We break down the opening series with the Giants, as the Mariners take two of three games to get the 2021 season off to a winning start.
Baseball is back and fans are more appreciative than ever, after everything which has happened during the previous 12+ months. It also helps when you win your first series of the season, as was the case with the Mariners.
The M’s started off with an improbable come-from-behind 8-7 win in extra innings on Thursday. Friday saw San Francisco take the second game 6-3, before Seattle had their most complete performance on Saturday night in a 4-0 victory.
As you would expect, there were plenty of talking points from the three-game set versus the Giants. Here are four observations from the opening series at T-Mobile Park:
4) Marco Gonzales toughs it out, but some cause for concern
Heading into the regular season, we asked which version of Marco Gonzales would take the mound on opening day. As excellent as he was during his first two Cactus League starts, he was just as poor in his last couple of appearances.
In the end, the Mariners got the latter version of Gonzales in the opener, as he struggled from the word go. He allowed a walk to the very first batter he faced and gave up three on the night, albeit one was intentional.
Consider that the 29-year-old only gave up seven walks in total last year and never more than one in a game. Even though he only started 11 times in 2020, it still provides some context for what transpired on Thursday night.
Gonzales put Seattle in a 2-0 hole in the top of the second inning, and went on to give up eight hits and five earned runs in total. Three of the hits resulted in home runs, which tied for the most he has ever allowed in a single game. (His fourth time overall.)
In addition, the 2013 19th overall draft pick manged just two strikeouts, to highlight the struggles with his command all night. As a result, he was never in a position to become just the third pitcher in Mariners history to record two opening day wins. (Felix Hernandez has seven and Randy Johnson has two.)
On the positive side, it should be noted that at least Gonzales hung in there and gave the Mariners six innings, so as not to tax the bullpen too early. (Important when considering the game went into extra innings.) Speaking to the media after his start, he said:
“Yes I was definitely fighting through some timing issues, some things that I’ve been working (on) to iron out, but ultimately, the goal after the third inning was the grind. Go out and battle and get us through six (and) keep us in this ball game.”
Gonzales went on to say how the emotions of the occasion got to him a little bit, but — fairly or not — there is at least some concern based on his opening day performance combined with his last two spring training starts. He quite simply cannot afford to have too many repeat outings, as the Mariners need to rely on him at the top of the rotation.
NEXT: TRAMMELL JUSTIFIES DECISION TO GIVE HIM HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT