Encouraging signs from Smoak, Ackley in opener

Apr 1, 2014, 8:20 AM | Updated: 8:25 am

Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley combined for six RBIs and 10 total bases in the Mariners’ opener. (AP)

By Danny O’Neil

Seattle’s patience was rewarded.

At least it was for one night.

The Mariners have spent years waiting for Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley to blossom into big-league difference makers. They only had to wait until the ninth inning in Monday’s season opener when the pair of former prospects erased any hint of doubt about the outcome.

Smoak’s three-run home run didn’t decide the Mariners’ victory in Anaheim. Neither did Ackley’s bases-loaded triple, but those two hits served as twin exclamation points on a comeback victory: Mariners 10, Angels 3!!

Sure, it’s only Game 1. Yes, it’s premature to talk about anything even resembling a trend. Heck, it’s not even April.

But given how familiar the first six innings of Monday’s game felt, it was hard not to be encouraged by the result. I heard that from the crowd of more than 10,000 watching at Safeco Field for the Mariners’ open house. I saw it from Felix Hernandez as he stayed in the dugout after pitching his six innings, standing on the top step and pumping his fist in celebration when Mike Zunino’s seventh-inning triple scored Ackley to tie the game 3-3.

For six innings, Hernandez put up the kind of effort Seattle has grown accustomed to. He gave up a two-run homer to Mike Trout before recording an out not to mention that he consistently spiked his changeup in front of the plate. But after allowing base hits to the first two Angels he faced, Hernandez only allowed two more hits while walking just one and striking out 11.

It wasn’t quite dominant, but it was in the neighborhood, and this time his efforts earned him the victory after Abraham Almonte singled in Zunino for the Mariners’ second run of the inning. That gave Seattle a 4-3 lead when Yoervis Medina came in to replace Hernandez.

Fernando Rodney was warmed up and ready to enter the game for the bottom of the ninth when Seattle’s bats took him out of a save situation. First, it was Smoak with his second extra-base hit of the night, this one a towering three-run home run. Then it was Ackley with his second base hit of the game, a bases-clearing triple.

And Seattle’s patience paid off. At least for one night, and as first steps go, this one felt pretty good.

Brock and Salk podcast

Brock and Salk

Mariners Scott Servais Jerry Dipoto...
SeattleSports.com Staff

Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto explains their offseason direction and expectations

On Thursday's Jerry Dipoto Show, the Mariners president of baseball operations delved into the team's payroll, approach this offseason and much more.
1 day ago
Seahawks Pete Carroll Geno Smith...
Brandon Gustafson

FOX’s Cowherd: Geno is a ‘great story’ but not Seahawks’ future at QB

FOX Sports' Colin Cowherd joined Brock and Salk to share his thoughts on the Seahawks' season and QB Geno Smith's success.
1 day ago
UW Huskies Michael Penix Jr....
Brandon Gustafson

‘Unfinished business’: Michael Penix Jr. breaks down return to UW Huskies

Star UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. joined Brock & Salk to talk about his decision to return to Washington for the 2023 season.
1 day ago
Seahawks Rams...
Brent Stecker

K.J. Wright: How Seahawks fixed early run D issue vs Rams

Former Seahawks Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright breaks down the change Seattle made after a shaky first defensive series in their win over the Rams.
2 days ago
Seahawks Pete Carroll...
Brent Stecker

ESPN’s Riddick thinks Seahawks’ Carroll knew all along they were good

ESPN analyst and former NFL safety Louis Riddick was around the Seahawks in the preseason, and he saw a "twinkle in the eye" of Pete Carroll at the time.
3 days ago
Seahawks Tariq Woolen...
Brandon Gustafson

Seahawks’ Carroll: Tariq Woolen has ‘legitimate chance’ to be dominant

Seahawks rookie CB Tariq Woolen came away with his sixth interception on Sunday. Pete Carroll discussed Woolen's play and sky-high potential.
3 days ago
Encouraging signs from Smoak, Ackley in opener