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Sichucks: Mariners lose home opener 3-2

This did not go according to plan.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This is the centering bell. This is the reminder. This is baseball. This is the Mariners. They will not hit three home runs a game. Robinson Cano is now back down to averaging a home run a game. The bullpen is no longer perfect. This game was not well played, it was not well pitched, it was not well fielded. It was long. It was cold.

This was a night game in Safeco Field in early April, and though the day started with a beautiful set of ceremonies that featured Ken Griffey Jr. throwing the season's ceremonial first pitch to Felix Hernandez, a lovely tribute to Dave Henderson, and all the typical pomp that we shouldn't take for granted from the Mariners ace marketing staff but do, the game was largely a dud.

It wasn't that the Mariners lost, we'll get to that a bit later, it was the style, the quality of play, the lack of punch from the middle of the Mariners lineup. If the first series in Texas had puffed us up a bit (and I'm sure that didn't happen to you, as you read Lookout Landing after all) then today was just three hours of leaking air through a microscopic hole. Everything felt fine for awhile, but before too long we realized something was wrong and by the end we just felt flat.

It's a good reminder. So many of us are so eager, SO ready to throw away 2015, not to mention the damn near totality of Mariner existence, because we want so badly for our identity to change, and to not feel like being a Mariner fan is reflective of a serious emotional defect. Well instead a lot of that was confirmed, for a day. There is a reason a post on changing the logo of the site is saved for April Fools.

The Mariners lost, and in the process offered up a sold out crowd a lackluster, mediocre, frigid affair. This is what we know, because it's what we are used to. Soak it up, lean into it, embrace it. Look around and know exactly where we are, and what we have stood for, because if it changes, you'll be able to tell everyone what it was like. Before tonight, and the way everything has always been, isn't anymore. Because one day, that's changing.

  • Taijuan Walker started off his much anticipated season with a bit of a mixed bag, and a helpful reminder on the difference between avoiding walks and commanding your pitches. Walker's overall line of 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 4 K, 0BB is not bad at all, but the deeper process reveals weaknesses. As was the case much of last year Walker was hurt by the home run ball, when he attempted to throw a low curveball to Josh Reddick on a 1-1 count. Instead he threw a not low curveball here:

    Reddick HR

    And Reddick hit the ball out to right field, giving the A's a 2-0 lead.

    Furthermore, and more interesting to me, was that Walker was working with sub-optimal counts for a good portion of his outing. I counted three 2-0 counts and six 3 ball counts. While Walker is of course given credit for not allowing any walks, he is also punished for consistently failing to get ahead of the hitters, allowing them to work him deep in counts, and unnecessarily pushing the fringes of his margin for error. This is one of the differences in the sometimes nebulous terms control and command. Walker has shown a lot of the former, but not enough of the latter, at least not to reach something approximating his high ceiling.

    It wasn't a bad start, but it was far from dominant, and against an Oakland offense that is not particularly threatening you hope for better from Walker moving forward. I'm sure he shares the sentiment.
  • Walker's so-so outing would perhaps have been more easily dealt with had the Mariners, for the second time in four games, not had two errors in an inning. In the 2nd inning Kyle Seager had a hard smash from Khris Davis scoot up his forearm and take a bite, and then two batters later Yonder Alonso reached on a bad throw from Robinson Cano. It's not a concern, it's not even a trend. But it's annoying, and it would be nice to see a team that profiles as around average defensively not continue to suffer from the early season whoopsadasies, particularly from the sure-handed veterans.
  • The primary story, now that we're 700 words in here, was the Mariner offense, which was Bad. After C'ing enough Z in the first to force journeyman Eric Surkamp to throw twenty-seven pitches, the Mariners allowed Surkamp to coast through innings 2-4. Then, in the 5th inning, after the Mariners tied the game and put runners on 1-3 with one out, Bob Melvin did the right thing and went to his bullpen. Nelson Cruz hit into a double play and that, essentially, was the end of the team's offensive attack for the evening.

    The numbers are ugly: 0-4 with RISP, and a combined 1-16 from lineup spots 3-6.  The A's bullpen undoubtedly deserves credit for 4.2 scoreless innings of relief, but for a crowd hyped up off the last two games' explosions in Texas it's a let down. Welcome to the Mariners, you all.
  • The whole thing left the Mariners needing their bullpen, which was well into its fourth game not allowing a run, to finish its fourth game not allowing a run. Unfortunately, no major league bullpen has gone an entire season with allowing a run, and the 2016 Seattle Mariners will now officially not be the first. Steve Cishek threw an inside fastball to Chris Coghlan, and Coghlan got the barrel of his bat on the ball and crushed it out to right field.

    It was a loss, the same kind we've seen thousands of times before. I wasn't particularly thrilled with the Steve Cishek acquisition when it happened, and I won't be pretend to be now. But I also won't call for his head for allowing a solo home run in a game that the Mariners had every opportunity to be leading well prior to the fatal, defeating blow. Losses are butter, and the roster is the bread. Just spread that stuff around.
  • There were of course good things, and none better than the first career home run for Dae-Ho Lee. I will admit, despite my love for his story, physique, and smile, I'm not sure how well Lee will end up doing here. His first at-bat of the game was a three pitch horror, and he failed to secure what would have been in fairness a tough catch at first on a line drive. 

    But none of that matters today, because today Dae-Ho Lee, after a decade and a half of professional baseball thousands of miles away, hit is first major league home run.

    Seager Dinger Point
  • Tonight was frustrating, and a bummer. So let's close out with something frustrating. As baseball continues to march headlong into embracing technology, and looks to advance itself into something resembling modernity, let's just take a moment and acknowledge this is still going to happen all year long and there isn't a damn thing anyone can or will do about it:

    Smith AB

    Never change, umpires. You clearly don't have to.
Nathan Karns and Rich Hill tomorrow. To a better future.