M's show some life in win vs Angels

Tonight's game against the Los Angeles Angels was an interesting one to watch. The Mariners won it, for one thing, which is always more fun than the usual. But it also had a lot of the good and a lot of the bad that we can expect to see as this weird mini-season unfolds.

We saw both good and bad in the performance of starting pitcher Justin Dunn. That's to be expected; the rookie hasn't ever seen Triple-A, even, so he's going to be raw and he's going to get smacked around some this year. He looked good for the most part in the early innings, mixing in his new changeup here and there among the fastballs and sliders. The fastball had good pop on it, but the slider had inconsistent break and locating it was evidently a challenge. The one hit off of Dunn was on a breaking pitch that failed to break properly and stayed high enough for Shohei Ohtani to golf it out of the park instead of hitting the dirt in front of the plate as catcher Joe Odom called for. All in all, a pretty decent season debut for him, though; a lot of pitches, but not ridiculously so. The control on the breaking ball is the thing to watch going forward—if he can improve that, the wildness and the walks should take care of themselves.

We saw good and bad from the bullpen as well. The good came at the end, with southpaw Anthony Misiewicz and right-hander Dan Altavilla.

Misiewicz mixed his limited arsenal to great effect and located everything pretty well. He did walk one, but frankly he was getting squeezed by the home-plate ump; if you don't get the upper edge of the zone, you should be able to get the lower edge and he wasn't getting the call on either. Altavilla is pretty much a rare-back-and-fire type of guy and he was hitting 98 and 99 on the gun.

As for the bad, may I introduce you to Bryan Shaw and Taylor Williams? Shaw was in the center of the strike zone far too often for comfort and paid for it with no less than five screaming meanies hit off of him, good for three runs. He still could end up being a solid option from the ’pen, but he had a bad night. And Williams...in his first game of the season he escaped disaster and got a nailbiter-save—hey, great new stat: the Nailbiter Save (NS), wherein the pitcher gets the save but only after letting a run or more score and putting the tying run in scoring position—on the strength of a slider that painted the outside corner on righties. Tonight, that slider had no break to speak of, leaving him with two pitches, fastball and slider, that could end up anywhere once they left his hand. By my count, he threw one slider that behaved like he wanted it to and everything else was fat. Amazing he only gave up one hit.

So much for pitching, what about the lineup? Well, that was almost all positive. It was a whole new Mariner offense, one that was patient and executed in RBI spots and let the opposition pitch themselves into trouble. It was, in a word, refreshing.

The M's were helped by the umpire's tiny strike zone, yes, but once that had been established they worked with it, especially once starter Andrew Heaney was out of the game. Kyle Lewis continues to surprise me, showing more skill at working a count and adjusting with a two-strike approach than he showed any inkling of in last September's callup and making me look bad for suggesting he needs time in Triple-A to learn discipline. Hopefully it's for real and not just a lucky stretch in a small sample. Kyle Seager still has the same aggressive, swing-first-and-ask-questions-later approach he's always had, but he's on a hot streak, so ride it. In every one of the many spots a Mariner came to bat with the objective of driving in a runner from third or just moving runners up, they diverged from the old ways and executed smartly, getting bonus hits in the process more often than not. The exceptions were José Marmolejos and Joe Hudson; those two still swung for the fences and came up with bupkis.

Plus, there was a running game. A running game! From the Mariners! True, Dee Gordon's steal was overturned on a challenge because of the silly he-came-off-the-bag-for-an-eigth-of-a-second thing, but Seager stole a bag and there were a couple of instances of hit-and-run plays. They didn't amount to much (foul balls sent the runners back), but it was still good to see—put pressure on the struggling pitchers, even if you don't get the extra base you could help your batter.

Oh, and it bears a mention: Evan White is 100% as advertised at first base. He made several outstanding plays tonight. That Gold Glove is his.

It was a smartly played game with some sloppy pitching all around, but our guys did better against their bad relievers than their guys did against our bad relievers. The 2020 Mariners: Outscore your own bullpen to win!

Marco's on the hill tomorrow night. He deserves better than he got on opening day in Houston; let's see if he can get some run support and leave with a big enough lead for his relief to hold.

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