M's best Boston despite themselves
March 31, 2019
Well, this was a home-opening series for the books, wasn't it? The World Champion Red Sox come to town with their vaunted starting pitching and stacked lineup to face the don't-call-it-rebuilding-it's-just-we're-kind-of-in-between-good-years Mariners and most thought it would be an easy start for Boston; they could bank a few wins here before heading down to Oakland and feel pretty good about themselves.
Instead, the Mariners chased all four of their starting pitchers early. Chris Sale? Three innings and gone. Eovaldi? Five and gone. Rodriguez? 41⁄3. Porcello? Two and two-thirds innings. Red Sox starters now hold a collective ERA of 13.20. The M's clobbered them. What strange parallel world are we living in?
And yet, these games weren't easy for the M's, either. Well, Thusday's opener kind of was; Sale looked like he was going to be, well, Chris Sale when he struck out the side in the first, but after being torched for seven runs the next two innings, he and the Sox never really mounted a threat. But the other three games... All should have gone into the Mariner win column, but only two did and very nearly none of them did. If this is a portent of things to come, the strategy for Seattle has to be score early and often so the bullpen and defense has as much leeway to cough up late runs as possible.
These are the two areas we knew coming in to the season were going to be iffy. The relief corps is largely untested, and already we've seen a significant injury with Hunter Strickland going down with a lat strain after he blew Friday night's game by serving up a gopherball to one of Seattle's regular nemeses, Mitch Moreland. Strickland had looked good in the games in Japan against the A's, but we won't be seeing him again until June at the earliest. Matt Festa has been a surprising bright spot, throwing 41⁄3 scoreless so far with nice control, and the Rule 5 guy, Brandon Brennan, looks like he might actually stick around given his five scoreless frames. On the other hand, Nick Rumbelow continues to look terrible (despite getting the final out for the save on Saturday with notable composure) and Zac Rosscup has been an adventure, and not in a good way. I don't know what to make of Cory Gearrin yet; he'd been decent enough until this afternoon, when he was brought into a game he shouldn't have been brought into and could not find the strike zone to save his life, eventually walking the bases loaded and requiring Chasen Bradford to bail him out. Roenis Elias has shown real skills out there, but manager Scott Servais has consistently misused him for the briefest of stints, which makes no sense. Despite Festa and Elias, this is not a group that inspires any sort of confidence, particularly with Servias calling the shots. There will be at least one move coming soon, though, as Anthony Swarzak is due back this week.
Meanwhile, the defense has been a mess outside of Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger, and Mallex Smith. And, to be fair, the catchers—except for Omar Narváez's embarrassing misplays on Opening Night against the A's, all three catchers used so far (Narváez, David Freitas, and newly-acquired Tom Murphy) have done their jobs. However, Jay Bruce has been visibly uncomfortable at first base, Ryon Healy has made two big errors, Domingo Santana has misjudged a couple of plays, and poor Dylan Moore. I've not been able to verify this, but Moore may have done something brand new for the baseball record books when he committed errors on three consecutive batters with two outs in the ninth inning on Saturday night, bringing the M's to the brink of doom with nobody but Rumbelow to save them.
So. No, these were not, shall we say, well-played games. But man, they were all a lot of fun, weren't they? Even with three ninth innings filled with anxious panic.
I'm pumped. Bring on the Angels.
By the numbers: M's vs. Red Sox (4 games)
- Total runs scored: 58.
- Home runs hit: 16.
- Stolen bases: 7.
- Errors committed: 13.
- Relief pitcher appearances: 31.
- Boston starter ERA: 13.20.
- Seattle reliever ERA: 4.05.