With just three games left to go in Spring Training, the Mariners finally started what projects to be their lineup on Opening Day. While the order may be subject to tweaking, this squad was pretty much what we’re going to see on Monday against left-hander Dallas Keuchel and the Astros. Today, the Mariners faced a similarly dominating lefty in Clayton Kershaw. Though the run production wasn’t really there today, the team actually acquitted themselves fairly well against Kershaw.
The first inning would be the only inning in which the starters scored any actual runs, and they probably should have scored more than two. Jean Segura led off the frame with a nice seven-pitch walk. Mitch Haniger then took a pitch at his knees and ripped it right back at Kershaw. Unfortunately, the ball bounced up off of the mound and was easily fielded for an out. Robinson Cano followed this up by absolutely smashing a ball. It also went right at the second baseman. Although the team was starting to tee off on Kershaw, the results just weren’t there. Fortunately, natural law dictates that the third time is the charm, and Nelson Cruz is no natural criminal.
Kyle Seager followed that double up with an RBI single of his own, allowing us to feel that maybe sometimes life is fair. Kershaw settled down quite a bit after that. He easily retired Danny Valencia to end the inning, then made short work of the bottom of the order in the second. Cano had another hard-hit line drive, but that would be all the damage the Mariners could do to Kershaw in his three innings of work.
Things weren’t quite as sunny on the flip side of the first few innings. Hisashi Iwakuma just did not have any semblance of command today. He sat around 85 or 86 MPH on his fastball all game, and couldn’t locate it at all. Iwakuma needed 27 pitches to make it through the first inning, and he would have needed more had it not been for perhaps the worst third base coaching decision I’ve seen in a long time.
Yeah, it’s exciting that Dyson nabbed an outfield assist here, but wow. It would have been rather worrisome had he not gunned down Scott Van Slyke. As you can see, Iwakuma ended his first inning on an extremely hard hit ball, and things didn’t get much better for him in the second. He gave up another hit and two more walks (to bring his total for the day to four) before finally being pulled in favor of Dan Altavilla, who promptly struck out Van Slyke, hopefully sending tremors of despair through Daddy Van Slyke. Iwakuma’s body language looked fairly awful throughout the game today. Fortunately, Shannon Drayer doesn’t seem to believe that there will be anything keeping him from making his first scheduled start of the season.
Iwakuma frustrated that he wasn't able to find his "balance" something he has struggled to find at times this spring. Had it last outing.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 29, 2017
It’s just Spring Training, so I’m not terribly worried about Iwakuma just yet. That being said, his overall spring was rather abysmal, so hopefully he can come out strong in his first start against the Astros next week.
The remainder of this game was fairly uneventful. The hitters couldn’t do much against Dodgers relievers Mitchell White and Madison Younginer. Until the ninth inning, the main bright spot of the game was Dylan Unsworth. A non-roster invitee who was actually fairly fantastic in Double-A Jackson last year (despite a low K/9), Unsworth pitched five scoreless innings, striking out three in the process. That actually brings his Spring Training line up to 12 scoreless innings with 14 strikeouts against only two walks.
Still, if we’re going to hold off on panicking over Iwakuma, we should probably also hold off on demanding an immediate roster spot for Unsworth. For one thing, he’s not on the 40-man roster. For another, his 2016 K/9 of 6.75 in Double-A would seem predictive of limited effectiveness at a Major League level. He’s worth watching, but still probably won’t make the team. Whatever he ends up becoming, he’ll always have a special place in our hearts for completing Scott Van Slyke’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Unsworth proves his loyalty to the organization and Canó, hits Scott van Slyke with a pitch.— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 29, 2017
Emilio Pagan ended up giving up a run in the eighth inning to break the tie in favor of the Dodgers. The very next inning, he was nearly saved from becoming the goat of this game by Ian Miller, who came very close to pulling a Yuniesky on Guillermo Heredia.
Perhaps convinced of some sort of divine intervention, an inspired Heredia immediately lined a single to start the ninth inning before being plated by a Ryan Casteel double. Two batters later, Ian Miller completed his quest to become the game’s goat by grounding out to seal the team’s first (and hopefully only) tie of Spring Training.
Iwakuma’s shaky performance notwithstanding, I thought the team looked good today overall. The one good thing about this tie is that the Mariners are still only half a game out of the Cactus Cup™. If this felt as anticlimactic for you as it did for me, worry not. The Cactus Cup™ victory will probably feel even more anticlimactic. In all seriousness, one week from today, we’ll be three games into the actual season. Though today’s outcome was kind of lame, it’s starting to feel like baseball again.