If you didn’t have an opportunity to catch last night’s Mariners 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians in the season opener, that’s really all you’d need to know. That the M’s won over reigning Cy Young winner Cory Kluber, made it that much more remarkable.
Quite simply, Felix Hernandez came out in the first inning and retired the Tribe on 11 pitches and set the tone for a game that would be his to win. The King went 5.1 innings on 83 pitches, allowed no runs on two hits, struck out four and walked two. In the game on a limited pitch count, Felix showed he could pitch in a new way. Fingers crossed for start number two.
Cory Kluber is not an easy early season draw. So when Robinson Cano singled in the first inning, Nelson Cruz followed with an ambush of a first-pitch cutter that stayed in the middle of the plate. The big man stroked a majestic mortar shot into the left-center seats 411 feet away. Mariners lead 2-0.
The M’s remained stayed ahead running out platoons of relievers to fill in after Felix left to a standing ovation in the sixth. Dan Altavilla got Jose Ramirez to ground into a double play after Jason Kipness walked. The seventh inning was more challenging as the Indians dinked and dunked a couple of hits around a Lonnie Chisenhall double, scoring a run, cutting the M’s lead to 2-1, but Nick Vincent eventually escaped. Juan Nicasio pitched a perfect eighth.
The ninth inning, I wouldn’t exactly call magical, I would suggest it was stomach churning. Closer Edwin Diaz came on to wrap things up and promptly struck out Yonder Alonso. But he hit Edgar Encarnacion on the hand, and balked pinch-runner Rajai Davis to second. Diaz followed by hitting Chisenhall, so tying and go-ahead runners on base with one out. Davis stole third. The air began to come out of the balloon. But Diaz struck out Yan Gomes and Tyler Naquin to put a point on the evening. M’s win.
Felix Hernandez-He may not be the King we remember, but he showed he can still get the job done. He did, at times throw a lot of pitches. 23 in the second inning wiped out much hope of him getting through the sixth inning. But he was good, and he looked nasty, depending more on a great curve than I can remember.
Nelson Cruz-Cruz didn’t play much during Spring Training, nursing a quad injury which was clearly evident during a ground out in his second at bat. But when he gets solid bat on the ball contact he sure is nasty. The news of his decline is, at least for one night, premature.
Mitch Haniger-Another guy who didn’t play a lot in the Cactus League due to the injury. Haniger was 3-3 against one of the toughest pitchers in the American League.
The Bullpen-Notwithstanding Diaz’s struggle with command, the bullpen threw 2.2 innings, allowing only one run.
Dee Gordon’s Oops-We were all wondering when Dee Gordon would have an outfield “moment” due to his lack of experience. He got it out of the way early, taking a step back on a ball into the left field/center field/shortstop triangle of dropped balls. during the sixth inning. It fell in for a single. There will be more, but I think he’ll be fine.
Ahem, Edwin Diaz-Lots was made about Diaz’s new approach to his game. Maybe it was opening-day jitters, maybe it was just a tough night. Here’s hoping the next forty or so saves are a bit easier to come by.
But honestly, I’m just bitchin’. It was a great game. The M’s managed just enough offense to win. The pitching was just good enough to hold off a really good Indians team, going with a great starter in Kluber. Let’s do it again Saturday.