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Mariners—more like "Meh"riners—lose to Cleveland 4 to 3

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Nate Karns and the Mariners offense both struggle in a loss to the Indians.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

That game felt like a such spring training game. I was very happy to be able to watch it today (hooray for baseball on my teevee!), but I was also very happy that it only took two and a half hours. Baseball is so weird.

Nate Karns wasn't particularly sharp today. Goodyear Stadium doesn't have PITCHF/x set up (dumb), so it's a little hard to figure out what wasn't clicking, but he gave up some sharp contact in today's ball game. In three innings of work, Karns surrendered five base hits (two for extra bases) and two runs. He also didn't record a strikeout for the second straight outing, which is a little odd for someone who managed a strikeout per inning in 2015. Although Karns didn't walk anyone, none of his pitches looked particularly sharp. Most notably, his curveball didn't really have the downward bite that it usually does. Things might've been worse for Karns this afternoon, but the Indians helped him out by running into a couple of TOOTBLANs to limit the damage.

Offensively, the Mariners also struggled. They managed just five singles, scoring in the second inning on a sacrifice fly; in the fifth inning on a two-out, bunt RBI single; and then in the eighth inning after the Indians committed a couple of errors. It was far from an EXPLOSIVE performance. The player with the most life on offense was definitely Shawn O'Malley. He went 1 for 2, scored a run, and stole two bases. He also made some pretty slick plays while manning second base. (If his success continues, I'm going to start beating the "O'Malley for Utility Man!" drum pretty hard. Please feel free to join me.)

A couple o' bullets:

  • Something to watch out for as spring training continues is the backup center fielder situation. Jerry has already mentioned that Leonys Martin will likely get off days against tough lefty pitchers (he has a woeful career wRC+ of 53 against LHP in 412 PA). Assuming the M's go with Sardinas/Taylor as the utility guy, Aoki appears to be the de facto backup in center, which has the potential to be kinda ugly. In limited experience as a center fielder (just 129 innings-SSS alert!), Aoki has turned in an atrocious UZR/150 of -19.7. He did play center for the Yakult Swallows, but that was five years ago. And then, on the first defensive play of the game, he short-hopped a relay throw to Chris Taylor. This wasn't the worst defensive player ever, and it even ended up helping the Mariners out (after seeing the loose ball, Ramirez took a wide turn at second and ended up being thrown out), but it definitely did not help to assuage the uneasiness that I have about Aoki as a center fielder.
  • Sardinas and Taylor each had fairly forgettable days, combining to go 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. It's difficult to recall a single play that Sardinas made in the field (which is probably a good thing), but Taylor didn't seem very comfortable at short. He booted a couple of relay throws from Aoki and didn't look great delivering the ball to first base. If Chris Taylor is going to make this team, he really needs to stop being bad and start being good (#analysis).
  • Dae-Ho Lee had an up and down game. In the second inning he walked, scooted to third on O'Malley's single, and then scored on a sac fly. He may be a HUGE dude, but he doesn't embarrass himself on the basepaths. Lee also made some good defensive plays this afternoon, making a heads up throw to get Napoli at home plate in the 2nd inning and then diving to stop a sharp grounder in the 5th. Unfortunately, he also had some defensive miscues. In the 3rd inning, he collided with Karns while trying to cover first base (which ultimately led to an unearned run) and then bobbled a ground ball in the 6th inning that could've gone for a double play. I don't know that Lee would necessarily be the best option as the M's right-handed first baseman, but he would almost certainly be the most entertaining.
  • The Mariners bullpen fared fairly well today, giving up just two runs and three hits in five innings of work. Zych looked particularly good, striking out two batters in a 1-2-3 fourth inning. He still has options left, so he might not make the team out of spring training, but if he keeps pitching like he did today he'll make excluding him pretty difficult.

There's more baseball tomorrow. After a long hiatus, we'll finally get to rejoin the ROOT broadcast team up in the booth. It's been so long. I'm excited!