The Seattle Mariners are in first place in the A.L. West. The Seattle Mariners, are in first place, in the A.L West?
That’s not a phrase we’ve grown accustomed to hearing over the last decade, and it isn’t one we’ll likely hear much more this year (although thanks to the quirky scheduling of MLB the M’s will hold at least a share of the division lead until at least April 5th), but it does feel good to say, no matter the qualifiers.
It wasn’t a convincing win by any means (unless it convinced you that the Mariners will struggle to score runs for Felix again), and you can’t take too much away from one game, but Seattle’s 3-1 win did allow us to form some early impressions:
- Eric Wedge micromanages like I play croquet; he doesn’t. The stubborn skipper left Michael Saunders in to face a tough lefty in Brian Fuentes (not physically tough mind you, he looks pretty doughy, but he does hold lefties to a .078 lower OPS than righties) rather than going to the bench for Casper Wells. It doesn’t cost the Mariners this game, and I’m not asking Wedge to suddenly turn into Tony LaRussa, but it would be nice to see him play the match-ups a bit more frequently.
- The heart of the order needs to perform more like a heart, and less like an appendix. Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, and Mike Carp combined to go 0-13 at the plate last night in a showing far too reminiscent of the nightmare that was last year’s 4-5-6 hitters. Yes it’s just one game, but an already dwindling fan base isn’t going to put up with another season of 2-1 losses and weeks without home runs.
- The Oakland A’s sold out a home game! Yes, Oakland was the home team in Japan. No, they won’t sell out another home game this year (other than tonight’s second game in Japan). So long Oakland, hello San Jose!
- Dustin Ackley is the West Coast version of Chase Utley. The Mariners second baseman showed the world (or at least everyone awake at 3 a.m.) why so many baseball pundits had high hopes for him coming into the season. The second overall pick in the 2009 draft clobbered a home run to right-center off noted ground baller Brandon McCarthy, stole a base, and drove in the go-ahead run in the win. He’s got some work to do on defense, but that Ackley cat can flat-out hit.
- The Mariners run the bases, like they’ve never been on base. Maybe it was just early season jitters last night, but the Mariners had a pair of base running gaffes (Michael Saunders getting thrown out at third on a ball hit in front of him and Brendan Ryan getting caught stealing second) that a team with limited run scoring ability can’t afford to make.
- Ichiro isn’t finished just yet. The least prototypical number three hitter in baseball thrilled the crowd in his home country with four hits including a key RBI single in the 11th. The 38-year-old Suzuki struggled mightily in 2011, and a strong year from the M’s elder statesman could go along way towards a turnaround season for Los Marineros in 2012.
What new things will we learn about the Mariners in game two of this whirlwind ride known as the 2012 season? Tune in to Root Sports at 2 a.m. tomorrow morning to find out!