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Opening Day Mariners defeat Opening Day Rangers in spring training game, 6-5

Julio, Haniger, and J.P. all have multi-hit days in Mariners win

when Ichiro talks, you listen

Today’s game was a spring training game played under blustery skies, but it was also the lone meetup between these two AL West rivals this spring, with both teams rolling out something Opening Day-adjacent in their lineups. The Mariners can hope their victory is indicative of things to come this season, even after Texas opened the purse strings to attempt to build a contender this off-season, although today’s contest also showed there’s still work to do. Also, though: Julio. Let’s get to it!

Robbie Ray, Seattle’s probable Opening Day starter, got the nod today. Ray looked mostly sharp, although his command could have been finer; he got two quick outs on a groundout and a strikeout to start the game but then walked the nigh-unwalkable Adolis García and needed 21 pitches to get out of the first. More pitch efficiency, please, although it’s hard to quibble when Ray wrapped up Seager the Younger like a dishrag.

In the second, Nathaniel Lowe hit a hot shot that ate up Ty France like a sandwich and old LL nemesis Kole Calhoun/Cole Kalhoun/Ckhole Khalhoughn shot a ball right back up the middle to put Ray in a little bit of trouble with just one out, but a flyout from Mariners Pest walkoff-homer-hitter Jonah Heim and this disgusting strikeout of Charlie Culberson sent the Rangers back empty-handed.

Ray’s third inning was much more efficient, although he got some help from Marcus Semien, who chased a pitch down and in 3-0 to send a chopped over to Dylan Moore at third, who made a nice play right at the line. Seager the Second grounded into the shift in an 0-2 hole and Ray got revenge on García by striking him out on three pitches. With his pitch count still under his max for the day, Ray got a fourth inning and was again efficient, getting a groundout, another strikeout, and a popout.

Things unraveled a little in the fifth for Ray; he started off the inning by walking Clickhole Kohlrabi and then giving up a single to the worst member of Heim. After getting a lineout to left, though, Jesse Winker’s throw—well, we’ll charitably say the wind grabbed it, but it looked wrong out of Winker’s hand and wound up sailing well past Dylan Moore, allowing Heim to advance and Kitty Caboose to score all the way from second. Devin Sweet came in to clean up the mess, which is a big ask for a guy who struggled some at Double-A this year to face the top of Texas’s lineup, but aside from a mistake pitch 0-2 to Semien the latter roped for an RBI double, Sweet acquitted himself well, getting Seager to ground out harmlessly and striking out Adolis García:

Getting the start for the Rangers was Glenn Otto, who came over in the Joey Gallo trade. Otto is a groundball pitcher, getting batters to put the ball on the ground about 44% of the time, and that’s sure enough how he got all three of his outs in the first inning. In the second, Abraham Toro added yet another base hit to his spring collection, and Julio worked a walk, but Cal Raleigh ended the potential rally by grounding into a double play.

In the third, though, the Mariners had the bright idea of putting the ball in the air. It’s super effective! Dylan Moore got the party started with this rocket (112 MPH EV):

J.P. followed up by smoking a spicy infield single off Otto’s leg, and then Ty France came thisclose to giving the Mariners a 3-0 lead but apparently hit the ball to the one part of the park where the wind wasn’t blowing. After a Jesse Winker strikeout and a Crawford steal, Chris Woodward made the first of an interminable number of mid-inning pitching changes, bringing in Josh Sborz to throw a fastball for Mitch Haniger to Sbang into left field, scoring J.P.

The Mariners tacked on another run in the fourth; Julio opened the inning with a leadoff single straight back up the middle, having rebounded from being behind in the count. (And then he stole a base just for funsies, and took third on a wild pitch.) Raleigh and D-Mo followed with back-to-back strikeouts—although Cal did make Sborz throw him 10 pitches. That led to yet another mid-inning pitching change, and J.P. was maybe a little grumpy about having been kept waiting, greeting Spencr Patton with an RBI single to make it 3-0 Mariners.

But! That would not be all the Mariners scoring for the day! After the Rangers had pulled to within a run in the fifth, Mitch Haniger and Julio both said no thank you please, bopping RBI doubles to put the Mariners back ahead 5-2. Cal Raleigh added a wounded-duck RBI single as well to make it 6-2.

The Mariners would need each and every one of those runs, it turned out; Paul Sewald surrendered a leadoff home run to Joe McCarthy (why would he not choose to go by his middle name), and Erik Swanson in the ninth gave up two home runs, one to former Mariner Brad Miller, to make the score an uncomfortably close 6-5, which thankfully was where it stayed. There was good news in the bullpen as well, though; Drew Steckenrider worked a clean inning, erasing a leadoff base hit with a GIDP, and Andrés Muñoz gave up a leadoff single but also got three outs without letting the runner get farther than first, including striking out Eli White on three pitches, all 100 MPH or over.

Also, shoutout to Mariners prospect Cade Marlowe, who caught both flyouts in that inning while having to patrol a very windy left field. The second catch where he has to continuously adjust on the fly is especially impressive.

If today’s game was supposed to be a preview of Opening Day-ish, it’s hard to argue Julio doesn’t belong on the roster. He took solid at-bats against pitchers who will either be on Texas’s Opening Day roster or close to it, and recorded as many hits as his more seasoned teammates Haniger and J.P. And while it’s true Julio doesn’t have as many at-bats in the upper minors as his fellow top prospects Adley Rutschman and Bobby Witt Jr., he does have something neither of them have: