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Sun comes out for a moment, but M’s end Opening Weekend with 6-5 loss to Cleveland in extras

Game displays the outstanding offense and dreadful defense Mike Zunino is famous for

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

1969 saw a flood of British songs about sunshine, the result of a brutal winter, even for the famously gray UK. The most lasting of these songs has been the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun,” one of George Harrison’s finest. Discussing the song in his memoir, he wrote, “[It] was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: ‘Sign this’ and ‘sign that.’ Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it.”

Northwesterners know something about this. It can feel like it’s always raining here. Moreover, so much modern baseball fandom, especially the online version, requires us “to go and be businessmen.” “Sign this shortstop.” “Sign that pitcher.” Sometimes, you yearn to just have the baseball itself. And coming off the exuberance of an 18-inning heartbreaker, Mariner fans have had to wait almost six months without the game they love. It’s hard not to feel like they’ve earned baseball’s return. But even though the actual baseball is finally back, it’s still cold, in the air and on the field. Fans are desperate for a little sunshine.

As Opening Day’s ecstasy gave way to three clunkers, beginning the season with a losing record has some of us right back on the edge. Today was as brutal as the last two. The sardonic tone that has always defined Mariners Internet has turned even more sour lately, with game thread energy leaking all across the worldwide web. But I’m not sure that energy is everywhere. Although the play hasn’t lived up to expectations, my overwhelming positive takeaway has been the crowd I’ve seen on TV.

Just look at the crowd react to Julio’s first home run of the year, coming off the first pitch Cal Quantrill threw.

I’m not used to seeing that sort of crowd on a cold April day. Maybe you’d see the stands that full and exuberant on Opening Day, but not by the fourth game of the year.

The good times couldn’t last, as Cleveland turned that 1-0 start into 1-3 in the next half inning, not unlike the team’s overall records.

Marco, you simply cannot throw a flat 85-mph cutter middle-middle, even to Mike Zunino.

An inning later, Kolten Wong scored on a grounder from Eugenio Suárez that ate up ace defender Andrés Giménez, which brought the M’s back within 1. Zunino then let a ball get past him, putting runners on second and third with one out for Cal Raleigh, who did what Cal Raleigh does.

But Marco allowed the back-and-forth to continue when Zunino, on base after another extra-base hit, scored on an RBI double play. When the inning concluded, Marco’s afternoon ended too, with the game tied at 4-4, and despite the power display from his erstwhile catcher, it actually wasn’t a disaster overall. He faced the minimum in three of his five innings and racked up a 29% CSW against the team whose offense had the fifth-best CSW last year. The mistake pitch was a costly one, but hey, worse pitchers than Marco have gotten burned on a mistake to Zunino. Of course, now that Marco’s moved up to being the team’s number-four starter with Robbie Ray on the shelf, he’s really going to have to minimize the mistakes.

On defense, Zunino would go on to let another three balls get past him, the next one gifting Geno third base, which allowed him to then score on a ball that didn’t get out of the infield. With the Mariners now up 5-4, Tito lifted Cal Quantrill, and I want to pause here to give a tip of the cap to Tim Herrin, who made his MLB debut in relief of Quantrill. Because as frustrating as it was to watch, we love a debut around here, and boy did Herrin have one to remember, striking out all four batters he faced. Welcome to the Show, Tim.

It was during this sequence when the sunshine teased us once again. With rain clouds meancing over the horizon, the T-Mobile Park crew decided to close the roof right as the sun came out. In what may be a first, they paused the roof-closing so that it wouldn’t cast a moving shadow between the mound and the plate.

The sun teases the Northwest like this all winter long, peeking out just long enough to remind you of what you’re missing. It’s a brutal, gray slog.

It’s a tease not unlike Jarred Kelenic, who, it must be said, was not having a great game. He had earlier struck out twice, including his ugliest swing of the season, and made a bad diving play on the foul line that turned a .070 xBA into a double. But when he came up on the heels of Teoscar’s first hit as a Mariner, the crowd cheered for Jarred almost as loudly as they cheered for their reigning Rookie of the Year. For Jarred! Jarred, who New Yorkers would have started booing ages ago. And to me, that’s been as encouraging as anything. Even as the crowd has gotten brassy with James Karinchak, they’ve been lovingly loyal to their own guys. Yes, Jarred dribbled one back to the mound, but I was still proud of our fanbase.

Some Sewald-induced weak contact later, former Mariner farmhand Enyel De Los Santos came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth with the game still tied. And I don’t know what it is about John Paul Crawford of all people that seems to rattle Cleveland’s pitchers so much, but De Los Santos violated the pitch clock and started in a 1-0 count. And what do you know, there were those fans again, screaming a cacophony of numbers that could be heard around the country. The Mariners couldn’t score, but the energy of that crowd was palpable, and credit to them for trying.

Heading to extras, Penn Murfee got one out but then loaded the bases, and Tito brought in lefty Josh Naylor as a pinch-hitter. Scott countered with his own southpaw, Gabe Speier, who wins 2023’s first regular-season Sun Hat Award for a noteworthy individual contribution to a game. With the leverage index at about a gazillion, Speier induced a 63-mph ground ball, and he ably started what should have been a 1-2-3 double play to get them out of the jam. But Cal Raleigh rushed his throw to first, an error that allowed the go-ahead run to score. Speier then bravely took matters into his own hands and struck out Gabriel Arias in some Gabe-on-Gabe crime that brought the Mariners back up to bat.

The last time the Mariners faced the Guardians in extras, Cal won the game with a three-run bomb after a five-hour rain delay. But, with a two-RBI double already to his name this afternoon, history could not repeat itself, as Cal left the tying run at third with a weak fly ball to end the game.

So the Mariners begin the season in a 1-3 hole. Moving forward, I really doubt they’ll play quite as sloppily as they have this weekend. But whatever happens, I think the fans are in for a treat, as long as they keep the energy of the stadium’s crowd and let themselves be open to enjoying the ride. Maybe “Here Comes The Sun” is a little saccharine for you. Truth be told, I’m not much for dessert myself. But you don’t have to be a treacle-lover to understand what it means for a long, cold, lonely winter to come to an end, to feel a twinge of joy at seeing the smiles returning to the faces. Baseball is finally back. It feels like years since it’s been here.