[Exquisite Corpse is a party game popularized by the Surrealists at their gatherings in the 1930s. Since the opening of the Mariners season has felt both surreal and replete with corpses, we here at Looking Landing are celebrating the home opener with an Exquisite Corpse recap.]
1st - Luke
I walk to my basement, excited to watch the home opener with my housemates. To my dismay, I’m one of three people down there. It’s disappointing that people seem to have lost hope literally one week into the season. My mood immediately changes for the better when James Paxton toes the rubber. I’ve never noticed his maple leaf forearm tattoo. I first saw it in the top of the first inning, and haven’t taken my eyes off it since. A fourth person enters the basement right as George Springer pops out to second. That’s what I like to see. All aboard the hype train! Watching Paxton blow a 97 MPH fastball by Alex Bregman feels so good. It’s quite a spectacle observing the dramatic height difference between Paxton standing on the mound and Jose Altuve stepping into the box. Four straight fastballs to the AL batting champion induces an inning ending groundout. No better way to start the home opener than sending the first three batters packing.
Why on earth is Charlie Morton hitting 98 MPH? That’s crazy. An impressive nine-pitch at bat from Segura does not result in a hit, but it sure as heck was fun to watch. Mitch Haniger followed suit, eventually striking out on the ninth pitch of his first at bat in Safeco Field. Robinson Cano decided he didn’t want to wait nine pitches, roping a first pitch fastball to the base of the wall in centerfield. I yelped in excitement. But alas, the first of opportunity with runners in scoring position yields no fruit, and the Mariners head into the second inning in a scoreless tie.
2nd - Zach G
The second inning is an exercise in patience. Throughout my life people have told me, just wait a little. Carlos Correa slaps a ball at Paxton. It could easily be an out, or a single. It's obviously a single. I sigh. Beltran is up.
My mind wants to believe that Beltran is washed up. It's tough, but I can almost convince myself. I make myself believe it's real, and Beltran grounds into a fielders choice. Maybe he sucks now. Probably not.
Gattis is up. He is less like a person and more like a villain. My mind goes to Shrek. Gattis is Shrek. He smirks at Paxton, and the rest of the Mariners. "This is the part where you run away," he whispers. I'm not gonna lie. Gattis actually strikes out. I am suspended in what seems to be a cryogenic chamber of disbelief. We double off Beltran. I literally don't believe it, and my mind enters a state of perceived hallucination.
Seager strikes out. Valencia strikes out. Martin strikes out. I come back down to Earth. Yeah. The hallucination is over. Or maybe it never was. Perhaps this team isn't healthy for my general state of being.
3rd - Scott George
They are celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. Dope. Not a ton to write home about when it comes to the third inning. Paxton struck out two of his eventual eight and the Astros pulled off an unassisted double play. There's no benefit in me lying to you, I was in the aisle way socializing during most of this game. I spent a good chunk of time before the game on a roof by Centurylink and enjoying myself. Happy home opener.
4th - Ethan
I suppose it makes sense that I got the fourth inning, considering I am currently 0-4 in recaps and all. It was an ugly inning, the kind that makes you nervously, softly whisper to yourself “holy crap, this team might actually suck”.
The inning started with the announcement that Jean Segura was removed from the game, a likely result of his dive back to first the previous inning. At the time we weren’t sure how serious the injury was, or whether it was a shoulder or wrist or hand or anything else thingy. So, as any good fan will do, we all just kinda assumed Segura was dying and that it was time to mourn for the once promising 2017 season.
The top of the fourth brought the first sign of cracking in what had been, up to that point, a phenomenal outing for James Paxton. George Springer hit a ball hard, but thankfully right at Mitch Haniger. Alex Bregman hit a ball hard, but thankfully right at Leonys Martin. Jose Altuve walked. George Springer singled. You could feel the annoyingness levels rising, and any moment now I expected to see Marwin Gonzalez hit a baseball 500 feet because Marwin Gonzalez has practically been Mike Trout against the Mariners in his career.
Thankfully, instead, we got old-ass Carlos Beltran walking his old-ass to the plate and getting his old-ass struck out on a cutter by tall-ass James Paxton. Baseball is fun sometimes.
The bottom of the inning was much worse. I mean, it was fine, Cano walked and Cruz singled(!) and Seager dropped in the blooper to end all bloopers and the bases were loaded and there was no one out and it was fine. Then it was much worse. Danny Valencia got into a 1-2 count and proceeded to swing at a pitch so far outside that Evan Gattis barely managed to heave his sweaty, gargantuan body over in time to get a glove on it. Leonys Martin got into a 1-2 count and swung and missed so hard at a curve in the dirt that he may have single-handedly doubled the spin rate on Morton’s pitch. Then Mike Zunino had a fly out. It was truly Mariners baseball.
5th - Grant
I spent the fourth inning listening to the game on the radio as I walked home from work, pumping my fist when Robbie, Nellie, and Kyle all reached base and groaning in despair when the next three hitters flailed at curveballs or hit soft flyouts. The boos raining down at Safeco were crystal clear through my headphones. Despite all my excitement at the beginning of the year, this just seemed like proof that we’re in an unavoidable tailspin.
But even when things get bad, fans find bright spots somewhere, anywhere, to latch onto. That first bright spot was, without a doubt, James Paxton. The hefty Ladner lefty deftly mixed 78 MPH curves with 96 MPH heaters, baffling Josh Reddick and inducing weak contact from Yuli Gurriel and Evan Gattis.
And in the bottom of the fifth, it seemed like Jarrod Dyson was the guy to embrace after his leadoff double - ready to ZOOM BY YA into my heart. But when he was caught at third on a heady play from young Carlos Correa (who is quickly evolving into a Mariners nemesis), it seemed like yet another example of same old, same old.
But even in the darkest moments of Mariner fandom, there are signs of hope.
Mitch Haniger, the side piece in the Jean Segura trade, doubled down the left field line. After a walk to Robbie, Nelson Cruz ripped a single up the middle to finally break the deadlock. Kyle Seaver added an insurance run via a sac fly.
6th - Isabelle
Baseball fandom, more so than any other sport, is reflective of your own mental state. Mariners baseball, in particular, seems designed to bring out the emotions that we may try to stifle in our day-to-day lives. If you're struggling personally, it can often be difficult to feel optimistic about a team. Personally speaking, for better or worse, this week real life made those 13 inning walk-offs and the loss of six run leads infinitely less painful than they might usually be. Walking through the gates of Safeco Field felt like a much-needed turning of the page, and Mom and I entered simply happy to be back, and watching baseball in person once more.
The Mariners concluded the sixth inning up 5-0 against the Astros. Leonys Martin ended a 12 pitch battle against Tony Sipp with a perfect single out to right field, followed up by a successful steal of second. A Zunino walk and a Haniger single ultimately scored two more runs, and whether they hold this lead or not, it feels good to leave the events of last week behind and cheer on this team that we love so much. Life can be crap, but that's why we have baseball.
7th - John
Pax has a penchant for making the seventh stressful so I took a walk. I took some whiffs of the new smells of Safeco as hitters took some whiffs at Paxton’s offspeed. As I crunched down on some toasted grasshopper James crunched down on the Houston offense’s threat. As I strolled past Edgar's en route to my upper deck seats I smelled chicken grilling, then cheesesteaks steaming, then garlic fries frying. Robinson Canó reached base. Nelson Cruz ripped a shot in the gap. Danny Valencia narrowly missed the barrel but scored a run on a well hit ball. My nose was filled with possibility.
Life was good.
8th - Mandy
I am at home, regretting not going to the home opener. My 18-month old has just woken up from her nap. She’s excited about the Mariners, gleefully pointing at her tiny jersey, the logo on my hat, and the players on the tv screen (we’ve decided that no screen time before age 2 doesn’t apply to sports). I often wonder what it’s like to see the world through her eyes. She knows her parents get excited about baseball, so she does too. It’s a fun stage-her liking everything we like-that I know won’t last.
She responds to the crowd noise and the excited voice of Dave Sims on tv. She doesn’t know that the bullpen had a terrible day yesterday. Her stomach doesn’t seize the way mine does when Dan Altavilla replaces James Paxton. She doesn’t have to tell herself it’ll be okay. Altavilla will be fine, not Fien.
So, she claps when she hears the noise and excitement when Mitch Haniger misses catching a long fly ball. She dances with the glee of naivety when George Springer strikes out on three pitches. She doesn’t have to take deep breaths when Jose Altuve walks to load the bases. But she claps and she squeals when Carlos Correa strikes out on a slider and she does a little spin when Carlos Beltran ends the inning by popping up to Kyle Seager.
The Mariners go quietly in the bottom of the inning, their offensive explosion finished.
This child of mine doesn’t worry about the bullpen or the hitting with runners in scoring position. She only knows that baseball is something to get excited about. She is delighted by the sight of the Mariners logo. She joins in with the crowds, happily, joyfully.
I envy her outlook. She doesn’t see the ghost of Bobby Ayala or the long seasons without a playoff appearance. She is only concerned with the fun of baseball.
It’s a long season. There is plenty of time to learn. Today, we enjoy and savor what is before us.
9th - Matt
they won, but