On paper, the Seattle Mariners looked positively overmatched in their 2019 home opener. Christening their updated and magenta-adorned stadium, the M’s hosted maybe the best American League pitcher of this decade. They also invited the reigning AL MVP, last year’s RBI leader, and various other All-Stars and champions. If things got ugly, which seemed probable, at least the Disney-fication of Opening Day would mask our sadness.
In the early goings, that plot unfolded predictably.
Already staked to a 1-0 lead, the Fighting Afflecks picked on the Mariners’ out-of-place infielders for their second tally of the day. Eduardo Nuñez began the second inning by hoodwinking first baseman Jay Bruce on a routine ground ball. Cunning.
Three batters later, a divinely placed Andrew Benintendi blooper behind third sent Nuñez diving home. In all fairness, Ryon Healy teased impressive tracking skills to catch the looping ball, but his noodle-armed throw arrived home at the same time as Nuñez, glancing off the speedy chain-wearer and eluding catcher David Freitas. Tactical.
Before things could approach the danger zone, the best Mariner shortstop of all time strode to the batter’s box. Entering today’s action with an 0-15 career line against Chris Sale, undisputed legend Tim Beckham banished his past demons to the left field bullpen. The inaugural run at T-Mobile Park also plated the first Mariner against Sale since August 2016. Hilarious.
Tim Beckham with the first homer at T-Mobile Park pic.twitter.com/npysTtEGY3— Seattle Times Sports (@SeaTimesSports) March 29, 2019
With Beckham’s leadership sending a jolt through the dugout, David Freitas and Dee Gordon turned the lineup over for Seattle’s outstanding outfielders. Following a pitch directly off Mitch Haniger’s knee bone, your MLB leader in RBI shoved his foot even harder on the rest of Major League Baseball’s throat. Seemingly up for the 70th time with the bases loaded, Santana’s double cashed in two more runs and nearly a third, as Haniger’s sliding acrobatics earned him nothing more than a TOOTBLAN. Fear not, an invisible parrot would swoop in for the rescue.
Warm sun, cold brews, long homers.— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 29, 2019
Really is a fantastic day to be out in The 'Pen. pic.twitter.com/qoZA73cLCc
“He’s not washed” chants float through Kate’s Pub in Wallingford as Edwin Encarnación’s left-center home run clears the fence and dive bombs The Pen, waking the day-drunk bros and corporate networkers. Conversation immediately shifts to the Red Sox “ace”, and whether the washed bug has nibbled his once-dominant pitch hand.
More outward symptoms of washedness continued to attack Sale’s slim frame. A walk to Ryon Healy (for real, Ryon Healy worked a walk against Chris Sale) preceded this year’s “Remember That?” Opening Day moment. One preposterous home run already under his belt, Beckham doubled the Seattle lead with a second big fly against Sale.
2-for-2, two home runs in three innings, countless blows to Chris Sale’s tattered legacy.
Mallex Smith later swaggered his way to a triple to set up David Freitas’ sacrifice fly (for real, David Freitas got an RBI off Chris Sale), and just like that the Mariners were up 7-2. An out-of-body third inning was a welcome sight on Opening Day, made all the more improbable by the juggernaut opponent. If this thimble of a sample size is in fact an indication of the offense to come, I will be glued to every game of the season. Even if the expected losses pile up, give me run-filled shootouts over torturous 2-1 tilts every day of the week.
The beauty of early leads like this manifest themselves late in the game, when Roenis Elías can cover low-leverage innings and the batters fatten up on middle relief snacks. See: Bruce, Jay loitering his way to an RBI walk, and Healy continuing his insane production in day games, as commenter Slurvey pointed out in the game thread. Let’s also extend a quick shout out to Heath Hembree, who might be bad, but at least he takes a long time. Heath Hembree is the jam band of pitchers. I’ll take a four-hour concert if it pushes the run total to double digits, though.
After seeing a big, fat 10 next to the Mariners logo, all negative thoughts for the day were effectively murdered. They were buried deeper beneath the surface when Domingo Santana slammed a seventh-inning dinger. The fifth (!!!) home run of the contest gave the 2019 fellas a feat that the 2018 version never accomplished. Santana’s smooth shot also gave us a truly inspired performance from Tim Beckham and Mallex Smith, the Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp of reaction GIFs.
Cory Gearrin and Brandon Brennan pulled the curtains shut, and the Mariners became retroactive World Series champions. See you all at the parade.