With the team headed to Safeco Field for the home opener against the Cleveland Indians Friday, hopes and expectations were high.
Sure, the M’s had won just two of their first six games. Sure, they had gone into Arlington and gotten their behinds handed to them by the Rangers.
But it was Opening Night, and somehow all was momentarily forgotten. Ichiro and King Felix were set to receive their awards in front of a sold-out crowd.
Local icon and rapper Macklemore performed his hit song, “My Oh My”, a lyrical tribute to the late broadcaster Dave Niehaus.
But boy, did the Mariners flop on Friday night. In what was one of their worst home openers in team history, the Mariners were thrashed by the Indians.
In the fourth inning, everything unraveled for Jason Vargas and the M’s. Five consecutive base hits were knocked off of Vargas, and it took him six batters to record his first out, an RBI sacrifice fly.
After former Mariner Jack Hannahan joined in on the batting practice session and delivered an RBI single, Vargas’ night was over.
Vargas lasted just 3 1/3 innings as he was tossed around, giving up seven earned runs on nine hits. He struck out only one batter as the same command of his strikeout pitches exhibited against the Athletics was nowhere to be seen.
And the bullpen, one of the most well-rested in all of baseball, was in for a rude awakening. Reliever Tom Wilhemsen could not stop the bleeding, as he surrendered five runs in less than 1 2/3 innings.
But the chief concern for the Mariners tonight was Jason Vargas and his puzzling inconsistency. Vargas was impressive if not brilliant in Safeco Field last year, going 9-6 with a remarkable 2.84 ERA.
But after he followed up his outstanding performance against the A’s with this stinker, doubt has suddenly been cast as to whether or not he can stay as a reliable contributer in the rotation, much less the No. 2 starter.
Ichiro was the only M’s batter to accomplish anything of note, going 2 for 5 with 2 RBI on the night. Justin Smoak went 1 for 3 with a walk, continuing his streak of increased patience at the plate.
The problem with Friday evening’s game went past the 12-3 result that the scoreboard indicated. The M’s offense only generated six hits compared to the Indians’ 17, but it went past that too.
What pained me was the lack of effort and fight in the team, an indictment commonly made against the ’10 Mariners, who seemed to quit when things didn’t go right.
This lack of focus was epitomized by the throwing error and wild pitch made in the same play in the fifth inning, giving away an easy run.
And things certainly aren’t going right as the team falls to 2-5, desperately searching for a win.
But to quit now after a disappointing start would be ludicrous. The Mariners are obviously in dire need of a win, or at least something positive to build off. They’ll need the veteran leadership to step up as well.
But to seemingly toss in the towel as they did against the Indians is something the team cannot stand for.