What an emotional ending to the two-game series against the Athletics in Japan.
Of course, the leading headline of the series is the retirement of Mariners’ legend and all-time hits leader Ichiro Suzuki, but we’re going to look at the main takeaways from this mini-series. Ichiro, I will cover later. Here are the “way too early, but still going to mention” things I noticed:
First is starting pitching. Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi looked decent in their first outings. Marco worked through some kinks but was able to power through and ended up pitching well enough to leave the game with the lead. Yusei felt right at home—well, I guess he technically was. Having Ichiro in the lineup eclipsed his return to Japan to start his first MLB game. He pitched well, only allowing a single earned run in his 4.2 innings pitched. He’s the first Japanese player to make his MLB debut in Japan.
Second: The Bullpen. They remind me of that shady friend everyone has…you know, the one you invite to hang out, they say they’ll show up but sometimes they just don’t. They mean well, but you really can’t depend on them. (If you don’t have a friend like that, well…you’re probably that shady friend). To me, that is the Mariners Bullpen, right now. During the opener, Nick Rumbelow had an outing he won’t quickly forget. He struggled to find the zone and when he finally did, he gave up a 3-run blast. Zac Rosscup made two appearances, securing the win in game 2. He allowed a couple of walks but was able to regain command.
Closer Hunter Strickland also made 2 appearances and did his job as defined—close the game. Roenis Elias had roughly 1.2 innings of good baseball. His fastball/change-up combination was unhittable–briefly. The A’s were able to finally make contact before he was pulled. I believe Scott Servais wants to use Roenis as a long reliever, but I don’t see him having the stamina to make it longer than 2 innings. Dan Altavilla made his debut in game 2. I don’t trust him or his slider that bounces 4 feet in front of home plate.
Third: The lineup isn’t as bad as people think. Let’s start with Tim Beckham. He’s sitting 5 for 7 with a mammoth blast, plus he’s batting 1.000 when it comes to bat flips—if that’s an actual stat. Get used to seeing him in the lineup because JP Crawford still has yet to make the roster.
Ryon Healy has tallied 3 hits with a home run. The Oregon Alum is coming off a season where he hit .235 so early productivity is encouraging.
Mitch Haniger also has a few hits and a self-induced trip around the bags. It is nice to see him pick up where he left 2018. Domingo Santana showed off his opposite-field power with his grand slam in game one. As I mentioned in a previous piece, I think I’m most excited about Domingo and what he can provide for the Mariners.
Overall, my belief is that the Mariners have a lineup with the power and speed to score a lot of runs– they’re going to need to with the Felix, Wade, and Leake rounding out the starting rotation. Coupled with a bullpen that can be bipolar, scoring a high amount of runs will be pivotal to Mariners’ success in 2019.