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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

March 28, 2012 at 3:02 AM

Watching the Mariner opener in the wee hours

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(Note: I’m doing this chronologically, putting the newest pithy observations on the bottom. Seems less confusing that way. Yes, that’s pithy with a “th”).

Here I am, a little bleary eyed, but eager to watch the Mariners in a game that counts. My faithful black lab Duke is lying next to me, wondering why he had to get up from his deep sleep. I was kind of wondering the same thing — I opted to take a nap, but didn’t get around to it until midnight, so it wasn’t very helpful. Running on adrenaline right now, with caffeine at the ready.

I watched the Cubs and Mets play in the Tokyo Dome in 2000 — I remember that ballpark. It’s the Asian version of the Metrodome.

Play ball!!!!

MARINERS FIRST INNING: Not exactly an inning that will inspire you about the new-look Mariners offense. But I loved that Ichiro’s debut as the No. 3 hitter featured…an infield single. I’ve consistently said that Justin Smoak is the key player for the Mariners this year. That wasn’t the greatest way to start — a weak strikeout. Repeat after me: Long way to go.

I initially was one channel off. Not the best time to take the “Nopalea Wellness Challenge”.

OAKLAND SECOND: Felix has a wicked changeup going tonight. Has struck out two with it already. But he’s got to be having a “here we go again” feeling as the Mariners’ hitters flail through two innings.

MARINERS THIRD: Very encouraging start for Michael Saunders, who continued a hot spring with a solid single. One at-bat means nothing, of course, but if ever a guy needs a fast start to maintain confidence, it’s Saunders…who then steals second and makes a baserunning mistake by getting thrown out at third on Ryan’s grounder to the hole at short. If Saunders holds, Ryan probably beats it out, and the M’s have first and second, no out. Instead, Ryan was promptly thrown out stealing, and poof, there goes a promising rally. Figgins, by the way, looks exactly the same as last year through two at-bats. That’s not a compliment.

Seven ground ball outs for Brandan McCarthy through three innings.

OAKLAND THIRD: Felix is dealing. Just what you’d expect from a Mariners-A’s showdown — scoreless through three.

Its not making it through this game that worries me. It’s making it through the work day that follows.

MARINERS FOURTH: Dustin Ackley gets the Mariners on the board with a crushed homer to center off McCarthy, whose sinker wasn’t quite as effective that time. Ichiro followed with his second infield hit — just like all classic No. 3 hitters. He died at second. Will one run be enough for Felix? It’s 1-0 Mariners.

A’S FOURTH: So much for the lead. A’s tie it up on Kurt Suzuki’s two-out double, after Felix was on the verge of stranding Pennington after a leadoff double.

Quick story: We used to have our computers at the Seattle Times programmed to change “Suzuki” in box scores to “Ichiro.” In 2008, when A’s played in Japan, the box score showed up in the paper after the first game with “Ichiro” catching for the A’s. We hadn’t accounted for rookie Kurt Suzuki showing up. That glitch was quickly fixed.

MARINERS FIFTH: I think the M’s offense is going to be improved, but you wouldn’t know it so far. Other than Ackley’s homer, not much going on against Brandon McCarthy. Half of their four hits are of the infield variety, by Ichiro. Still tied at 1.

A’S FIFTH: Two more whiffs for Felix, who now has six through five innings. This game looks suspiciously like many recent Mariners games, tied at 1. Zipping along (he jinxed).

MARINERS SIXTH: The M’s blew a promising situation after singles by Figgins (now hitting .333) and Ichiro (now hitting 1.000) put runners on first and second with Smoak and Montero coming up. But Smoak lined out to left and Montero grounded out. Still 1-1.

OAKLAND SIXTH: Great bit of pitching by Hernandez to work out of a first-and-third, one out jam. I guess that rocky outing in his last exhibition game was not meaningful; he’s been fantastic.

MARINERS SEVENTH: McCarthy is rolling along, retiring the Mariners in order on just nine pitches. Seattle’s first three hitters are 5-for-9, everyone else 1-for-17.

OAKLAND SEVENTH: Another great escape by Felix, who gives up a leadoff double to Cespedes (nice piece of hitting), then strands him there. Still 1-1. Who’s going to get the big clutch hit in this game?

MARINERS EIGHTH: Ryan Cook replaces McCarthy, with the same result: Mariners go down meekly. They’re running out of time. Curious to see if Felix comes out for eighth.

OAKLAND EIGHTH: Felix makes it through eight innings on 104 pitches and is probably done for the night. If so, it was a brilliant outing — eight innings, five hits, one run, no walks (but two hitter batters) and six strikeouts. But right now, he’s headed for a no-decision.

MARINERS NINTH: They can’t get anything going with 3-4-5 hitters up (Ichiro, Smoak and Montero) against Grant Balfour, so now the best the Mariners can hope for is extra innings. For a team touting a new-look offense, this has been a discouraging night. But the game’s still out there to win.

OAKLAND NINTH: The M’s and A’s flew nearly 5,000 miles to play these games, so they might as well get their money’s worth. Extra innings in the opener as Tom Wilhelmsen gets the A’s out in the ninth. But not without a scare as Reddick sends Carp against the wall on a liner. It’s 1-1 through nine. Bonus panels!

MARINERS 10TH: Another 1-2-3 inning, this time against Brian Fuentes. They haven’t had a hit since the sixth inning. They’re living dangerously.

OAKLAND 10TH: Speaking of living dangerously…Ackley made a throwing error to start the season, but Olivo gunned down pinch-runner Collin Cowgill trying to steal, and Wilhelmsen got out of the jam.

SEATTLE 11TH: Well, how about that? The Mariners pushed across two runs and will hand a 3-1 lead to Brandon League. Brendan Ryan got it started with a double, Figgins laid down a perfect sacrifice, and Dustin Ackley came through with an RBI single up the middle — his second RBI of the game. Ichiro added a big insurance run with his fourth hit of the game, a single up the middle.

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