Everything looked a bit different on Opening Day today as I watched the Mariners after six months of waiting. Maybe it was because of the new ROOT Sports look instead of FSN. Maybe it was all the changes the M’s had made to their team in the offseason.
Maybe it was the fact that we were missing Dave Niehaus and his sweet, sweet voice...I found my eyes misty as I watched the pre-game Opening Day introduction narrated by Niehaus.
Or maybe it was that the Mariners actually had some offense tonight (too soon?). Regardless, there were some positive signs to build from after tonight’s ball game.
The M’s stranded several runners early on, but showed great patience at the plate.
Oakland A’s starter Trevor Cahill lasted just 4 2/3 innings, throwing a whopping 105 pitches, as the Mariners hitters forced the ace to exit early and then capitalized on the weak bullpen.
"[Eric Wedge] was in the dugout telling us, 'We're knocking on the door. Keep going, keep grinding,' " Mariners DH Jack Cust said.
Chone Figgins showed a rare flash of power as he cranked a solo shot off reliever Craig Breslow in the sixth inning, putting the M’s ahead and matching his entire season home run total from last year.
After a Cust walk and a Justin Smoak double in the seventh, Oakland’s defensive play melted down and allowed the Mariners to score three easy runs to widen the lead to 6-2.
M’s batters walked a combined seven times, demonstrating outstanding patience and an ability to put up runs and make King Felix’s night much easier.
Speaking of Felix Hernandez (or should I say ‘Larry Bernandez’?), the ace picked up right where he left off after his Cy Young-winning campaign last season.
After an understandably shaky first inning in which he gave up a two-run shot to Josh Willingham, Felix settled down and retired 24 of the next 27 batters.
Felix was dominant, allowing just five hits in all nine innings of work. He had ‘just’ five strikeouts, but got 15 ground-ball outs as he forced the A’s into submission.
"If you talk about Opening Day, you can't ask for much more than that," Wedge said of Felix’s performance.
Overall, the offense showed the potential for productivity. Ichiro did what he needed to by getting on base and stealing his way into scoring position. Smoak showed some pop as he belted a double to initiate the three-run seventh inning.
Miguel Olivo contributed well to the offense, going 2 for 5 with an RBI and showing that maybe the catcher position won’t be the black hole offensively that it was last season.
On Saturday, the A’s and M’s square off again as Jason Vargas faces Brett Anderson at 6:05 PT.
Ichiro is one hit shy of tying Edgar Martinez’s franchise record of 2,247 hits.
Felix Hernandez was the first Mariner to throw a complete game on Opening Day.