Game one of the Mariners Japan trip is in the books, and in spite of the worst efforts of local and national broadcasters, MLB, and a strange sudden cut to commercial in the 9th inning, I can confidently inform you the Mariners defeated the Yomiuri Giants 6-4. This sort of game can offer plenty of interest for a tuned-in fan, but it’s nearly 1 AM and we had a miscommunication about recappers, so you’ll unfortunately be receiving my sleepy notes.
The lineup was approximately what can be expected against the A’s, give or take Ichiro’s positioning.
The Giants appeared to have the upper hand early. After the Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the 1st on a sac fly from Jay Bruce, the Giants stormed back with a torrent of line drives. Mike Leake left the game after 5.0 IP, allowing six hits, two walks, four strikeouts, and three runs, including a solo shot to Yomiuri’s star shortstop Hayato Sakamoto. The bullpen would hold the Giants to just one more run, giving the M’s offense a chance to bring the thunder themselves.
Seattle’s rally came on three homers - a pair of two-run jacks from Mitch Haniger and Jay Bruce, and a solo blast from Dee Gordon. The first two dingers highlighted many things - Mitch Haniger looks comfortable hitting in the same dome he played in just a few months ago, Jay Bruce appears healthy, and every MLB umpire should have a camera on them like this.
Giants starter LHP Nobutaka Imamura matched Leake’s 5.0 innings, allowing just the one run, but his first descendent gave up the goat with haste. Seattle jumped on the second southpaw of the day - the dimunitive Kazuto Taguchi - for the two homers above in the top of the seventh, retaking the lead. Dee Gordon got in on the fun in the 8th, swatting a heater from RHP Ryosuke Miyaguni into the right-field bleachers, and joining Jay Bruce in the club of “31-year-olds determined to look spry this spring”.
Cory Gearrin, Zac Rosscup, and Hunter Strickland all worked scoreless innings, with Strickland working at good velocity and showing no ill effects of the minor back pain that had slowed him this week. Roenis Elías gave up a run after allowing a double to his countryman Alex Guerrero, but otherwise looked sharp in the 9th to close it out for the save.
There were a few other moments of note. Daniel Vogelbach didn’t make much noise at the plate, grounding out weakly in his one plate appearance, but he did make a nice diving backhand play in the 9th, hopping up and flipping to Roenis for an out. Ryon Healy went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, while Tim Beckham muffed a potential double play ball, so the left side of the infield struggled to cover themselves in glory.
Dylan Moore and Dee Gordon narrowly avoided a scary collision on a pop fly when the former had shifted over to right field late in the game, but fortunately the negative was limited to the ball dropping in. Moore has often been referred to as a stronger infielder than outfielder, so his UTIL training will continue to need work. Both Omar Narváez and Edwin Encarnación put solid swings on the ball, including this moonshot from EE that narrowly came short of the stands.
Oh and the right fielder? He went 0-for-3, although his plate appearances were a shade ahead of the impotent fare he’d been offering in Peoria. He popped out in his first appearance, but reached on a fielders choice via a high chopper in his second, then narrowly missed a sure double on a laser foul down the right field line. He’d ultimately ground out once more on a sharply hit ball into a shift up the middle, but he made a fairly adept play in right field on a ball to the wall.
The next game for the Mariners will be tomorrow (today? It’ll broadcast ~24 hours from when this recap is published, okay?) and it will be the final tune-up before the season truly begins against the Athletics on the 20th. We’ll have Connor Donovan in attendance and recapping for you, so feel free to get up early or sleep in and read that with your morning coffee. Tomorrow’s game will be the rubber match in the all-time series between Seattle and Yomiuri, which now stands at 1-1.