Seems like it’s been a long time since we saw a red-eyed Kyle Seager wave goodbye to the crowds at T-Mobile Park. A long time ago, we saw Taylor Trammell laugh as he made an unlikely catch in the outfield, or Ty France blossom into a first baseman adjacent to Gold Glove, or Paul Sewald confuse batters with a fastball who sits a full tick below the MLB average, or any of the other nighttime heroes who have stepped up to help propel the 2021 Mariners to an improbable 90 wins. And it seems like a long, long, long time ago, the Mariners started Opening Day last year winning in a way that would become emblematic of Mariners 2021: the most chaotic way possible. After a long series of increasingly absurd plays, they finally won on a walk.
Today, in their season opener, the Mariners have somehow contracted an offseason marked by doubt and uncertainty, a wide range of personnel changes, including the departure of their franchise third baseman and baseball’s annual long winter slumber, and drew a business linking line between the 2021 team and the 2022 team. Yes, this team looks different, with a bona fide ace leading the rotation and a cornerstone of the franchise missing at third base, but the 2022 Mariners are here to reassure you that they’re still ready to be the lovable jesters you fell in love with. last year, both fun and frustrating, ready to put you to ease with the discomfort.
In baseball without clenching his teeth, Robbie Ray was as advertised when he debuted with the Mariners. The old saying goes that solo circuits won’t beat you, and the only circuit Ray allowed didn’t, in fact, beat him. He went seven innings – the first pitcher of this major this year to reach the seven-inning mark – throwing 96 pitches, 63 of them for strikes (65%), living up to his reputation as a hitter. John described Ray as a brutalist performer in his 40 of 25, noting that his throwing philosophy is remarkably simple for a beginner: fast balls up, sliders down, here he is, hit him if you can. Largely, the Twins couldn’t, in fact, hit him; Ray scattered just three hits over his seven innings, including a pair of hard-hit singles, one against perennial pest Carlos Correa and a home run from fellow Nu-Twin Gio Urshela when one of the sliders from Ray grabbed a bit too much of the plate and Urhsela literally threw him into the stands for a home run. He had five strikeouts and 17 flushes, more than double the next closest pitcher in the game.
Here’s Ray’s pitch cast from today:
Yet despite not allowing batters to do much with his business, Ray nonetheless had to dance out of harm’s way several times thanks to occasional lapses in command that saw him bat a batter and issue four walks. Ray said in his post-game interview that his misses were where he wanted them to be and that he felt his business was neat, which is a bit of a hot take when you’ve walked the eight and nine. batters once each, but we’ll attribute this one to getting things back on track, and we certainly won’t be discussing Ray’s performance today. Ray ran an incredible 90% strand rate last season; haters will say it’s unsustainable, but he blocked all six runners he allowed to reach base today, racking up double clutch plays, strikeouts and weak contacts when he needed it .
It’s not that Ray wasn’t grateful to his outfielders for putting away those fly balls – here he expresses his gratitude to Julio for catching a late-inning flyout from Carlos Correa that blocked a two-sweat fly ballouts).
Unfortunately, bringing the 2021 vibes also means bringing the not-always-reliable 2021 offense. The Mariners fought the Twins in a game of “no, actually, you first”, blocking ten – 1-0! – their own batters on base. The Mariners’ only races of the day came at a Mitch Haniger first-inning circuit:
It probably should have been a three-run home run, as Adam Frazier looked like he had hit the starting spot when Miguel Sanó seemingly missed the sack, and while we love the chaotic energy of challenging two pitches in the season, the Mariners unfortunately came up short on this one. It turns out that clearly announced audible proofreading explanations are no longer satisfactory when they’re wrong again.
And that’s all the Mariners would get. Throughout the game. This is the nasty part of Chaos Ball, remember, to get to a one-shot win, we first have to suffer a lot of non-capitalization of opportunities. Twins starter Joe Ryan was clearly the weaker of the two named pitchers, struggling powerfully with the zone; he fired as many walks as he hit batters (4) and only threw 42 of his 70 pitches for strikes – and that was with an area that looked more often like a post office than a a postage stamp. There was a chance in the third where the Mariners threatened Ryan, which was snuffed out when Correa made an excellent hitch on a hot shot from Mitch Haniger (106.3 on the spot, giving Hanimal two of the three balls the hardest hit in this game) who seemed destined for left field and an RBI. Correa also robbed Adam Frazier with a bounding catch, which meant Frazier was cheated on two hits today. I will be so happy to see Correa’s back for a while at the end of this series.
The Mariners got batters on base against Ryan, but repeatedly failed to pounce in his four innings of work, and so had to deal with absolute stinky dirt in Jhoan Duran’s paradise. It was my first time watching Duran and the Man, Edwin Díaz’s comparisons are not out of place. This thing is absolutely electric, not just triple-digit heat, but also with wicked movement. Ty France managed to spin 101 on the outside black for a hit, and Jesse Winker followed with his own base hit, but Duran continued to hit the side for damage limitation. I don’t normally post opposing team stuff in recaps, but I need you to understand what they were dealing with:
Zoinks! I mean, ZO-INKS. Call the Zoinksbulance, because we have a maximum of ZOINKS.
(Yes I misspelled his name there I was going phonetically, sorry Jhoan.)
The Mariners also failed to do anything against the less flamboyant Jorge Alcala – pretty tough when 94-98 is sort of less flamethrower and southpaw Danny Coulombe, meaning they headed into the final two innings of the game hanging on to a one-run lead. Paul Sewald was Paul-the-Wall himself, gently bringing out the top of the Twins range (Buxton, Polanco), and saw Correa on a grounder expertly managed by Eugenio Suárez, who had a rough day at the plate but made several solid plays in the third.
That left Drew Steckenrider in charge of the bottom of the ninth, and the first hitter he faced was a pesky Luis Arraez, who went down 0-2 and then worked a nine at bat before golfing a short shot. punch for a base hit—70.9 MPH EV with an incredibly annoying 0.830 xBA. Steck bounced back to knock out Sanó in Raleigh and take out Alex Kirilloff on an unpleasant change. This brought Gary Sánchez, a beleaguered former New Yorker, with the crowd chanting his name: Ga-ry, Ga-ry, Ga-ry. What a fairy tale that would be, right? What a beautiful story of redemption and the power of a change of scenery, of moving to a less toxic environment.
And straight away, it looked like this would be the story told:
Time is a flat circle. One-point baseball is back, baby. Prepare accordingly.
Kate’s Unsung Hero Game Award:
Cal Raleigh may not light up the box score with a single, a small helicopter beating the shift and two walks, but he quietly had one of the best games on the court today on both sides of the ball, skillfully managing his throwing stick, controlling the running game, making several key blocks and keeping the ball in front of him. It was a visual leap forward from Cal last year and hopefully a sign of things to come.