This is opening day though, and what a delightful opener it was. It deserves a few thoughts:
- Something feels very "2011 Mariners" about having the first run of the season scored on a bases loaded walk. I can't explain why it felt that way, but it did. Anyone else get that same feeling? I think it helped that Jack Cust seemed genuinely pumped up about drawing the walk, with his little bat flip and fist pump. Really, after last season, I am okay with this team celebrating every run it scores.
- King Felix didn't dominate, but I would argue that we saw as complete of a performance as we will ever see out of him. I know I sound like some announcer desperately trying to be profound, but stick with me. When Felix dominates, he is untouchable. However, tonight we saw him have a rough first inning, then rebound, then battle, then seem to conserve pitches by inducing weak contact, and then blow away the A's with his nasty stuff in the ninth inning. I do not think it is a coincidence that two of his five strikeouts were the final two hitters he faced. Felix showed perseverance, craftiness, and then his pure talent. Frankly, he doesn't need all that when he's at his best. That's why I'd argue this is as complete of a look at Felix as we'll get.
- Honestly, I thought Trevor Cahill had better stuff than Felix tonight. Cahill's two-seemer was unreal. Its lateral movement had the Mariners frozen all night. However, it was a double-edged sword. While it allowed Cahill to rack up strikeouts, it also moved out of the strike zone a bunch. Both the walks and Ks upped his pitch count in a hurry. To the M's credit (I guess), they were content to sit around and watch a ton of Cahill's pitches.
- Between Cahill and the A's defense, I didn't see anything out of the M's offense tonight that gives me hope or despair. They sat around and watched Cahill for most of the first half of the game, and then allowed the A's to juggle the baseball around the diamond in the latter half. But hey, runs are runs, and every single one of them should be celebrated like a newborn child after what we saw last year.
- Michael Pineda got a fair amount of face time in the broadcast, because he seemed to be seated next to Felix much of the game. I'm not sure how much I believe in development through osmosis, but I know I want Pineda sitting next to Felix. I hope he thinks the only way he gets to stick in the majors is if he pitches just like Felix.
- By all accounts, Eric Wedge is the most intense manager the M's have had since Lou Piniella. It seemed like the Mariners were a little more animated than I was used to. This could be because it was opening day, it could simply be a fluke, or it could be something bigger. It is something to watch. Intensity isn't exactly a quantifiable thing, but if Wedge brings it, I think we can expect few errors, clean baserunning, longer at-bats, and a little bit of passion. At least tonight, I saw all of that.
- I have conflicting feelings about hit-and-runs. As a strategy, I hate it. I pretty much hate anything that takes pitch selection away from a hitter, especially since hitting and running also demands such a precise type of hit. However, the fan in me loves it when a hit-and-run is successful. It is poetry on grass. There is something so elegantly conniving about it. Aside from Felix's ninth inning, the highlight of the game for me was the successful hit and run executed by Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan.