Seattle is a baseball town. The end of last season showed that the Mariners are able to capture the city when they are playing well. The top sports team spot in the city is now wide open with the Seahawks, the team that formerly held the attention of the city, trading away star quarterback Russell Wilson and heading into a rebuild. The Mariners’ 2022 home opener on Friday just further solidified that Seattle is now their town.
I was lucky enough to go to the game against the Astros. It was my first Mariners game in a few years and my first ever opening day, and it was so worth it. Baseball is not necessarily a sport known for its energy in the crowd, save for the end of the season and the postseason, but the atmosphere in T-Mobile Park on Friday was one of the best I have ever witnessed.
The last time the Mariners were playing games in T-Mobile Park, the fans were packing the stands as the Mariners went on a very unexpected run and nearly made the playoffs. The fans carried over that same energy from last year as they filled the stadium with over 45 thousand people for the first home game of the season.
The fans were more into it than any other baseball game I have ever seen in my life. From applauding the legendary Ichiro when he threw out the first pitch (a heater right over the left side of the plate for a clear strike) to booing the Astros in general, especially Jose Altuve every time he came up to the plate, to losing it for fan favorite players such as Mitch Haniger, J.P. Crawford, and Julio Rodriguez (who might have got the biggest cheer of the night in his home debut) when they were announced and ran down the magenta carpet in the outfield.
The fans were demonstrating a level of excitement and passion for the Mariners that I haven’t seen before (I was 2 years old the last time they made the playoffs, so I haven’t seen a ton of good Mariners teams). I finally realized why fans of other teams love baseball so much. It is so much fun to be in a ballpark with a bunch of other fans cheering for a team with some legitimate hype.
The fans weren’t the only ones that showed up on Friday, though. The Mariners showed up. And I don’t mean that because they literally showed up and were at the game, I mean that because the Mariners freaking showed up and played exceptionally well.
The first seven games of the seven were alright, but the team that showed up on Friday was the team that fans were excited about this offseason. Seattle scored 11 runs in the game. To put that into perspective, the M’s scored 21 games combined in their first seven games.
Adam Frazier led the way (and no that is not just a pun because he was the leadoff batter) offensively, going 4-5 with a triple, a double, two singles, four RBIs, and two runs. This was the type of game that makes the offseason trade for him look like a huge win for Seattle. He is elite at getting on base when he is at his best but he showed off a little bit of pop on Friday with two well-hit balls into the gaps that earned him extra-base hits.
The rest of the offense also played well (which kinda has to be the case when you score 11 runs). Eugenio Suarez capped off a solid game with a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Crawford continued to play well, adding another hit and scoring two runs on the day. Ty France provide a two-run double that broke the game open and gave the Mariners a comfortable 6-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
Marco Gonzales didn’t need a comfortable lead, though, because he was making the Astros’ hitters very uncomfortable all night. He had a very strong seven-inning outing, giving up just one run on four hits while striking out six batters and not issuing a single walk. The one run he did give up came once the game was virtually out of reach and was the result of a broken bat bloop single that scored a runner that reached on a double that landed right on the left field line.
I’m going to be completely honest here, I was a little disappointed when I found out that Gonzales would be the starting pitcher in the game. I would have been much more excited to watch Robbie Ray or Logan Gilbert or Matt Brash. I have nothing against Gonzales, he just doesn’t have the same level of hype as some of the other starters, especially because he had the worst performance of the five in the first go through the rotation. But boy did he prove me wrong. This was probably one of the best games that Gonzales has ever pitched, and it was damn fun one to watch. He started it out by striking out Altuve, which understandably got the crowd very excited, and he just kept going as he mowed through the Astros for the first seven innings.
This huge win against a hated division rival was the perfect way for the Mariners to start the season out at home. For the first seven games, it seemed like we may be getting the same old Mariners again. Doubts started to creep into the minds of Mariner fans of whether the offense was really improved and whether the pitching staff could hold up and be good enough. I don’t expect every game Seattle plays from here on out to be an 11-1 rout (although that would be awesome) but I do expect this level of competitiveness to persist. The team that took the field on Friday is the team that the Mariners should be this season. As long as they play closer to that team than the team from the first week, then this should be a fun season. And, hopefully, there are more baseball games in September that evoke the same level of energy from the crowd as there was on Friday. Seattle is a baseball town, after all.