Game One: Through the looking glass
Jake Fraley is doused by temmates for his game-winning walk in the 10th inning
April 2, 2021
Game 1 of 162 is in the books, and it was ... weird. Fans in the stands, but only 9,000. Marco on the mound, but also Jeff Nelson and his tiny tiny strike zone behind the plate. Kevin Gausman pitching for the opposition as if he were Juan Marichal. And the Mariners coming back from 5-0 and 6-1 to win 8-7 in the 10th inning, a 10th inning in which free baserunners were used because reasons.
The weirdest thing, though, was the bullpens. They switched jerseys. One could be forgiven if they thought that sometime during the first six innings or so all the relievers traded seats and swapped uniforms, because the Giants' relief came in to deliver a performance straight out of the Seattle Mariners' historical bullpen highlight reel.
Gausman cruised though 62⁄3 frames, allowing just two hits—a double in the 4th by Kyle Seager to the opposite field in glorious defiance of the infield shift and a liner down the right-field line by Evan White to lead off the 7th—and after White scored on a sac fly by Dylan Moore to shallow center, manager Gabe Kapler pulled Gausman at a pitch count of 89. Caleb Baragar got out of the 7th without further damage, though he did walk Jake Fraley; then the wheels came off. Actual former Mariner Matt Wisler set the tone by facing three batters, all of whom scored. Jarlin García was called upon to put out the fire and sandwiched a strikeout between two walks and was pulled in favor of Tyler Rogers, who promptly served up a two-run double for Moore, beaned Fraley, and was witness to a rare fielding error by the SF Brandons, Belt and Crawford, who instead of turning a double play threw the ball into center to let the go-ahead run cross the plate. Rogers would get the next two batters, and veteran Jake McGee pitched a quality 9th—which only occurred because of Seattle's first blown save of the year, a time-honored feature of the arrival of baseball season—and the José Alvarez came in for the 10th. With the stupid free baserunner already on second base, Alvarez rose the the occasion by walking three in a row to end things.
It was nostalgic, prompting Seattle fans to relive the joys of bullpens past, with images of Heathcliff Slocumb, Bryan Shaw, Nick Rumbelow, Bobby Ayala, and Tony Fossas peppering their minds' eyes. But this time it was the other team imploding; confusion reigned all over the Northwest.
Other observations from the game:
- Early on, the M's seemed to have a game plan of aggressive swinging. For the first six innings, Gausman threw an average of 13 pitches per frame. He threw just four in the 2nd. This was dumb, and with the experience of this game in the rear-view, perhaps manager Scott Servais and the M's will realize that making the starter work early can mean getting him out of the game sooner and into that wonderfully wild relief corps.
- Evan White struck out twice, but I remain hopeful that he's going to have a decent season. Last year his problem was swings and misses, and though one of his Ks was on a swing, by and large he didn't whiff at pitches clearly not strikes.
- Marco Gonzales got roughed up in his first game, just like last year, but he realized early that his bread-and-butter pitch, the cut fastball, wasn't working for him and switched gears to the far more effective curveball, a smart adjustment. Sadly, enough Giant batters paid attention and sat on the curve to their benefit. Marco will be fine, though, and I look forward to his next game.
- Those goddamn ads on the field are back. I loathe them, especially the one on the pitcher's mound.
- As has been said before, the free baserunner in extra innings rule is UNACCEPTABLE and must DIE AN IMMEDIATE DEATH. Rob Manfred's legacy of catastrophic ineptitude rages on.
Game two starts in a few minutes. Onward.