No, there probably isn’t a point in trying to assign any real significance to two one-run victories to start the season.
MLB history is littered with teams that soared in early April only to nosedive by mid-May.
The Mariners, in particular, have teased fans plenty of times with success in their first few series before spiraling into a permanent sub-.500 abyss.
But let’s focus on the now — because this is the definition of fun.
The Mariners’ lineup has a myriad of new faces from last season, but so far the team’s identity hasn’t changed. Like they did throughout 2021, the M’s have not overwhelmed their opponents but simply out-survived them.
First, a 2-1 win over the Twins on Friday, when reigning American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray preserved the two-run lead Mitch Haniger provided with his first-inning home run. Then, a 4-3 comeback victory over Minnesota on Saturday, which was sparked by a ninth-inning double by rookie Julio Rodriguez, who, with two outs, was driven in by new second baseman Adam Frazier, who was driven in by Ty France.
For a team that has seemingly drummed up more offseason buzz than it has in a decade, this was about as ideal a start as could have been. And though it’s impossible to tell if the Mariners’ winning ways will last, it’s safe to say they have the city’s attention.
“There’s no panic with this team,” France said. “One through nine, we can get it done. We trust each and every guy, whoever is stepping up to the plate. Julio — he hasn’t had a hit yet, it’s the ninth inning, he just goes out and does it. Anyone in this lineup can get it done.”
Some encouraging news through Games 1 & 2.
1) Ray hasn’t (yet) dropped off since posting the best season of his career. In his Mariners debut, the 30-year-old gave up just one run and three hits in seven innings while striking out five. There’s a reason Ray didn’t get the elite money reserved for pitchers such as Gerrit Cole or Chris Sale or David Price. He hasn’t been as consistent in his career. Friday was a good sign.
2) The bullpen still looks sharp. Relief pitching was the reason the Mariners contended until the last day last season. Hurlers such as Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider regularly shut down hitters in one- or two-run games to help Seattle earn 90 wins. Yes, Andres Munoz gave up a two-run homer in the eighth inning Saturday as the Twins retook the lead. Overall, the ‘pen has gone six innings while giving up just two runs. That will work long-term.
3) France is feeling it. Ty led the Mariners with a 4.3 WAR (according to Baseball Reference) in the first season he had more than 201 plate appearances. It was a blessing the M’s hoped for but likely didn’t expect. Through two games, he is slashing .571/.700/1.414 with a game-winning RBI. And though nobody is pretending this is a significant sample size, nobody will argue with the results, either.
4) Logan Gilbert put in work. The second-year right-handed pitcher had long been one of the top prospects in the minor leagues. And though he was inconsistent last year (he posted a 4.68 earned-run average in 119 1/3 innings pitched) he shined in certain moments. Saturday against the Twins, he went five innings and gave up just one run and three hits. He didn’t get the win, but the Mariners likely wouldn’t have won without him.
I know, I know. The M’s won 13 of their first 15 games in 2019 before finishing 68-94. I’m not declaring anything right now. MLB may be more up and down than any professional team sport. There will inevitably be skids for this team down the road — perhaps starting Sunday.
Right now, this is the kind of excitement Mariners fans had been hoping for all offseason. A Cy Young winner dominated, an All-Star (Haniger) socked a two-run homer in his first at-bat of the season. And a hyped-up rookie (Rodriguez) ignited a comeback by making a ninth-inning double the first hit of his big-league career.
There is an eternity to go for the M’s. Everyone in that clubhouse knows it. But two games in, they’re doing what they did for 162 games last season — keeping us entertained.
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