BRENT STECKER

Off to 3-0 start, Mariners have chip on their shoulder about low expectations

Mar 28, 2019, 9:25 PM
Tim Beckham hit a pair of home runs off Boston ace Chris Sale in the Mariners' 12-4 win. (Getty)...
Tim Beckham hit a pair of home runs off Boston ace Chris Sale in the Mariners' 12-4 win. (Getty)
(Getty)

The Seattle Mariners know they’re not expected to be any sort of contender this season. And as Marco Gonzales made clear after his team beat the defending World Series champions 12-4 on Thursday night, those expectations are not of the Mariners’ concern.

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“In that clubhouse there, we don’t really care too much about what people think or what they say,” said Gonzales, who went 5 1/3 innings against Boston to get his second win of the season. “We got a locker room full of guys looking for stuff to prove, and I think that’s dangerous when you get a group together like that.

“You’re gonna see some fun things happen.”

They already are happening.

The Mariners are off to a 3-0 start that nobody saw coming, and they put some punctuation on that record by crushing five home runs (including three off seven-time All-Star Chris Sale) to knock off the Boston Red Sox in front of a national television audience on ESPN during the MLB’s Opening Day.

This is a Mariners team that itself has said it’s taking a step back in 2019 as it rebuilds, and prognosticators local and elsewhere have pretty much agreed the M’s aren’t supposed to be much of a winner. But manager Scott Servais said he and his players have a much different idea about this year.

“A lot of things have been written about our club, and we have a lot of games yet to play, but I like our team,” Servais said. “… When we take the field, it’s about winning the ball game. Not concerned about the future, the direction, all this other stuff, the ‘re-imagination’ – it’s about winning today’s game.”

That’s something that is pretty easy when a team is hitting the ball all over the ballpark like the Mariners have been.

Seattle hit four home runs in its two-game, season-opening series against the Oakland A’s last week in the hitter-friendly Tokyo Dome, but the Mariners came back to T-Mobile Park on Thursday and more than doubled their season total, pushing it to nine. That included a pair of homers by shortstop Tim Beckham (who is currently the Major League leader with three on the season), the first in a Mariners uniform for veteran slugger Edwin Encarnación, and the second each this year for Domingo Santana and Ryon Healy.

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While the show of strength in the batter’s box was certainly welcome, it’s the quality of at-bats that is standing out to Servais.

“We do have power on this club and we’ve got guys that are working their way into good hitting counts and not missing their pitch,” he said. “Some days we’re gonna hit four or five home runs, other days we’re not. But I do think we’re gonna grind through at-bats consistently up and down that lineup.”

Momentum is already on the Mariners’ side, and it sure seems like they are also benefiting from a chip on their shoulder due to the low expectations others have for them.

Both of things could turn out to be valuable as the season wears on.

“Our guys, they all have something to prove,” Servais said. “… I think that the more time they spend together, getting to know each other, it should be an interesting year.”

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Off to 3-0 start, Mariners have chip on their shoulder about low expectations