Insights from Mariner’s opening day
Well folks, baseball is back and as all baseball fans are want to do, I am excited and hopefull for the Seattle Mariners this year–even though we are probably doomed yet again. I have been going to the opening game for years and as usual there are a host of new expeirances that made an indelible imprint on me.
All hail the King
The first and biggest take-away is that the Seattle Mariners won 2-1 over the Cleveland Indians. The Inidans put former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber on the mound and he pitched his backside off with a 2 run complete game. That is normally enough to win but the King, Felix Hernandez got into the way back machine and shut down the Indians giving up just zero run. The Cleveland team that won 100 games last year looked hapless against the King as he fanned 4 and gave up just 2 hits in just over 5 innings.
Many had wondered if the King should have even been the opening day starter, after all James Paxton has been emerging while the King had regressed. Well, give me 5 innings and zero runs every game Felix and you can call your own shots in this town.
There is a new nickname for the Mariner’s bullpen. The self-ascribed “Wolfpack.” GM Jerry Dipoto has placed extra emphasis on the bullpen these last several years, attempting to duplicate the model of the KC Royals from a few years ago. The concept is to limit injury prone starters like Hernandez, Paxton, and Mike Leake to 5-6 innings and allow the receivers to bear the brunt of the back end innings. The idea is to reduce injury risk and bring in flamethrowers to keep opposing batters on their toes.
Felix only threw 83 pitches into service last night and in to fill his place were 5 relievers to harass the opposition. The combination of Dan Altavilla, Marc Rzepczynski, Nick Vincent, Juan Nicasio, and Edwin Diaz went 4 and 2/3rds innings allowing 1 run and 3 hits, while striking out 4. Expect more of the same this season from the Wolfpack.
The M’s trotted out a 44 year old Ichiro last night. Ichiro Suzuki made his return to the Mariners after stops at New York and Miami. He did not get any hits but he did not embarrass himself on defense. In the last 11 years, the Mariners have put out 9 different left fielders: Raul Ibanez (2008), Endy Chavez (’09), Milton Bradley (’10-11), Mike Carp (’12), Michael Morse (’13), Dustin Ackley (’14-15), Norichika Aoki (’16), Jarrod Dyson (’17) and now Ichiro all take their turns.
The crowd went nuts for Ichiro with each at bat and each defensive play. This almost seemed like a capstone to a career, and while most likely Ichiro wont stick around with the team throughout the season, he deserved a moment like tonight to shine in front of the crowd.
Boy oh boy was the crowd raucous last night, 47,149 were in attendance, the largest crowd in regular-season history. Wether it was King Felix “K” chants, the Ichiro introduction ovation, or the jubilation over the 2 run bomb by Nelson Cruz, this fan experience felt absolutely electric.
“I mean, it felt like playoff atmosphere,” said Cruz, who has played in two World Series with the Rangers and went to the ALCS with the Orioles.
The crowds were think and lines were long but you could feel the excitement–perhaps a bit more than years previous. Part of it maybe the Thursday night start as usually the season starts on Mondays during the day. Another part is that the M’s have always been good at drumming up excitement and having Felix and Ichiro start brought back some of that nostalgia.
Other new tidbits
- The M’s unveiled a between “Big Maple” challenge as a fan was put up against James Paxton to compete in a trivia contents. After a few softball questions, the fan was asked some really difficult questions that he rather expectedly got wrong. As punishment, the fan got doused with a jug of maple syrup in centerfield.
- Lines were ridiculously long for everything. One way that I got thru the lines was a service called “Clear.” This is not intended as a plug, but I signed up for it and it did a fingerprint scan and I got in without a wait.
- A huge military transport jet, perfectly timed, did a flyover. The plane looked larger than my condo complex and seemingly scrapped the top of the stadium….man was it loud…and cool!
- Beer and food lines were long, it seems that the vendors are still in spring training mode themselves.
- And a new stat was added to the scoreboard “MV.” MV stands for mound visits, for which each team gets 6 per game. It is an effort to speed up gameplay–I think it is a good idea, not sure why it needs to be on the scoreboard though