Takeaways: How Robbie Ray, other new Mariners did in opening day win
The Mariners are on a 162-0 pace after their 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on opening day.
While many of the players on the roster may be new, the result was the same as we saw last year in that Seattle again came away with a one-run victory.
The source of the scoring for the Mariners? Who else but right fielder Mitch Haniger, who hit a massive two-run blast in the first inning to give Seattle the lead. Those two runs turned out to be all the M’s would need thanks in part to one of the biggest additions any team made this past offseason.
That would be Robbie Ray, the 2021 American League Cy Young Award winner who shined for the Blue Jays in 2021, going 13-7 while leading the AL in ERA, WHIP, innings and strikeouts.
A few months after winning the award, Ray signed a lucrative five-year deal with the Mariners to anchor their starting rotation. That’s certainly what he did on opening day, throwing seven innings while allowing just one earned run and picking up the win. Ray allowed three hits while striking out five, walking four and allowing eight hard-hit balls, per Statcast. Ray also induced 17 swings and misses.
“What a debut for Robbie Ray,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after the game. “Was really impressed with him today and how he went about his business … Great competitor. Really excited to have him on our team.”
Despite walking four and hitting a batter, Ray thought top to bottom his start went very well.
“I felt like my stuff was really sharp today. My misses were right where I wanted them to be,” he said. “The slider was crisp and, honestly, I threw a lot of fastballs early and was able to move it around. I felt really good.”
Ray had to work in and out of some trouble to hold onto the lead. He did just that, though, picking up two double play balls to help him get out of some self-inflicted jams.
In the third inning, Ray pitched around a walk and a hit batter to start the inning by striking out dangerous leadoff man Byron Buxton and then getting All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa to ground into an inning-ending double play.
In the fifth inning, Ray struck out Buxton with two men on before getting Correa to fly out to center field to end the Minnesota threat.
The only run Ray allowed was on a solo shot by Twins cleanup hitter Gio Urshela. Ray thought the pitch he made was a good one despite it leaving the yard.
“The one pitch they got me was still a really good curveball so I’m not even mad about it,” he said. “It’s one of those ones where you tip your cap and move on.”
Ray wasn’t the only new face to make his Mariners debut in Minnesota on Friday, however, with the lineup consisting of four players many were excited to see. So how did the other new guys do?
• 2B Adam Frazier
A 2021 All-Star infielder who came to Seattle in an offseason deal with the San Diego Padres, Frazier led things off for the Mariners – and got the game off to an interesting start.
Frazier hit a hard grounder off the first base bag that Miguel Sanó fielded. Sanó would run to the bag and get the out, but replay appeared to show he missed the base while Frazier slid feet-first into it. The Mariners challenged and lost, however, and Frazier started his day with a groundout.
Frazier ultimately went hitless in his Mariners debut, going 0 for 5. He did not strike out, though, and, per Statcast, he recorded three hard-hit balls with exit velocities over 95 mph, including 103.3 mph on that game-starting groundout.
• LF Jesse Winker
Seattle’s new left fielder, like Frazier, was a 2021 All-Star in the National League. He and a teammate we’ll get to in a moment were traded to the Mariners shortly after the MLB lockout ended in March.
Winker is noted for mashing right-handed pitching, and he picked up two base hits off of right-handers, accounting for nearly half of Seattle’s five hits on opening day hitting in the 3 spot behind Ty France (who reached base four times Friday) and ahead of Mitch Haniger.
Spring training wasn’t kind to Winker in the hit department, and he joked with Servais about his day compared to spring training.
“Nice to see Winker match his spring training total for hits,” Servais said with a laugh. “He was the first to tell me.”
Winker also recorded the final out of the game on the warning track, leaping softly against the fence to make the catch.
In a Seattle Sports Station 710 AM postgame interview with Mariners insider Shannon Drayer, Winker broke out a “Sandlot” quote when asked what was going through his mind as he made the game-ending catch.
#Mariners LF Jesse Winker to @shannondrayer on the @SEASports710 walkoff interview about what he was thinking as he made the game-ending catch at the wall: "Scottie Smalls, please catch it, please catch it."
— Brent Stecker (@BrentStecker) April 8, 2022
• 3B Eugenio Suárez
While Winker enjoyed some success at the plate in his first game in a Mariners uniform, the same can’t be said about the man who was also traded from Cincinnati to Seattle.
Eugenio Suárez, the slugging third baseman who has the most home runs in baseball since the 2018 season, hit fifth in the order on Friday, striking out in the first three of his four at-bats. He flew out to left field in his final plate appearance of the day.
• CF Julio Rodríguez
Perhaps no new Mariners player – including even Ray – had more eyes on him Friday afternoon in Minnesota than top prospect Julio Rodríguez, who hit seventh in Seattle’s lineup and played center field in his MLB debut.
Rodríguez swung at the first pitch he saw, resulting in a swinging bunt that traveled just two feet, per Statcast, for a 2-3 groundout. He did showcase some wheels on the play, though, with MLB.com’s Daniel Kramer noting Rodríguez had a sprint speed of 30 feet per second, which qualifies as “elite” in MLB.
After that, Rodríguez struck out twice and then lined out to right field in his fourth and final plate appearance of the day, giving him an 0-for-4 line in his debut. That lineout had an exit velocity of 98.7 mph.
Servais said that the ever-positive Rodríguez had some encouraging words after the game.
“Julio told me he is trending in the right direction. Never heard a player tell me that before, so it was an interesting day,” Servais said, laughing.
The Mariners continue their four-game, season-opening series in Minnesota at 11:10 a.m. Saturday. The radio broadcast will be carried on Seattle Sports Station 710 AM starting with the pregame show at 10 a.m.