There are three things Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto is sure of after the first three games of the 2017 season.
First, that the Mariners’ starting pitchers have been impressive. Second, that their at-bats could be a little better. And third, and the most evident in the standings, is that the Houston Astros are the real deal.
“I think we’ve done a more than passable job at holding down their lineup through the first three games. This team’s loaded,” Dipoto said on “Danny, Dave and Moore” Thursday of the Astros, who beat the Mariners Wednesday night in extra innings to hand Seattle its third straight defeat to start the season. “They keep coming at you in the lineup.”
It’s not just Houston’s lineup is tough. In fact, that’s been the least of the Mariners’ worries as their pitching has limited the Astros’ stacked batting order to just 10 runs in 33 innings. It’s been surprisingly dominant pitching from Houston that has truly been the issue.
“I think what is probably the thing that stands out in these first three games, in addition to what we’ve done ourselves, which is not take particularly good at-bats from first pitch to last, is the pitching they are running out there right now,” Dipoto said. “Dallas Keuchel was the Cy Young form of Dallas Keuchel on opening night. The second day out, we got another Cy Young-like performance by Lance McCullers. … And then last night, whether it was Charlie Morton starting the game or maybe more impressively, Chris Devenski in the middle of the game. They’ve got pitchers with real stuff, physical stuff, and potent breaking balls that we just haven’t adjusted to.”
Seattle’s pitchers have impressed too, even if the M’s don’t have the wins to show for it. James Paxton’s scoreless six-inning outing on Wednesday night was particularly worthy of praise from Dipoto.
“I thought James, he was right on,” he said. “You can’t expect six shutout innings every time a pitcher takes the mound. He faced a really good lineup, as have the other two guys, and they’ve all done a very good job of giving us a chance to win these games. … He really took it to the best hitters in their lineup. James is very capable of being that guy, the front-of-the-rotation type guy.”
Dipoto is confident the wins will start coming for the Mariners as long as they keep seeing starts like the ones they’ve had from Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez to open the season.
“If we can pitch like that, we are going to win a lot of games. Unfortunately for these three days we have run into some really tough pitching with the Astros and we have exacerbated this situation with some really poor at-bats, particularly with runners in scoring position. We’ve had chances and we just haven’t come through.”
• Felix Hernandez has gone from probable to a virtual lock to start Saturday, as he had a bullpen Thursday and looks good to go, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer reports. Hernandez exited his start Monday after just five innings and 65 pitches due to a groin injury.
• The Mariners added left-handed pitcher Dillon Overton back to the team from the paternity list and optioned right-hander Chase De Jong to Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday. You can read about that move and Seattle’s lineup in this post.