JOE FANN

Fann: 6 takeaways from Mariners’ thrilling opening day win over Cleveland

Mar 31, 2023, 9:31 AM

Mariners opening day...

Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners celebrates with teammates after beating the Cleveland Guardians on March 30, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners opened up their 2023 campaign with a thrilling 3-0 win over the Cleveland Guardians on Thursday night in front of a packed T-Mobile Park. Ty France collected three hits, including a three-run homer in the eighth inning of Guardians’ reliever James Karinchak that accounted for all of the scoring.

France’s homer in 8th rallies Mariners to 3-0 win over Guardians

It was a quality win against a quality opponent with both teams reaching the ALDS last season. Here are my biggest takeaways.

1. Luis Castillo dominated

Mariners fans already knew Castillo was a bonafide ace based on his pair of starts during the postseason last October. But Castillo reminded the baseball world once again that he belongs in the top tier of the game’s best starters.

‘One of the best in the game’: Luis Castillo dazzles for Mariners on opening day

He tossed six scoreless innings in effortless fashion, surrendering just one hit without walking a single batter and striking out six. Castillo’s fastball had mid-90s velocity and plenty of life while his breaking balls appeared to be in midseason form.

The Mariners endured a brief scare in the third inning when Castillo was hit by a line drive back up the middle that he shared half hit his head and half hit his hair. Castillo, clearly unfazed, responded by striking out the next three batters to get out of the inning unscathed. It will be a joy to watch him pitch every fifth day.

2. Quality at-bats throughout the order

Former Cy Young winner Shane Bieber was also excellent, but his six scoreless innings were far more laborious than Castillo’s. He struck out just three batters while having to get out of a trio of jams. Seattle just couldn’t muster the clutch hit off Bieber and went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position for the game.

Still, the Mariners made things tough on Bieber from top to bottom, regularly working counts and making loud contact. Julio Rodríguez had about as impressive an 0-for-4 night as you could imagine with three fly balls that left you saying, “Oh, he just missed that.”

We’ve watched endless amounts of Mariners games over the years where the lineup felt anemic and punchless. Last night felt very different despite not scoring until the eighth inning.

3. A fine opener for Jarred Kelenic

Seeing Kelenic watch strike three go by with a runner on third and less than two outs in the second inning was unfortunate, but that was the one blemish on an otherwise impressive evening.

Kelenic went 1-for-3 with a single, a stolen base and a deep fly ball to center field that probably leaves the ballpark come summertime. I was impressed by his patience at the plate and his ability to lay off off-speed pitches out of the zone. It was an encouraging start to the season for Seattle’s top X-factor.

Drayer: No chasing numbers — Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic commits to his swing

4. Tommy La Stella… the designated hitter?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have “Tommy La Stella Opening Day DH” on my offseason bingo card. To his credit, he had a few solid at-bats with a hard hit lineout to leftfield and a groundout to second that advanced a runner to third base.

Maybe he ends up being a revelation and surprising everyone. I would certainly love to be wrong here. But even in what is expected to be a constant rotation, it’s still hard to stomach the 34-year-old journeyman being in the opening day lineup after Jerry Dipoto and Co. didn’t bring in a more prototypical designated hitter.

La Stella hasn’t posted a wRC+ of more than 100 since 2020, and he’s only had one season with double-digit home runs. All you had to do was look across to the visiting dugout for Exhibit A of who the Mariners could have gone after during the offseason.

Josh Bell signed a modest two-year, $33 million contract with Cleveland, a deal the Mariners could have done without having to worry about long-term ramifications.

I’m sure every Mariners fan felt some nerves when Bell stepped up to the plate with runners on second and third in the ninth inning before lacing a hard ground ball to France. I can guarantee you Guardians fans didn’t have that same level of concern during La Stella’s pair of at-bats with runners in scoring position.

5. Matt Brash lol

We saw Seattle’s trio of top relievers on Thursday night in Matt Brash, Paul Sewald and Andrés Muñoz, all of whom registered a scoreless inning of work. But it was Brash who stole the show with his devastating strikeout of José Ramírez.

Cleveland’s perennial All-Star whiffed at a 3-2 breaking ball and proceeded to corkscrew onto his keister in a highlight that immediately went viral on social media.

Mariners’ Matt Brash just made one of MLB’s best hitters look ridiculous

Brash has some of the best stuff in all of baseball, and he’ll continue to receive league-wide acclaim so long as he limits his walk numbers this season.

6. Crowd countdown

Mariners fans received a well-earned tip of the cap from manager Scott Servais following last night’s win. That’s because those in attendance at T-Mobile Park had a notable impact during the eighth inning.

Karinchak, a pitcher known for his… let’s call it “unique” routine between pitches, received an infraction for letting the pitch clock expire. Mariners fans jumped into action and immediately started counting down the seconds on the clock prior to every ensuing pitch. Karinchak threw a fastball to the backstop shortly thereafter and never regained control of the inning. He ultimately allowed the three-run homer to France after walking J.P Crawford and hitting Kolten Wong.

Mariners’ Matt Brash just made one of MLB’s best hitters look ridiculous

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