The M’s lost to the Athletics 2-1 on Sunday due to a dominating performance by Sean Manaea. The Mariners mustered only a pair of hits off the hard-luck A’s starter and a pair of relievers.
But Monday, turnabout was fair play, as Seattle beat the visiting Astros 2-1 on a solo homer by the still gimpy Nelson Cruz, and took advantage of some less than perfect outfield conditions that turned into a run on back to back doubles by catcher David Freitas and center fielder Dee Gordon.
Two games, identical scores, one a win and one a loss. Not a lot in a 162 game schedule. But if those don’t give Mariners fans hope, I don’t know what will.
Let’s take a look at Felix Hernandez’s performance on Sunday. 97 pitches bought The King 6.1 innings, 7 K’s and 0 walks. The runs came when Marcus Semien led off with a single, and Felix uncharacteristically balked him to second. He grooved a 3-0 fastball to Mariner-Killer Jed Lowrie who deposited it in the right field seats, for the game winning homer. Hernandez allowed only five hits in his outing. While I’d love to see him get deeper in the game, the bullpen allowed only two hits and no runs during the remaining 2.2 innings. The team has to score to win, and the M’s just didn’t come through against a good A’s pitcher.
Monday night’s game matched Mariners ace James Paxton against former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel pitching for the visiting Astros. The Astros have smacked the Mariners around pretty consistently the past few years, and this series will be a yardstick to measure just how good the 2018 team might be. This was an important game.
And it didn’t get off to an auspicious start when that man, George Springer, led off the game with a 453 foot fly ball into the left center field seats. Paxton struggled to get through innings, while Keuchel seemed to breeze through them. But over the course of his 106 pitches, the big Canadian allowed only one more hit to, Carlos Correa. Paxton struck out 7 and walked three. Despite all the good news, he only got through 6.0 innings. The bullpen was brilliant for a second consecutive day and M’s won an exciting squeaker.
Though neither the Sunday or Monday performances were perfect, they were indicative of the impact that a healthy and effective Felix and Big Maple has on this team. They kept the Mariners in games against two very good pitchers and allowed the offense to scratch out what they could against good pitching. One day it paid off, the other it didn’t.
The Mariners should be congratulated for getting off to a hot start. But without seeming a killjoy, four of those nine wins have come against the Royals and A’s, who give every appearance of looking bad for 2018. They’ll need more strong performances from all their starters as the year progresses, and they’ll need to match up with the big guys too. That’s why last night’s win over the Astros is so encouraging. Here’s hoping Mike Ariel Miranda, Mike Leake and Marco Gonzalez can be effective too.