Seattle Mariners fans are not spoiled. This much can hardly be debated – who’s going to argue that those who willingly follow a perrenial fourth-place team are soaking up a sweet-and-easy baseball experience? But as far as Opening Day is concerned, Mariners fans might be a little spoiled. See, the Mariners win on Opening Day, largely because that’s always a day when Felix Hernandez pitches. The winning streak alone has made the first game of the season extra-fun in Seattle.
This year’s Opening Day was particularly enjoyable, as the young guys who need to step up all stepped up, Robinson Cano wore blue and teal, and The King posted his highest-ever single game swinging strike rate. The M’s beat a hated rival by seven runs. There was no way that game two was going to be nearly that fun. But here we are, basking in the afterglow of game two, which was absolutely nearly as fun as the one that came before it.
For years, the first sobering sign of baseball season was Jason Vargas trotting out to the mound to lead the 1-0 Mariners against the 0-1 A’s. Game one would let you dream, but game two would feature Jason Vargas front and center. This year’s game two featured Erasmo Ramirez, still a young kid but also fresh off a legitimately disappointing 2013 in which he injured, then homer-prone. Yes, Ramirez did give up a home run last night, and to Raul Ibanez nonetheless. But there were also six strikeouts against no walks, which is just wonderful.
Ramirez cruised through seven innings of two-run ball with only 93 pitches, letting three fresher arms finish the game. He was sharp throughout, and though his fastball velocity only reached 92 or 93 a handful of times, he completely owned Mike Trout a couple of times. It’s hard not to view Erasmo’s debut as a huge success.
The team behind him was pretty awesome, too. Against C.J. Wilson, the Mariners had a big fourth inning, as Abraham Almonte and Justin Smoak each ripped RBI doubles in the frame to give the M’s a 4-0 lead. Smoak’s hit came right after Robinson Cano was intentionally walked to load the bases, and resulted in three runs and a clearly shaken Wilson. After the game, Wilson acknowledged that he didn’t even want to discuss the fact that he put a lefty on to face a righty-swinging Smoak. There’s so much evidence that Smoak will probably suck this year. Let’s all hope the evidence is as wrong as it’s looked the last two days.
Brad Miller hit two home runs, and at this point his dinger pairings are becoming a thing of comedic wonder. Miller doesn’t only hit home runs in pairs, but he almost only does, and that’s strange and awesome. His first came off Wilson in the fifth with two outs and nobody on, while his second was a two-run shot in the eighth against some guy named Michael Kohn. Reminder: Brad Miller is a 24-year-old shortstop who plays defense and hits home runs. He has superstar upside. He’s as important a piece as any, and all he’s ever looked is awesome.
Against one of the Anaheim’s two best pitchers, the whole Mariners lineup looked awesome. C.J. Wilson is legitimately good, and the M’s knocked him around to the tune of six earned runs. They struck out eight times against him, but they hit him hard. It’s a fine tradeoff if you ask me. Strikeouts are great, but wins and losses are what count in the standings. Wilson can take solace in his peripherals if he wants, but the M’s still beat him up. Remember that the Angels are a popular pick to win the division, largely on the strength of their apparent health and top-heavy roster. If the M’s can blow past the top of the Angels squad, then all of a sudden the Angels don’t seem like a hot division pick at all. Rather, they seem like a hot pick for third or fourth.
Joe Beimel made his Mariners debut in the eighth inning, relieving Tom Wilhelmsen with two outs. Beimel immediately picked David Freese off at first, ending the inning and ending his appearance. The whole thing was goofy and excellent. Fernando Rodney entered in the ninth with the Mariners already up 8-3, which I guess is a close enough score to use the closer. Check back later to see if 9-3 is a Rodney or Farquhar situation. Ibanez singled to open the ninth. Howie Kendrick flailed at a third-strike changeup for the first out, and Hank Conger sent a double play ball right at Robby Cano to end things.
The Seattle Mariners are 2-0, first place in the AL West. They own the best record in the American League, and are tied with the Miami Marlins for best record in baseball. They have outscored their opponents 18-6, and the resulting +12 run differential is the best in MLB. FanGraphs now has the Mariners projected to go 84-78, while their playoff odds are up to 40.6%. These games count in the standings, and the result is that the M’s now have a slight head start over the rest of baseball. After two games, the M’s are the best at baseball. Only 160 to go!