert. The Mariners beat the Rangers. And all was well in the world.
Hisashi Iwakuma got his first start of the spring this afternoon, and came right out of the gate looking almost like he was throwing in Camden in July. His velocity was down a few ticks, but he managed to push his sinker up to 88 by the end of his two innings, hitting corners and forcing batters to roll over his pitches even when he misses. Here's what it looked like when Iwakuma got new Rangers' outfielder Ian Desmond (so weird) to ground out in the second:
Iwakuma got four groundball outs in his two innings, and didn't let anyone reach base in the process. There were 17 strikes, and only six pitches fell outside of the zone. It's weird to think that we are still only a few months removed from Iwakuma scouring real estate outside Los Angeles, but the counter to that emotional rollercoasting is pretty nice when this is what we're looking at, here, today. It also might mean that the worst is still out there, waiting to blow up in our faces, but then again I once watched Miguel Olivo intentionally strike out against the Orioles at 3 in the morning, so maybe not.
Before Iwakuma even entered the game, however, the Mariners gave us a stir that if televised, would probably have had you questioning which team you were watching. Leonys Martin stood in the box and promptly looked at five pitches, then walked to first base. After Gaby Sanchez lined out to center, the Mariners were sitting on two outs with a man on first. Martin took off for second, but made it all the way to third after the throw wound up all the way in centerfield. He scored easily after Seth Smith quietly doubled him in a moment later. A minute later, Dae-Ho Lee managed to finagle himself a walk after falling behind in the count 1-2.
The M's didn't manage to get any more in the first, but in the top of the second, Luis Sardinas decided he would successively hit his way onto first base, steal second, and then make it to third off a Chris Taylor sacrifice bunt. He scored a second later after O'Malley single, and then O'Malley decided to steal second with Nori Aoki up to bat. At this point you maybe blinked (what's the audio equivalent of blinking?) and Leonys Martin was at first, taking off for second in the middle of a Gaby Sanchez at bat. In fact, by the end of the day the Mariners would have six stolen bases, two each by Sardinas and O'Malley who are currently fighting for the same utility spot.
Sardinas' day really should be noted. He had two well-placed hits and scored two runs, and from the sounds of it, he's doing a great job C'ing the Z. I mean they all are, but this is going to be something to separate him from the Taylors and the O'Malleys waiting in the ranks. Whether he breaks camp with the team or finds his way in Seattle during a midsummer roster shuffle, Sardinas big-league opportunity probably rests on his ability to draw walks and make good contact, in addition to flashing a sharp glove. Now take this paragraph and switch all the proper nouns out with Taylor and O'Malley, because they all did just about the same thing at varying levels this afternoon. We've got ourselves a position battle on our hands, folks. Man, what a drag.
After presumed closer Steve Cishek got in his inning of work--really not much to note other than the fact that he apparently is still favoring his sinker over his fourseamer--the Rangers got their best chance of the afternoon of Justin De Fratus and Casey Coleman, respectively. If Coleman does anything for the franchise this season, it will probably be down the road at Tyler street, so the more interesting thing to consider here is De Fratus' brief inning of work. Really, the problem was only that he gave up a leadoff double to a future hall of famer before getting three quick outs and a run, but after reading Brendan's compelling diagnosis of the guy, I kind of have the urge to turn everything he does into a thing. I won't do this, of course, but also maybe I will. Ball's in your court, "Goldust." (side note: ?????)
Despite this brief trouble, the Mariners got a few more in the sixth. Luis Sardinas led off with a double, and then there was a double steal after Chris Taylor and Shawn O'Malley singled their way on base. Later, there were scrub triples, wild pitches, and bunts, and even Jesus Montero doubles. It's true! He even scored from second on a line drive single a moment later, which is a sentence I did not think I would be typing in 2016. But alas, I also did not expect to be watching this on my twitter feed in the process, so you live and you learn, I suppose:
The M's pick it back up around noon tomorrow, facing the Diamondbacks for James Paxton's second outing of the spring. Still only radio, but by the end of the week, just about every game will make its way to your television one way or the other. Until then, goms.