These exhibition games really were a perfectly pleasant idea. Give some fans a chance to get in the door cheap, sit in great seats for a price they’d never get them for; even the weather cooperated, with moderate temperatures and sun for today’s tilt. Really, it was everything you could ask for of March baseball in Seattle. Looking back on it, there’s only one thing I felt was really missing: the Mariners. It turns out, you see, that it is very difficult—maybe impossible—to make professional baseball players travel halfway around the world, play two exhibition games, play two real games, fly back across aforesaid half of the world, take like two days to recover, tops, and that doesn’t include throwing out the chicken thighs in the fridge that Ryon Healy forgot to microwave before he left town, go and entertain and interact with fans at T-Mobile Park through the weekend, and show up Monday bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to play two quite literally meaningless games against a team of hapless friars and Eric Hosmer.
Or, I suppose you can do that, but you shouldn’t really expect anything other than what we just got.
Unlike last night’s laugher, this game was competitive start to finish thanks to an outing that was about as efficient as any you could ever find in baseball from Wade LeBlanc, who threw just 46 pitches in 5.1 innings. The Padres seemed quite convinced they knew what was coming and could hit it. Unfortunately for them, Wade was in full “facing the Red Sox in June” and buzzsawed his way to six strikeouts before yielding to Scott Servais far earlier than would have been advisable starting this Thursday. Watching Wade pump 85 mph gas in on San Diego repeatedly and get nothing but results made me wonder if he has an infinity stone. I haven’t seen those movies and I don’t really know what an infinity stone is, but I think he might have one. Unfortunately, Roenis Elias immediately followed by issuing an incredibly loud line drive to Luis Urias which had just enough gas to ping off the yellow line in right center, and that was the ballgame. Some in-person notes from T-Mobile today:
- Top 1: Ian Kinsler opens the game by striking out swinging. I am not at the game yet, but I sense that this has happened because I feel a remarkable calm in the Force, as if all is well in the universe.
- Bottom 1: In a sequence which I am afraid will be very common this year, Mitch Haniger and Domingo Santana smack line drives and are promptly stranded on 2nd and 3rd base.
- Top 3rd: Francisco Mejia nearly decapitates Wade with a line drive, prompting Matthew Roberson to issue his first call of the day for a fight. Instead, Ryon Healy starts a double play on Manuel Margot, making it looking surprisingly simple.
- Bottom 3rd: David Freitas singles, having already hosed Wil Myers at second base earlier. This is really more of a contribution than any other Mariner hitter made the entire game. Mitch and Domingo are called out on very borderline strikes. I contemplate garlic fries, and also fighting the home plate umpire.
- Top 4th: Kate chants “WAAAAAAAASHED” through an entire Ian Kinsler plate appearance. He obliges by striking out looking, and I yell “BAT FLIP IT NEXT TIME” as he passes us back to the dugout. After consulting with each other, Kate and I determine that he can definitely hear us, and feel moderately sheepish, but not enough to apologize to Ian. Manny Machado says something to him, and they smirk. I assume they like my shirt.
- 5th inning: the substitutions begin in earnest. John Trupin somehow identifies Joe DeCarlo, wearing a catcher’s mask, by the backs of his ears. I’m impressed, but confused.
- Bottom 6th: Mallex Smith gets excellent contact on a ball, but is robbed on a good play by Nate Easley. Frankly, it’s nice to see Mallex make some solid contact, and even nicer to see a Mariner hit a pitch solidly. The game is not going well, but at least I have a good view.
- Top 7th: Evan White makes back-to-back plays on ground balls for outs. This is my first in-person Evan White experience, and I am impressed. The first play, particularly, on a sharp Greg Garcia grounder down the line, is at best a 50/50 diving proposition for most 1Bs. White’s feet are seemingly impossibly quick for the position, and he’s able to loop back enough to backhand the ball and flip to Brennan for an easy-looking out that is anything but. He follows that up by snagging a cue-ball liner from Austin Hedges that takes a rather absurd route through the infield grass thanks to sidespin. This play is easier, but again, White is so fast on his feet that it barely registers how smoothly he makes the play. I am duly sold on the defense. Unfortunately, MLB did not see fit to highlight either play, so I have no video.
- Nick Rumbelow pitches a scoreless 8th, striking out 3 and allowing a single. I, having complained loudly about having to watch him pitch, am chastised. Matthew Roberson demands another fight; I don’t recall why. He’s done it a lot.
- Bottom 9th: Kristopher Negron gets within a short distance of an opposite-field game-tying home run; the ball curves foul, and I am relieved, because I would have been very confused. He draws a walk, but Dylan Moore ends the game, and we are left to pick up the sad pieces of a 1-0 spring training game.
I can’t pretend I care at all about the bad performance—and it was bad—from the M’s offense (and I guess Mike Leake) in these two games. After an incredibly bizarre two week span, I just can’t fathom the team having terrible high focus or energy in these games. They were nice enough—and it was great to see Evan White and Kyle Lewis especially playing in Safeco—but they’re over, and the next time we walk this road together, reader, it will be for Games That Matter with Boston. See you Thursday. Go Mariners.