BRENT STECKER

Table Setter: Mariners’ electric start aided by Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger and Edwin Diaz

Apr 1, 2018, 10:34 PM | Updated: Apr 2, 2018, 1:10 pm

The Mariners have been 2-1 through their first three games of a season as recently as 2016, but there seemed to be some extra enthusiasm coming from their series win over the Cleveland Indians. Danny O’Neil of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore picked perhaps the best word for it writing about last Thursday’s opening night victory – exhilarating.

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Even with Mike Zunino and Nelson Cruz sidelined by injuries in the first few days of the season, there was something fresh and electrifying that could be felt at Safeco Field. Whether it was Felix Hernandez finding his groove out of the chute, the bullpen working as advertised or the offense’s ability to come back from early deficits, the Mariners provided plenty of positivity over their short homestand.

With the M’s now heading down to San Francisco to start their first road trip, here are three storylines to keep an eye on this week.

An exciting Dee-velopment.

On Thursday night, making his MLB regular season debut as a center fielder after a pretty stellar spring training, Dee Gordon had his first noticeable misstep in the outfield. Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes lofted a fly ball into shallow left-center field, and Gordon made a pair of mistakes on the play – first he stepped back when he saw the ball come off the bat, then despite having the speed to get to the ball didn’t take charge and instead let shortstop Jean Segura try to make an over-the-shoulder catch. The ball dropped in for a single, plating the only run given up by the Seattle pitching staff in the 2-1 win.

After that game, manager Scott Servais indicated plays like that would be part of the learning curve for Gordon at his new position.

“That’s one of the things (that will be) a little bit of a hiccup that you’ll see once in a while until Dee gets totally comfortable out there,” he said. “Those things will get better as we go along.”

It certainly looked like it got better over the rest of the weekend as Gordon looked plenty at ease in center. He took charge more on a few plays Saturday and recorded four putouts, and on Sunday he pulled off his first catch of the spectacular variety (see video at the top of this post). The slide was a nice touch, but it was all the ground that the three-time National League stolen base leader covered on the play that made it obvious why general manager Jerry Dipoto decided to acquire Gordon to play a position he was a complete stranger to.

It wasn’t just Gordon’s glove that made a difference against Cleveland, though. He smacked a go-ahead solo homer to right field in the seventh inning of Sunday’s 5-4 win, striking a decidedly Griffey-esque pose in the process, too.

While Gordon is still looking for his first steal – who would have thought he’d hit his first Mariners home run before he stole his first base for Seattle? – he found himself on base five times in 12 at-bats in the opening series and probably would have had a few steals if it wasn’t for Jean Segura’s ability to make contact, which on one occasion resulted in Gordon pulling in to third base from first on a single.

After what they saw against Cleveland, the Mariners have to feel good about the possibilities with their new leadoff hitter and center fielder.

The Mariners’ next All-Star?

Nobody has been hotter to start the season at the plate than right fielder Mitch Haniger. Not only did he go 3 for 3 on opening night against reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, he homered in each of the weekend games and looks like he has his sights set on a true breakout season in 2018. Three games in, Haniger is rocking a robust .625 average (5 for 8) with two walks and three extra base hits.

The funny thing about Haniger is he’s such a steady player that he doesn’t always stand out. Even on Thursday, his 3 for 3 didn’t produce any runs as Kluber shut down pretty much everybody else except for Nelson Cruz, whose first inning homer produced both of Seattle’s runs. On Saturday, Haniger’s solo homer was the first run Seattle scored to chip away at the Indians’ four-run head start so it was a bit buried behind other plays, most notably Ichiro Suzuki’s memorable catch. Even Haniger’s two-run shot on Sunday was lost in the mix some as it come in the same inning as Gordon’s, even though Haniger’s ended up being the eventual game-winner.

No matter how much attention his hits get in the moment, it’s clear Haniger is swinging the bat well, something Servais said just started to fall into place late in spring training.

“The last day of spring he started to find something,” Servais said. “Sometimes with a hitter like that, it’s just one at-bat, something clicks.

“Mitch is swinging the bat outstanding. … (He’s) right on everything.”

Untouchable Edi.

Edwin Diaz has the stuff to be a superstar closer, and this could very well be the year he puts it all together. At the very least he’s come into 2018 looking as unhittable as ever. That’s not to say he’s in midseason form quite yet, though.

Diaz recorded saves in each of Seattle’s two wins, has recorded strikeouts for all six outs, and has yet to allow a hit. But he was certainly rattled on opening night, hitting two batters, allowing two stolen bases and even getting called for a balk while trying to lock up a one-run Mariners win. His filthy slider bailed him out, however, and he put together about as perfect of an inning as possible on Sunday to make sure that victory was as drama-free as they come.

“He looked like he was less caught up in the moment today,” Servais said after Sunday’s win, a game in which Diaz touched 100 mph with his fastball. “Really good stuff. That’s Edi Diaz – when the ball’s down like that and (there is) the explosion on the fastball, the slider’s really tough to lay off. We’ll take about 95 more of those out of him this year.”

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Table Setter: Mariners’ electric start aided by Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger and Edwin Diaz