Nothing quite tops the sweaty palms and nervous jitters that an individual feels right before Opening Day of the upcoming baseball season. Some fans are ready for another postseason run, others are grinding through rebuilding years with their respective franchises, yet the unluckiest of them all are those hoping that this year, finally this year, it will be their team standing tall at the end of the season. The Seattle Mariners faithful fall into that third niche, after telling themselves again and again that “this will be our year”. After the first game for fans, there are two different ends of the spectrum that they can fall into; the first is utter bravado after a win, while the second is pure disheartenment. These feelings are usually unwarranted seeing as there are still 161 games to go, however, let us take a walk down the path of second group of fans for the sake of this article.
King Felix, a famous alias for the man making his 10th start for the Seattle Mariners, looked to return to his former Cy Young form after posting mediocre stats the past two years. To sum up his outing, Hernandez returned to the King Felix that Seattle Mariners’ fans have grown accustomed to over his tenure in Seattle; pitching a bona fide winnable game only to have another tally notched in his loss column. Don’t get me wrong, there were many mistake pitches thrown by Hernandez, including one to George Springer to lead off the bottom of the first that resulted in a home run, yet he still allowed the Mariners to stay within striking distance. With his velocity dropping, Hernandez effectively used his off-speed pitches to disgruntle the opposing batters, while continuing to mix up his locations on those pitches for even more effect. Tallying up six strikeouts and yielding no walks to the Astros is a well above average start, yet Hernandez was only able to complete five innings of his start due to tightness in his groin after he ran over to cover first base. Hernandez will miss no time after his short outing, but never count out a lingering ailment, especially when it concerns Mariners’ pitchers. A welcome surprise to this new bullpen was James Pazos, who threw in relief for the Mariners after Nick Vincent. Pazos lit up the radar gun sitting at 97 MPH, and having that velocity from a left-handed pitcher out of your bullpen could do wonders for the Mariners down the road in this long season.
Now, let us dive into the performance of the offense on Opening Day. No, you do not have to bring your deep-water diving equipment since the results of this game are found pretty near the surface; the Mariners’ offense mustered only three hits, two of which came from new addition Jean Segura. Don’t get me wrong, it was the first game of the season and most players are anxious to start a new season off well, so that had some effect on the dreadful day, not to mention they were facing a potential Cy Young candidate in Dallas Keuchel. The Mariners showed that they have some new faces in their lineup, and in order for that lineup to work, each individual has to figure out what role they play in the offense. Segura seems to understand his leadoff role seeing as he stayed on top of the ball forcing the defense to make plays with his speed, even laying down a drag bunt in which Keuchel proceeded to throw him out on after an acrobatic play. Segura understands that he is a table-setter and will score more runs than he will drive in. The three-headed monster of Cano-Cruz-Seager will need to react to one another’s at-bats in order to succeed this year. By adjusting their at-bats to the previous hitter, they will understand what they need to accomplish for the team to succeed in that moment. If the Mariners figure out how to play their speed to their advantage, they should hold their own in the mighty AL West.
Let me say this again, the first game of the season is full of hopes and dreams of fans that are either nourished or demolished, and usually misleading. One game does not make or break a season, especially the first game of the year. So far all of you out there who felt the despair of an Opening Day loss, keep your head up. You know why? Because it is just the beginning of a wonderful season of the greatest game to ever be played.