Well that was an exciting way to start off the season. The Mariners didn’t win on Opening Day for the first time since 2006 but came roaring back to score 19 runs over the next two games. After just three games, the Mariners lead the American League in runs scored and Robinson Cano has raced out to an early lead in the MVP race. Outside of the disaster of a fifth inning on Monday, the Mariners have exceeded all of our expectations. Yes, it’s just three games, but an off-day today gives us some time to reflect and react to a very fun couple of games. Here are three things we learned after just three games.
1. Scott Servais is still learning on the job
There was some hesitancy to trust Scott Servais when he was handed the manager’s role by Jerry Dipoto this offseason. Hiring someone with no managerial experience isn’t anything new in baseball, and it’s become more and more common recently, but we had no track record to examine and no tendencies to decry. Evaluating major league managers is incredibly difficult because so much of their job happens behind closed doors. I won’t pretend to have any insight into the Mariners’ clubhouse, and I understand that the decision making on the field is just a portion of Servais’s job description. After three games, we’ve gotten glimpses of some of these managerial strategies and tendencies, both good and bad.
Servais has shown that he isn’t afraid to utilize his bench in high leverage situations. Pinch hitting Seth Smith on Tuesday was an obvious choice and sending in Nori Aoki on Wednesday worked out well. But his process on Opening Day seemed a little questionable. Removing Leonys Martin instead of Adam Lind in the seventh was less than ideal but ultimately amounted to very little.
Letting Martin swing away with two men on and no outs in the ninth inning was much more encouraging. Traditionally, that kind of situation would call for a bunt and I think we were all expecting it too. Martin even showed bunt on the first pitch of the at-bat. But we’ve heard Servais’s opinion on bunting and this was a nice confirmation and moment of trust—in Martin and in the process.
2. Home runs still power this offense
Thirteen of the Mariners’ twenty-one runs came via the long ball in Texas. "Control the Zone" may be the team mantra—and the team won that battle twice—but three players who make up the core of this lineup hit 91 home runs last year. I expect this team will post a much higher on-base percentage this year but don’t forget this team hit the fifth most dingers in baseball last year.
David already covered Robbie Cano in detail. It was encouraging to see Seth Smith continue to swing a hot bat. Kyle Seager took another lefty deep. Nelson Cruz crushed a ball to the deepest part of the ballpark. Even Luis Sardinas and Leonys Martin got in on the dinger parade. Of course the Ballpark in Arlington is a hitter’s haven and three games does not make a trend. After the Opening Day loss, a friend asked me if I was concerned with the lack of offense we saw. I told him to wait until Thursday before grumbling about the offense. "Told you we’d score some runs."
3. The bullpen has looked really good
Heading into the season, the most concerning piece of the team was certainly the bullpen. Between the hope for successful reclamation projects, injuries, and the volatility of relievers, we just didn’t know what to expect from this ragtag group of pitchers. After three games, the bullpen has collectively pitched nine scoreless innings, giving up just one hit and striking out more than two-fifths of the batters they’ve faced. The bullpen won’t always be perfect, and there will be ups and downs, but I can’t think of a better way to quell the apprehensions we felt with this group.
Mike Montgomery impressed us on Opening Day, striking out four in two innings. Nick Vincent, Joel Peralta, and Tony Zych shut down the Rangers on Tuesday. And Vincent and Benoit kept the game close on Wednesday and Cishek closed the door. There were a few too many walks to pick nits, but the effectiveness of the bullpen was a large reason why the Mariners walked away with a series win in Texas.