Okay, so I’m not going to be pre-ordering my playoff tickets just yet. But, the Seattle Mariners started off the season with a bang defeating the Oakland A’s 3-1 in 11 innings before a capacity crowd of 44,227 at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. The Mariners will face the A’s again tomorrow before returning to the States to face the A’s two more times in Oakland on April 6th and 7th. The Mariners play the first eight on the road before the home opener, April 13th, against these same A’s.
Good News. The Mariners displayed clutch hitting, an important aspect for a young team to display. Brandon Ryan doubled to leadoff the eleventh, and scored on a Dustin Ackley single after a Chone Figgins sacrifice. Ichiro, in his new third spot in the line-up, singled in Ackley for an insurance run. Ichiro looked very comfortable in his new No. 3 spot going 4-for-5 with an RBI. Dustin Ackley, in his first full season, knocked in the two other runs adding a home run in the fourth to his RBI single in the eleventh.
Seattle’s strength is their pitching, and the season opener was no different. Felix Hernandez flexed his muscle as the ace limiting the A’s to five hits in one earned run in eight complete innings. Hernandez struck out six and walked none. The bullpen hammered down what Felix started. Tom Wilhelmsen threw two scoreless innings, and closer Brandon League picked up the save protecting the 3-1 lead in the eleventh. On the day, Mariner pitching gave up one run in eleven innings, allowed six hits, struck out ten batters, and walked none.
Bad News. Mariner fans would’ve been a lot happier to win this game 10-1. The offense has been a problem the last two seasons, and the Mariners only managed three runs in this opener. The Mariners went 1-2-3 in five innings including the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th allowing the A’s to hang around. The No. 4 through 7 batters (Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Mike Carp, and Miguel Olivo) went a combined 0-for-17 including 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Seattle has to have more production from the heart of the order to avoid the low scoring games that have doomed them to slow starts in the past.