I always try to have at least an illusion of professionalism for each game I’m tasked to recap - hand charting the starter, watching for .giffable moments, the whole nine yards. This season may be the pro sports equivalent of a shitpost, but despite that, there are things to analyze, ponder, and speculate on. With the Mariners out of the gauntlet of Houston, Justus Sheffield on the mound, and a righty-heavy lineup that brought us more Tim Lopes and Dylan Moore, this game had all the makings of some juicy content.
And for the first couple innings, it did!
Although the M’s bats couldn’t get much going to open the game, Kyle Lewis burst out of the gates once again:
I feel like almost every time I see him at the plate, I come away thinking that he had an excellent plate appearance, and he kept going here, letting the ball get deep in the zone before smoking it right back up the middle. Alas, Lewis would be stranded at first, and Justus Sheffield kicked off his 2020 by walking the obnoxious David Fletcher. Typical Angels. Thankfully, Evan White helped him out on the finest first base play I’ve seen in about six years:
Sheffield bounced back with four straight groundouts, each of them finding their way to J.P. Crawford. He needed just twenty pitches to get through two innings, and although he got just one swinging strike and only hit 93 on his fastball twice, the efficiency and ground balls felt encouraging.
Yeah, about that.
Sheffield needed a whopping thirty-nine pitches to gut through the third. For reference, over what’s now three seasons of writing for Lookout Landing, this is the thirty-ninth recap I’ve written. That’s a lot. His command seemed to evaporate in a split second, the BABIP luck dragons turned their backs on him, and although there were some bright spots like this sword to Mike Trout to snag the second out of the frame...
...it was still a brutal inning to watch, with two runs coming to score, and Sheff allowing the first two hitters to reach in the fourth before getting yanked didn’t help matters. The Angels didn’t relinquish the lead all evening, either, and I felt my interest wane after each inning and each sip of what the liquor board calls a “premium malt beverage” - so if you were looking for a professional, straight-laced recap, I apologize.
In spite of it all, though, there were some things that still piqued my interest.
- Tim Lopes, batting fifth and slotted in as the designated hitter, continued his inexplicable torrid hitting, smoking a 109 MPH line drive up the middle that missed Angels pitcher Patrick Sandoval by about six inches in the second and driving an oppo home run his second time up.
After putting up a 101 wRC+ and looking competent in left field in the second half of last year, Lopes hasn’t gone away yet, and he put up by far the best performance out of any Mariner hitter tonight. It seems likely he’ll get the start again tomorrow against Andrew Heaney, and I’m confident he can keep the good times rolling.
- Nestor Cortes, the man of the many arm slots, was the first to come in after Sheffield got the hook, and didn’t look super sharp, serving up two homers in two innings of work, one to Max Stassi (yeah seriously) and Albert Pujols. Now, I can always appreciate a good gimmick when it comes to arm slots; I remember our beloved Roenis Elías dropping down to a sidearm every once in a while, but come on at this:
This truly was a play in three acts:
The one saving grace is that Dave Sims’s surprise level was nonexistent, and his deadpan “kaboom” after the ball cleared the fence cracked me up. I guess sometimes that’s what you have to settle for.
- Zac Grotz worked three (!) innings as Seattle’s final pitcher, needing a not-so-nice 69 pitches to gut through them - in other words, two more pitches than Justus Sheffield threw. While Grotz is no stranger to longer outings, having had work as a starter in the Mets’ system and starting six games with Arkansas last year, this felt like a headscratcher, especially after seeing him get roughed up for four runs, three walks, and a dinger. Hopefully this isn’t a 2016 Nick Vincent redux and after a few days of rest he’s back to his usual self.
- Joe Odom made his big league debut after 455 games in the minor leagues! Austin Nola was a late scratch from the lineup - thankfully we got postgame confirmation that he just had a barking knee after a rough slide - and Odom filled in just fine, walking in his first plate appearance and reaching on an error by Rendon in the seventh. His blocking didn’t look great, although he didn’t have a ton of help from Sheffield or Grotz, but his plus framing was on display. Here’s him stealing a strike for Grotz on a low breaking pitch (though Grotz would walk Rendon just four pitches later lol whoops):
While Odom and Joe Hudson seem to both be fine defenders, I worry with the protracted absence of Tom Murphy and if Nola is out for more than a few days that we might see less offensive production from the catcher spot than we did in 2015, when Mike Zunino, Jesús Sucre, John Hicks, Welington Castillo, and Steven Baron combined for a .159/.205/.259 slash line. I’d really love if it didn’t come to that.
- Dylan Moore made his first appearance of the season, and made a nice grab in left field...
...while smoking a double and notching a second base hit in the top of the ninth. It’s nice to have something resembling depth in your utility players, and we should expect to see Moore in left or DH’ing tomorrow with a second straight southpaw on the mound.
- Kyle Lewis made a great diving catch. I have no analysis for it but I wanted you all to see it.
This was a game that you do not take seriously at all. Honestly, I have a hard time taking this season seriously at all. At least there were some nice individual performances - that’s all I need to feel alright on any given night. Justin Dunn makes his first start of the year, and it should be exciting to see him make what should be his first actual Major League start and not just a glorified open. Maybe Andrew Heaney’s homer problems will continue and we’ll see some bombs from Lewis, White, or maybe even Tim Lopes again. Or he could harness his one-run, six strikeout energy he had on Opening Day. Both seem pretty likely at the moment. For now, though, let’s just sleep this off and swing again tomorrow.