Smoak and Ackley hitting stars in opener

It’s good to be a Mariners fan this morning.  I trotted up to Safeco Field with friends last night for the Mariners Open House and watched the game on the Jumbotron.  I didn’t see an announced attendance but it certainly seemed less than 10,000.  Those who did come to the fan-friendly event were rewarded.

Things got off to a shaky start when Mariners starter Felix Hernandez gave up a hard single to Angels leadoff hitter to Kole Calhoun followed by a booming home run to All-Everything Mike Trout.  Down two zip after an inning.  But the Mariners came back in the top of the second when Justin Smoak led off the inning with a double just inside the first base line, advanced on a Howie Kendrick error and scored on a Michale Saunders sacrifice fly.

The game got a little ugly in the third inning when Eric Aybar led off with a fielding error by third baseman Kyle Seager.  Felix retired Calhoun and Trout and seemed to be getting out of trouble when Albert Pujols blasted a double to the left field wall that Dustin Ackley seemed to misplay.  Aybar scored, and Hernandez seemed to really struggle with command of his change-up the rest of the inning, wild pitching Pujols to third, and walking Josh Hamilton before striking out David Freese to end the inning.

From the fourth to the sixth it was a pitching battle between the King and Angels starter Jered Weaver.   Things began to turn the Mariners way in the top of the sixth when Weaver walked Smoak and DH Logan Morrison.  Kyle Seager followed with a double that scored Smoak.  Morrison tried to score but was out at a play at the plate that was not close to end the inning.  Angel lead 3-2.

The Mariners followed their sixth inning uprising with more scoring in the seventh.  Ackley singled with one out and Mike Zunino followed with a triple that looked much like the ball Ackley misplayed in the third.  Ackley scored, and Zunino came home when Abraham Almonte turned a shallow line drive single into a hustle double.  Mariners lead 4-3

The eighth inning ended in desultory sparring by both teams.  But the real fireworks began in the ninth inning with M’s looking for some insurance for closer Fernando Rodney.  It began innocently enough with Zunino striking out and Almonte grounding out.  Shortstop Brad Miller got to first on an infield single, followed by Robinson Cano’s double to left.  With runners on second and third, Angels reliever grooved a fastball that Smoak turned into a towering home run.  Mariners lead 7-3.  Jepsen walked the next batter, Morrison, who promptly stole second, walked Seager, and was replaced by Nick Maronde.  Maronde walked the next batter, Saunders.  Ackley followed with three run triple to end the scoring.  Mariners lead 10-3

Felix finished the sixth inning and it would be his last, striking out 11 and walking one on 103 pitches. A parade of Mariners relievers came in to hold the Angels to just the three runs for the game.  Yoervis Medina, Charlie Furbush, Tom Wilhelmson and Danny Farquhar all shut down the Angels.  Furbush left in the bottom of the seventh when Mike Trout lined a single off his leg.  Wilhelmson was quite effective, throwing a perfect 1.1 innings before handing off the game to Farquhar for a perfect ninth.

It’s just one game.  Even so there were some positives to take away.  The Mariners hit with men in scoring position, going 4-9.  Smoak and Ackley both had great nights, and for the M’s to be successful, this will have to continue.  The bullpen shut the Angels down, while the Angels bullpen, hard throwers all melted down.  The Mariner batters drew eight walks, while M’s pitchers allowed only one walk.

Curiosity of the night: Mike Scosia used four relief pitchers against a Mariners lineup featuring six left handed batters, two switch hitters who hit left handers poorly and the right handed bat of Mike Zunino.  He never brought in a southpaw reliever.  What’s that about?

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