The leading interest for today’s game was the presence of Marco Gonzales on the mound. We’re two and a half weeks from Opwning Day and by most reckonings Marco will be the first starter not named Félix to take the hill for Seattle to start the season since 2008. No Country For Old Men was the Best Picture at the Oscars that year, but today’s lineup was full of them. Edwin Encarnación, Kyle Seager, Jay Bruce, José Lobaton, Kristopher Negrón, and Dee Gordon are far from wizened, but they’re aged in baseball years. The veteran crew cobbled together a mess of singles and forceouts to earn a 7-3 victory.
The early bright spot was Marco, stretching it out for four innings and four strikeouts, allowed just one run and one walk. His command looked sharp yet again, including this freeze-job.
The rest of the pitching staff looked good. Matt Festa, David McKay, Ryan Garton, and Robinson Leyer combined for 4.0 IP, six strikeouts, and just two baserunners - a pair of singles off Garton. The outlier was Hunter Strickland, who got a pair of quick outs before running into trouble in the 5th. Three straight doubles drove in two runs. The first was clobbered off the left-center wall by Matt Szczur. The second, by old friend Ketel Marte, was not.
The third, however, was well stroked by Wilmer Flores, and gave Shed Long some trouble. The M’s want him to develop into a true utility master, but that will have growing pains, and this difficult play that led to a run is the gap between ability and experience.
On the offensive side, Shed had a nice piece of hitting himself, staying inside a breaking ball to double in the third inning. The rest of the offense took until later to get going. In the 4th, Edwin Encarnacíon and Kyle Seager matched singles, with a pair of grounders advancing the runners to 3rd and home. A wild pitch brought Seager home.
The 6th inning tipped the final score to the M’s for good. The Jay Bruce bot continued his campaign against the 30-square-foot region of Peoria grass in front of the center fielder. It was followed by pinch-runner Kyle Lewis stealing second base easily. Catcher Carson Kelly dropped the ball, but Lewis looked to have the bag. Lobatón worked a walk on a long PA, continuing a passable spring for him. He’s still a longshot for the club, but Tacoma would be better off with him. Ryon Healy pinch-hit and delivered a classic 100+ mph low-liner/one-hop grounder that the 3B couldn’t handle, and Tim Beckham smashed a line drive the opposite way over the RF’s head to settle the game for good. Braden Bishop would add an RBI-single (and take second on the throw) after an 8-pitch PA with a 3-2 count.
We’re inching closer towards games that more resemble true baseball, as starters go longer and pitchers ramp up, but it’s nice to savor these moments where the veterans and young guys blend well. Tomorrow Seattle has their first off-day of the spring.