The combination of poor pitching and sloppy defense results in the Seattle Mariners failing to build on the momentum of their opening day win.
Opening day brought reminders of last season, as the Mariners started 2023 with a positive result against the Cleveland Guardians. A stellar outing from Luis Castillo and just enough offense resulted in a 3-0 win.
Friday night saw another case of deja vu at T-Mobile Park. This time however it was more of the negative variety, courtesy of Robbie Ray.
A lot of people had been raving about how well Ray performed during spring training. In 17.0 innings, he recorded 26 strikeouts and an excellent 1.06 ERA.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, the 2021 AL Cy Young winner was unable to extend this form into his first regular season start of 2023. Instead, fans witnessed a performance which brought back memories of his inconsistent form last year, including a disappointing postseason.
A poor first start for Ray in 2023
On the night, Ray allowed four hits, five runs (three earned) and five walks in just 3.1 innings. While he wasn’t the only culprit, his performance contributed significantly to a 9-4 loss versus Cleveland.
The warnings were there right from the word go, as Ray’s lack of control saw him allow consecutive walks in the top of the opening inning. While he came through the first unscathed, it was an ominous sign that his pitch count was already at 25.
Julio Rodriguez gave the Mariners early hope, as he hit a lead-off double in the bottom of the first. He subsequently scored a run courtesy of a Kolten Wong single, to give the home side a 1-0 advantage.
The hope proved to be fleeting though, as Ray’s poor start continued into the top of the second with another walk. In fairness to him a throwing error by Teoscar Hernandez didn’t help, as the Mariners gave up a trio of runs and fell behind 3-1 after just two innings.
The offense did it’s best to keep the Mariners in the game, at least early on. A two-out double by Cal Raleigh in the bottom of the third resulted in a couple of runs and a 3-3 tie.
Ray just couldn’t get out of his funk however, as he allowed another walk and a single at the beginning of the fourth inning. A subsequent double resulted in a 5-3 lead for the Guardians and the end of his evening.
The 2021 MLB strikeout leader’s night was highlighted by his luke warm heater. Speaking to the media after the game, he said:
“I felt like the fastball was just kind of misfiring, and tonight everything was kind of up and out of the zone – kind of non-competitive. (It was) one of those nights were I just had trouble finding the top of the zone and really driving the ball through.”
Manager Scott Servais always has his players’ back, so was careful with how he described Ray’s struggles. He said:
“He just didn’t have it. It happens sometimes. When you don’t have your plus stuff, you can’t have the walks.”
Uncharacteristic errors by the Mariners defense
As mentioned already, it wasn’t all just Ray’s fault on the night. For example, the Guardians scored five unearned runs thanks to three errors by the Mariners.
Consider that the three errors tied a season-high from last year for Seattle. As Servais said:
“That was very uncharacteristic of how we usually play. Certainly not our best night, the combination of the walks and a couple (of) miscues in the field against a team that does a really good job of putting the ball in play.”
The pitching staff suffered in general on Friday night, combining to allow 13 hits, nine runs and eight walks. By contrast, they only had four strikeouts, including three from Ray.
The Mariners offense generated seven hits on the night, but was unable to make up for the poor pitching and defense. Summing up the game aided by a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, Servais said:
“You’re not going to win that ballgame, so we’ll let it go. We’ll come back tomorrow. I was hoping we’d win 162 games, but there was a good chance that wasn’t going to happen. We just didn’t play a clean game.”
The Mariners will of course be hoping to bounce back on Saturday night, against a Cleveland team they did well against last year. It helps that Logan Gilbert will be on the mound.
As for Ray, questions will remain about how much value he brings to the ball club. Fair or not, he still has a lot to prove to the Mariners and their fans.
For what it’s worth, the 31-year-old at least sounds ready to move on to better days. He said:
“It’s super frustrating, but this was just the first game and I’m looking to move forward from here.”
Yes it’s only one start for Ray. However, combined with his inconsistent performances last year for the Mariners, are you concerned about what he will offer in the coming months? Or are you confident he will be a reliable part of the rotation in 2023? Let us know in the comments section below.