It's Opening Day. Yeah it's March, yes the M's are on a different continent, and sure it's at an ungodly hour, but it's Opening Day and I'm not gonna miss it. I realize that not everyone has the luxury of a noon wake-up call on a Wednesday, so we're gonna have a live blog for those that want some additional commentary as the game is going on. Should be better than reading a box score in the morning.
Lineups! For the M's, it's about what you'd expect, which would have been on the verge of horrifying back in February.
They'll be waging war with Brandon McCarthy, who broke out in a big way and led the AL in FIP last season. He was also the subject of a pretty cool article in ESPN the magazine a few weeks back; if you have some down time, I recommend it. Still, any time the King takes the mound, you expect the M's to win, and I don't think today's any different. Happy Opening Day everyone.
The M's have placed Franklin Gutierrez and Adam Moore on the disabled list, retroactive to March 24th. No surprises here.
Top of the first:
A couple of quick groundouts from Figgins and Ackley opened the game. Ichiro got an impressive ovation when he came up for his first at-bat. The crowd noise was kind of strange: the crowd went quiet, and then got loud when McCarthy was in his wind up, particularly early in the count. The fans were on edge for his entire at-bat, letting out a chorus of "oohs" when he fouled off a 1-1 pitch. He got another good cheer when he beat out a bouncer over McCarthy's head. The crowd buzzed again when Ichiro took off for second during Smoak's at-bat: suffice it to say, they love them some Ichiro.
Smoak struck out to end the inning.
Bottom of the first:
First off, if you haven't seen Felix since the end of last season, he's unrecognizable from the neck down. He lost a ton of weight, and truly looks like he's in the best shape of his life. Whether that pays dividends or not will be difficult to measure. He gave up a hit to Jemile Weeks to open the game, but induced weak contact from Pennington and Crisp, and finished the inning with a filthy changeup to strike out Seth Smith.
Top of the second:
Three quick groundouts from Montero, Carp, and Olivo. McCarthy is off to a good start in his quest to top his 46% ground ball rate from 2011.
Bottom of the second:
Tom Hallion is known for his loud, emphatic, two armed strike three call. I usually find it kind of annoying in all honesty, but I'll give him a pass for his demonstrative punch out of Kurt Suzuki, because that changeup was ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING. Felix didn't have much problem with the rest of the inning either, embarrassing Cespedes twice in his first big league at bat.
Top of the third:
Michael Saunders laced a single to right on the first pitch. Just a good piece of heating: McCarthy left a pitch right over the middle of the plate and Saunders ripped it. Considering how often he took a first pitch down the pipe in 2011, this is a welcome sign.
Of course, as soon as he gets on, he makes a mental error on the bases. He stole second, but then tried to take third on a ground ball to the short stop. It was a tough play in the hole for Pennington, but Saunders bailed him out by trying to take third. Ryan probably would have beat the throw to first anyways, and it was just a waste of an out by Saunders. To top it off, Ryan was caught stealing two pitches later. Not sure the M's have the offense to run themselves out of one of the five rallies the bottom of the order will generate this season.
Bottom of the third:
Another inning, another weak strikeout. Brandon Allen was the victim this time, feebly waving at a high slider. Weeks is the only Athletic making solid contact: his single to center was laced, and he ended the third with another line drive that hung up long enough for Saunders to settle under it.
Top of the fourth:
Dustin Ackley 1, Oakland 0. Ackley absolutely pounded a fly ball to center field, well over and just to the right of the 400 foot sign.
Ichiro got another nice ovation when he stepped to the plate. The crowd is pretty involved in the game, particularly given their relative lack of familiarity with most of the players, but they take it up a notch when Ichiro steps up. Speaking of Ichiro, he beat out a bleeder to short for his second infield of the season. McCarthy retired the rest of the order without much difficulty.
Observation: The field is really small. It gets deep in center, but the alleys are really short.
Bottom of the fourth:
The A's tied it up on a couple of hard hit doubles. Carp looked pretty meek diving for Suzuki's game tying hit, but in his defense, not too many outfielders get to it. 1-1.
Top of the fifth:
Three up, three groundouts. Not sure if McCarthy is settling back into a groove or if the bottom of the order is just really bad. Probably both.
Bottom of the fifth: I'm trying to find a picture, but there's a King's Court in Tokyo. After hitting Cespedes to lead off the frame, Felix had another routine inning, striking out two. Weeks was called looking (I swear Hallion leads the league in punching hitters out looking) and was visibly unhappy.
Top of the sixth:
Lead off single for Figgins. Not hit hard, but at this point, we'll all take it. He was pumped; he gave it his signature knock of the fists. It's kind of weird. Had Figgins carried over his performance from LA, the fist pound could have been a cool little inside handshake among Mariners fans. Obviously that's not the case.
Hallion puts on another show for Ackley, punching him out on a borderline 2-2 pitch near the dirt.
Ichiro singles up the middle, he's now 3-3. If the Mariners are going to rally tonight, this might be their best opportunity.
Smoak lined out to left, Montero up with two outs.
And Montero grounds to short. He hasn't been real patient tonight. He swung on the first pitch twice, and I think on the second or third pitch the other time.
Bottom of the sixth:
Felix enters the inning with 60 pitches. If he's efficient, he could go the distance. It's early in the season, but Wedge let him go nine (108 pitches) last season, so it's certainly possible he finishes the game tonight. Two or three hard hit balls aside, he's been dominant.
Pennington had a good at-bat to lead off the inning. Six pitch AB, and he hit a solid single to right on a 2-2 pitch. Heart of the order coming up. Fortunately, this ain't exactly Murderers Row.
Pennington stole second without a throw. He had Felix well timed and went before first movement. Olivo didn't have a chance.
Crisp flew out to left and Pennington took third. It was a fairly routine fly to the wall, but Carp didn't see it well, and didn't get settled under it.
Felix hits Smith. Not the end of the world, sets up the double play. First and third, one out.
Suzuki pops up to shallow left. Noticeably, Ryan took charge and called Carp off.
And Felix is out of the inning! Reddick stung a line drive to left, but he hit it right at Carp. Felix is up to 83 pitches, so the CG is looking pretty unlikely.
Top of the seventh:
McCarthy is looking sharp. Carp fouled out meekly, Olivo hit a soft fly, and Saunders looked silly whiffing on an 0-2 pitch on the outside corner.
Bottom of the seventh:
First big league hit for Cespedes, a ringing double over Saunders' head. M's catch a break as Brandon Allen skies a bunt. Kind of bad baseball from Oakland. I know they want to get Cespedes to third, but he's already in scoring position with one out.
Sogard lined out (hard) and Weeks bounced out to second to end the inning. Felix is at 92 pitches. The bullpens are out of sight, but I can't imagine Felix isn't heading out for the eighth.
Top of the eighth:
Ryan Cook in for McCarthy. Cook came over in the Trevor Cahill trade. Cook pitched in twelve games as a Dback last year and walked the ballpark.
He looks pretty in control here though. He got Ryan to bounce out quickly and Figgins struck out on four pitches.
Ackley flies out to the track (didn't get close to a homer) to end the inning.
Bottom of the eighth:
First tidy Brendan Ryan play of the year: slow hit grounder by Pennington got past Felix, but Ryan was able to get his body in front of the ball and nailed the runner by half a step. He's spoiled me into taking that kind of play for granted.
Crisp flew out to deep left on pitch 101. Can't imagine Felix will go nine. Also, when I say flew out to left, I mean hit a 350 foot fly ball that nearly landed on the warning track half way between left and left-center field. This park is not big.
Another "deep" fly ball ends the threat. 3-4-5 coming up in the ninth.
Top of the ninth:
Grant Balfour in, Sherrill and Wilhelmsen warming up. I love baseball, but I have class in six and a half hours so I'm not exactly rooting for extra innings.
Ichiro lined out to start the inning... he's had a good game, and he hit that one hard.
Smoak hit a grounder that bounced a million feet in the air. If anybody but Smoak was running, it's probably a single. It was a bang-bang play as it was.
Montero flies out to end the inning. I retract my previous statement. Now rooting for extra innings.
Bottom of the ninth:
Tom Wilhelmsen into the game. How unlikely was this nine months ago?
Suzuki flies to center on a 1-1 slider.
Carp! Reddick lined one to the wall in left, and Carp made a pretty nice play, leaping up and catching it about eight feet of the ground. Given the tail on the ball, it was a fairly tough play. Manageable, but not easy.
Wilhelmsen uses Cespedes's aggressiveness against him, burying consecutive breaking balls in the dirt for swinging strikes and the punch out. To the tenth!
Top of the tenth:
They aired the Ackley commercial. So weird.
Fuentes in for Oakland. Couple of lefties due up, so this makes sense. For those curious, Dave Sims just mentioned that this is the first time since 1996 that the M's have gone to extra innings on Opening Day (they won in twelve.)
For the umpteenth time, a couple of quick outs to lead off the tenth. Saunders coming up with two outs. I'm surprised that Casper Wells wasn't brought in to hit for either Carp or Saunders. I guess the logic with Saunders is that with two outs, they're unlikely to score anyways and you might as well stick with the better defender. Not sure I agree, but I get it at least.
Saunders flew out. No hits since Ichiro's third single back in the sixth.
Bottom of the tenth:
Wilhelmsen back out for the tenth. If he throws strikes, his stuff is as good as anyone's. No radar gun on the screen, but judging by the late swings from Allen, he's humming it in there pretty well.
Allen grounded to second, but Ackley threw wide of first and pulled Smoak off the bag. It was a tricky hop for Ackley, but still a play that needs to be made. E-5, runner on first. Colin Cowgill, another part of the Cahill trade, on to run.
Sogard didn't show but on the first pitch (ball one.) Of all times for a bunt, this one seemed pretty obvious. Hit and run play on for the second pitch, which was fouled to right.
Hit and run on again on the 2-1 pitch... NAILED AT SECOND! Great throw from Olivo. Ryan came up like he got spiked on the leg. Great way for him to christen the season...
Meanwhile, Sogard flew out to center. Pretty loud out for Sogard, but didn't quite reach the warning track.
Beautiful pitch from Wilhelmsen... painted the black on the outside corner to strike Weeks out looking. To the eleventh...
GRRR... The entire eleventh inning got deleted. I apologize if you've made it this far. In summation, Ryan doubled, Figgins bunted him to third, Ackley singled, stole second, and scored on Ichiro's single. Brandon League retired three of the four hitters he faced, and other than nearly getting his head taken off by a Seth Smith line drive, looked pretty good doing it. I still love how he and Olivo punch each other after a successful save. Screw handshakes, let's beat the shit out of each other!
Anyways... Mariners! 1-0, and in first place. Vargas vs. Colon tomorrow night. Fewer people will watch the broadcast live.