It feels so nice to win. It feels even better when it comes against a division rival. And, of course, it feels even better when it comes against the Astros. The Mariners bats exploded and the bullpen was excellent. There aren’t a lot of downs to discuss and a half a dozen positives, so let’s go ahead and see what exactly we can crank out following a 7-6 Mariners win!
1. It was a mixed bag for Yusei Kikuchi in his first start of 2020, but there were absolutely some positives for him to take from this outing, mainly the raw stuff. YK sat 94-95 MPH with the fastball and hit 98 MPH multiple times. The cutter had sharp, late movement and sat 92-94. But the changeup was the difference-maker. Sitting 89-91, the changeup looked more like a split and after not using it much in 2019, it was nice to see Yusei bring it out in his first start.
2. The bats came to life. There is almost no way to single out any one offensive performance. Seattle strung together good ABs and managed to put up a seven spot without hitting a single home run. Kyle Seager continued his hot hitting, Shed Long contributed with a game tying single to go along with his double. Every Mariner reached base except Joe Hudson and the team had 12 hard hit balls to Houston’s seven.
The stars of the game were Kyle Lewis, who battled against Chris Devenski and knocked a 1-2 fastball into right field for the go ahead and game winning RBI. Lewis, who failed to homer for the first time this season, still had two singles and walked. But perhaps the MVP of this game is Tim Lopes, who went 3-4 with a double and stolen base in his first start of 2020. Lopes continues to perform every time he gets a shot, so don’t be surprised to see him get more of the work in left field going forward.
3. The bullpen was… good? Yeah it seems weird to say but the Mariners bullpen went 5.1 innings against the Astros and surrendered just one earned run while collecting nine strikeouts and walking 1 and yielding just 4 hits. Zac Grotz got out of a jam in the 4th before handing the ball to Matt Magill, Carl Edwards Jr., Dan Altavilla, Anthony Misiewicz, and finally Taylor Williams, who locked down his first career save by striking out George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman. Nice work fellas.
1. Yusei Kikuchi’s command was awful. In the first inning, he escaped by allowing just one run despite hitting his spot zero times. It got better in the second and third, but it fell apart in third, leading to 3 walks, include walking the go-ahead run. Kikuchi’s stuff is quite good. It is at least middle of the rotation. And if he had the command of say, Marco Gonzales, he may even be a #2. But Seattle only needs him to throw strikes (control, not command) to be effective. When he did that in the second and third inning, you saw what he can be. Hopefully, his next start will go better for him.
2. Jose Marmolejos was bad again. Even when he was good, he failed. After a series of uninspiring at-bats, he finally checked into the game with a ringing double. Or at least, it should have been. Instead, Marmolejos coasted into second base standing into the waiting tag of Carlos Correa. All he needed to do was slide and he would have been safe. But he didn’t and may have cost Seattle a run after Tim Lopes followed Marmolejos’ blunder with a strong single up the middle. He can’t play the outfield. He can’t run the bases. But he can hit, or at least that’s what we were told.
3. Scott Servais made his first noticable blunder in game three. When Kikuchi was struggling hard in the 4th, having doubled his pitch count in a single inning, Servais left Kikuchi in there. It isn’t typically a good idea to have any pitcher throw 30 pitches in an inning, let alone in the pitchers first start of the season. But coming off a 4 month layoff with minimal ramp up time… it was sub-optimal to say the least. There aren’t many things Servais can screw up this year. His bullpen is going to be bad, no matter what he decides to do. The lineup writes itself. But knowing when to pull the plug on a starter, particularly early in this season, will be critical for the 5th year manager.
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