Ask anyone in Minnesota - April is eagle season. As likely as humidity in the summer and sleet in the fall, eagles descend from the sky in droves to hector unlucky joggers. It was, of course, a point of contention then, when the Twins sought to replace the bird-proofed Metrodome with an open-air stadium.
“Won’t it be dangerous?” many fretted.
“Of course! But for whom?” conspired Twins GM Thad Levine.
And so the scheme was hatched. Leaving the sky exposed to the elements was easily cared for with heated grass and state-of-the-art drainage systems, but when James Paxton arrived today he was expected to be their unsuspecting victim.
He was unperturbed.
Oh, just an landing in a Big .@James_Paxton, totally fearless. pic.twitter.com/8xHYBTwNhC— Mariners (@Mariners) April 5, 2018
Unfortunately, seeing the Big Maple aggressed so blatantly appeared to put the Mariners’ offense in a funk. Despite over 15 opportunities with runners in scoring position, the Mariners generated just two hits through eight innings in scoring opportunities. That was even more damning for the Mariners considering the only scoring opportunities they’ve seemed to have have required runners on second or third. Following Nelson Cruz’s two homers in his first two games, only two Mariners have left the yard in 2018 - Mitch Haniger (twice) and Dee Gordon.
Minnesota, meanwhile, took full advantage of the juiced ball and pulled some 2013 Mariners shenanigans out of their hats with a three homer performance. After Miguel Sano knocked a solid James Paxton out of the game with a two-run blast, Mitch Garver (?) flicked a Dan Altavilla slider into the left field bleachers to give Minnesota all they needed offensively. Eddie Rosario’s 8th inning blast off Nick Vincent following one of a series of abysmal calls behind the plate was just salt in the wound of a 4-2 loss.
Red = Strike— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) April 5, 2018
Green = Ball
Blue = Home Run pic.twitter.com/2i5fi3SOk2
There are a few notable takeaways, even as it’s early and tough to see everything with a long view. First, Ryon Healy looks like a man whose timing still needs two more weeks of Spring Training. Secondly, when located, Dan Altavilla has some of the nastiest stuff around.
We interrupt this offensive grumblefest to bring you Dan Altavilla's new-and-improved slider.....aaaaaaand you missed it. pic.twitter.com/iELi3xfLdQ— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) April 5, 2018
Third, the Mariners miss Nelson Cruz’s bat a great deal, but they may miss Mike Zunino even more. Between a combination of an offensive dropoff and multiple poor frames today from Freitas and Marjama, the M’s are struggling to get what they need behind the dish. That’s not to say Freitas and Marjama are doing worse than expected - Paxton was notoriously difficult enough to catch that Carlos Ruiz wasn’t even able to do so last year, and for two backups who have little experience with the Big Maple, it’s a massive ask.
But that just underlines how much Seattle needs Zunino back. Whether the team chooses to bring him out to the frozen tundra with his healing oblique or wait until Kansas City, Zu can’t get back soon enough. So far the M’s are 1-2 on this road trip, without either matchup this weekend looking particularly daunting in theory. But right now, heading into an off day, the M’s have adjustments to make, because they need more power.