Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners Win On Opening Day, As Usual


I know, I know, this happens every year. The Seattle Mariners play a game one, because how else can you start a season? And every year, they win that first game. It’s been that way for the eight years before this one, and it was that way today, too.

More from Seattle Mariners

Felix Hernandez tossed seven strong innings, Seth Smith led an offensive attack that looked convincingly transformed, and the Mariners beat the visiting Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 4-1 in front of a sold out Safeco Field crowd. It was everything we could have hoped for, really. The M’s won, and they won with conviction.

Mike Trout vs. Felix Hernandez is my favorite batter vs. pitcher matchup in MLB, and today it lived up to it’s billing. In the first inning Hernandez started Trout off with a fouled-off sinker and a called strike. Trout took a ball, then hit three straight out of play, then another ball, then a deep drive to center. Austin Jackson took a weird jump, hitting his shoulder on the wall and impeding his momentum. The result: a home run. Trout won round one.

The M’s got on the board in the third after opening the frame with quick outs by Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller. Jackson doubled over a leaping David Freese and down the left field line, then Smith tripled into the right field corner to send home the first Mariners run of the year. One pitch later Robinson Cano knocked a single up the middle to make it 2-1. The M’s wouldn’t give that lead up the rest of the game.

Two more Mariners runs scored in the fifth, starting with a towering Ackley solo homer off Jered Weaver. He smacked it deep into the seats, and if you want to believe in Ackley’s 2015 potential, just watch how steady his swing is and how far the ball goes. Miller singled, advanced on a wild pitch, and scored on a monster ground rule double by Smith. Seth Smith ruled today. Three extra base hits! Good stuff.

Felix was the big story, of course. Felix is always the big story. Over his seven innings he struck out ten, only walking one and allowing two hits – the Trout bomb and a single by Erick Aybar. He plunked C.J. Cron right after Aybar’s hit, but got out of the trouble by striking out Chris Ianetta and getting a double play ball off the bat of Johnny Giavotella. Little did the Angels know, but that’s exactly what they brought Giavotella in to do.

Let’s revisit Felix vs. Trout for a minute, because it only got better as things went on. Leading off the fourth Felix got Trout to 0-2 before missing twice, then got him to strike out hacking at a low change. He fell behind 0-1 in the sixth before going foul, swinging strike, swinging strike. The story is that Mike Trout dominates Felix Hernandez. Sure, that’s long held true, but maybe that’s starting to change. Remember that Trout’s first inning homer almost wasn’t a homer at all.

Carson Smith got in on the Trout K fun, too, saving the day with runners on first and second and two outs in the eighth. He got a sinker past Trout for a called strike. He got a curveball past Trout for a called strike. He missed with his next curve, then got him out on a foul tip with a sinker. That was a huge moment, and would signal the arrival of Smith had that not already happened last September.

Fernando Rodney opened his season with a walk before shooting his first imaginary arrow – but not before fooling commercial star Logan Morrison once again, as the first baseman joined the closer on the mound for his save celebration. It was a feel-good moment at the end of a feel-good win, and now there’s no more baseball until tomorrow, and the Mariners are undefeated.

The Mariners are always undefeated after the first game of the year. This year is no different, except that this year is totally different. The team was supposed to be good, and they just showed us exactly why. The whole lineup is thorough and capable. You know who didn’t have hits today? Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Zunino. Didn’t matter, since the bottom of the order got it done. Anyone on this team can step up and be awesome. No more counting on the ghost of Kendrys Morales to provide some offense.

Through it all, there’s been Felix. Today, there was Felix. It was a happy Felix Day, just like we knew it would be.