Mariners Take Opening Series from Cleveland
The Seattle Mariners headed into the opening season with a lot of questions to answer. With the longest post-season drought in all major sports and coming off a season where they once again couldn’t live up to expectations, one couldn’t help but feel apprehensive for the season ahead. To start off the year, the Mariners welcomed to Seattle a Cleveland Indians team that was expecting another deep run into the postseason after getting knocked out in the divisional round by the young Yankees last season. The Indians set an AL record with twenty-two straight wins at one point in 2017, and returned the majority of their starters for 2018.
Game 1: Felix Hernandez (0-0) vs. Corey Kluber (0-0)
Heading into their Opening Day matchup with the Cleveland Indians and Corey Kluber, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, the Mariners needed a vintage Felix performance and they got just that. In front of a record-setting crowd of 47,149 fans Felix was nearly unhittable giving up just two hits to go along with two walks and four strikeouts in 5 1/3 shutout innings. Felix was pulled after only throwing eighty-six pitches to ease him back in after missing some spring training games after getting struck by a line drive.
The Mariners only offense on the day was a Nelson Cruz two-run home-run in the first inning off Corey Kluber, but that was all they needed after Felix’s stellar start and the bullpen only giving up one run, highlighted by a three K ninth by Edwin Diaz for the save. One of the loudest cheers of the night was for the return of Ichiro Suzuki. The fan-favorite went hit-less in his Mariner’s return, but that didn’t seem to bother the crowd, as there were thunderous cheers every time he stepped to the plate. Mike Marjama was a surprise start for the Mariners filling in at catcher for Mike Zunino who was a late scratch after suffering an oblique injury before the game.
Game 2: James Paxton (0-0) vs. Carlos Carrasco (0-0)
After coming off a career year in 2017, James Paxton headed into 2018 trying to repeat his recent success from the year before. Paxton was facing off against Carlos Carrasco who led the American League in victories in 2017 in what was expected to be a pitchers duel. Paxton struggled uncharacteristically giving up a grand slam to Yonder Alonso en route to six earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings.
The Mariner’s bats came alive as well, however chasing Carrasco after he gave up five runs in 5 2/3 innings. Homers by Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz (his second home-run in two games) kept the Mariners close, but it wasn’t enough as the Indians escaped with a 6-5 victory. The highlight of the game belonged to Ichiro Suzuki as the ageless wonder leaped above the left field wall to rob a home-run from Josè Ramírez. Coupled with his first two hits of the season, it was a vintage Ichiro performance, one we had grown accustomed to in his previous stint with the Mariners.
There was a scary moment for the Mariners when Nelson Cruz was taken out of the game after twisting his ankle walking down the steps of the dugout. He will get checked out by the medical staff and hopefully return to the Mariners’ lineup very soon.
Game 3: Mike Leake (0-0) vs. Trevor Bauer (0-0)
In the rubber match of their three game series, the Mariners needed a stellar game from Mike Leake as they faced another dominant Indians pitcher in Trevor Bauer. Leake picked up right where he left off in 2017 and provided the Mariners with the exact performance they were looking for. Giving up just two runs on five hits in seven solid innings Leake was able to keep the potent Indians lineup at bay.
Mitch Haniger continued his stellar start to the 2018 season hitting a two-run homer in the seventh inning that proved to be the difference for the Mariners, as they clinched the series with a 5-4 victory. Haniger wasn’t the only Mariner getting the job done at the plate with Jean Segura & Kyle Seager hitting RBI doubles, and Dee Gordon hitting a Griffey-esque solo homer to right field (his first as a Mariner).
David Frietes made his Mariners debut in place of Mike Marjama behind the plate. He had his first MLB hit in the fifth inning, a double, and scored on Segura’s double to right field. Edwin Diaz looked absolutely dominant striking out the side to get the save. Diaz has six strikeouts in two appearances and still hasn’t given up a hit. A great sign for a bullpen that had very high expectations heading into the 2018 season.
The Mariners were able to take two out of three games from the Indians in a very tight series that saw each game decided by only one run. They get the day off before heading to San Francisco to face the Giants in a two game series.