Drayer: Plenty to like from Mariners’ season-opening win over A’s

Mar 20, 2019, 9:33 AM

Ichiro was replaced in the Mariners lineup in the fourth inning of Wednesday's MLB opener. (AP)...

Ichiro was replaced in the Mariners lineup in the fourth inning of Wednesday's MLB opener. (AP)


TOKYO – Throughout spring training, Mariners manager Scott Servais made it a point to emphasize to the media that Seattle’s two season-opening games in Japan would not define the Mariners’ year. While the Mariners’ 9-7 win over the A’s was far from perfect, in retrospect Servais would perhaps take what he saw at the Tokyo Dome on Wednesday most nights this season.

Santana hits slam, Ichiro cheered as Mariners top A’s 9-7 in opener

The ‘good’ included what we saw at the plate, with Mitch Haniger the only Mariners starter to not reach base safely in the game. While the Mariners amassed only seven hits in the game, they did draw six walks and put together some terrific at-bats – particularly in their five-run third inning that forced A’s starter Mike Fiers from the game. The big blast, a Domingo Santana opposite-field grand slam, was preceded by a six-pitch Edwin Encarnación walk.

Santana was not the only new Mariner to impress in his debut. Tim Beckham reached base safely in all four of his plate appearances, going 3 for 3 with a walk and a two-run home run. Dylan Moore walked in his Major League debut and picked up his first big league stolen base. Jay Bruce recorded just one hit but also made a tough catch in right field after starting the game at first base.

More good on the pitching side as well, with Marco Gonzales going six innings on just 69 pitches. He was on a pitch count of 80-85, but after six up-and-downs combined with a shorter spring training than usual, Servais thought it wise to take him out. While Nick Rumbelow struggled in relief of Gonzales, giving up three runs while recording just one out, fellow relievers Cory Gearrin, Zac Rosscup and Hunter Strickland slammed the door on the A’s, preserving a two-run lead and handing Gonzales the first win of the season.

The defense was, as expected, shaky. When your first baseman is at third (Ryon Healy due to Kyle Seager’s hand injury), your right fielder in center (Haniger due to Mallex Smith’s arm injury), your sometimes DH at first and in the outfield (Bruce), your left fielder being someone who has only played right (Santana) and your catcher known for being more of a bat guy than a glove guy (Omar Narváez), there are going to be bumps. We saw that from the get-go with Healy making a throwing error from the second base spot while in a shift.

Game 1 had a possible injury and definite intrigue.

Daniel Vogelbach, who took over at first base in the fourth inning, was hit by a pitch on the elbow. He stayed in the game but will be re-evaluated Thursday.

Ichiro was lifted from the game in the bottom of the fourth, and while Bruce ran out to right field to take his place, Ichiro lingered on the left side of the infield, getting hugs from his teammates who were coming onto the field.

It was a scene that was foreign to the Japanese fans as they do not honor players that way on the field, and it left many questioning whether or not that was it for Ichiro. After the game Servais explained why he pulled him when he did.

“We certainly want to give him the opportunity to go out and play, but also get some other guys in the game,” Servais said. “I understand everybody wants to see him go all nine innings but we’re trying to do the best thing for the team and Ichiro understands.”

Servais said that Ichiro might not start the second game against the A’s but that he would indeed play.

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