The 2022 Mariners are undefeated. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to say that but I can say that right now. After beating the Minnesota Twins 2-1 in their opening game, Seattle has certainly started the season out right. It wasn’t the prettiest win but it goes down in the record book all the same. Even though there are 161 games left in this season there are still some things we can learn from this game.
The most obvious takeaway from this game is that it is nice to have a true ace on the mound. Robbie Ray didn’t have his best outing, but he did provide a level of comfort that Mariner fans haven’t experienced in a while. Ray allowed just one run in the game on a Gio Urshela home run. The last time Seattle held its opening day opponent to one run or less was back in 2018 when Felix Hernandez threw five-and-one-third scoreless innings against Cleveland before the bullpen gave up a run. Having a player that can go out there every five days and be expected to hold the opposing team’s offense in check is a luxury that the Mariners have not had since King Felix.
Ray did struggle to find the zone at times, walking four batters, and he gave up that home run but other than that he showed a lot of promise. His struggles can probably be chalked up in large part due to a weird spring where he wasn’t able to fully ramp up and get ready for the season. Ray did end up giving a very good performance to earn his first win as a Mariner. He gave up just three hits and struck out five batters. He also did a great job managing the game when he did let guys get on base. He held the Twins hitless with runners in scoring position (0-4) and they left six runners on base. Ray also got two timely double plays, one of which he started himself. The strikeouts will come back to Ray as the season progresses but it is good to see that he can still get guys out effectively even if he isn’t punching them out.
On the other hand, the Seattle offense was good enough to provide Ray with the run support he needed to win, but just barely. The two runs the Mariners scored came in the first inning off a towering Mitch Haniger home run. Unfortunately, that was the end of the offensive production for them. The next eight innings contained four hits and no runs. They did draw seven walks in the game which shows great patience at the plate and control of the zone, so that is a positive. The negative came from what the Mariners did after those players drew walks, which was nothing. Seattle was a staggering 0-8 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base. Something is going to have to change very quickly if Seattle wants to be taken seriously this season. Getting hits with guys on base is a very important skill for a team to have so someone needs to step up.
Two candidates to take that step are Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez. The two young outfielders (Kelenic DHed this game) went a combined 0-8 with two strikeouts each. They managed to make good contact a couple of times but were not able to get a ball down in play. This isn’t the end of the world for either player, though. Kelenic is just starting his second season in the majors while Rodriguez was playing his first. What this does mean is that fans will still have to have a little bit of patience when it comes to the duo of budding superstars. That patience could be rewarded as soon as tomorrow or sometime next week or it could take a bit longer. I also had dreams of both of those guys just mashing it in the opening game so I understand that waiting for them to breakout might be tough but it will be worth it in the end. If you want a young player to be proud of after game one look no further than Cal Raleigh. He got the nod at catcher over Tom Murphy and Luis Torrens and rewarded Scott Servais for that decision by notching one hit and drawing two walks. Raleigh could be a very good catcher one day, especially at the plate, and this could be the start of a very good season that he can build upon going forward.
Sure, the Mariners’ opening day game could have gone a lot better but it also could have gone much worse. In a season as long as the MLB’s is, you got to take wins whenever and however you can get them, and that is exactly what Seattle did on Friday. This may not be the start that Mariner fans wanted but it’s the start they got. Hopefully is the start of something good and is just the first win of many to come in 2022.