Jared Leingang, Reporter
A new season for the Seattle Mariners means new faces, a clean slate and high expectations. Coming off a season where the Mariners playoff hopes went down to the last few games, the team looks to develop more talent and finally get that elusive playoff spot.
After rolling through spring training, the Mariners started the season with a few key injuries. Starting pitcher Drew Smyly is on the 60-day disabled list with an elbow injury and key reserve Shawn O’Malley is sidelined after having an appendectomy, along with a few other injuries to players such as pitcher Tony Zych.
The Mariners started the season on the road in Houston against the Astros. Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez had a rough start giving up three runs, while Houston’s pitcher blanked the M’s hitters, as they lost 3-0 in the opener. The Mariners would end up losing the first three games of the season before winning the final game of the series against Houston.
Next up was against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The change in scenery didn’t do the team any good as they got swept and lost all three games. During the final game, after holding a 9-3 lead heading into the final inning, Mariners pitchers gave up seven unanswered runs as the Angels walked off with a 10-9 victory.
Seattle slumped back to the Pacific Northwest with another series against the Astros. After winning the season opener 6-0, the Mariners continued to lose the next two games and the series against Houston. In the series starting shortstop Jean Segura, while diving back into first base, suffered a mild hamstring strain and was put on the disabled list.
The Mariners finally started stringing wins together when the Texas Rangers came to town highlighted by the pitching of The Big Maple, starting pitcher James Paxton, who pitched a gem against the Rangers on April 15, giving up zero runs and only two hits through eight innings in a 5-0 win. After bringing out the brooms and sweeping the Rangers the Miami Marlins were up next.
The series against Miami was particularly important because it marked the return of Mariner’s legend Ichiro Suzuki. Suzuki played for the Mariners from 2001-2012 and is the all-time hits leader for the franchise. He recently made history for achieving the accolade of 3,000 hits in his career. On April 19, the first 20,000 fans to arrive at Safeco Field received an Ichiro bobble head commemorating his achievement. The Mariners won two out of the three games against the Marlins and in the series finale, Ichiro led off the top of ninth and on the first pitch he launched a home-run into the stands, which brought the crowd to its feet to remember and acknowledge the Mariner’s legend.
Riding high after a homestand that saw the unveiling of another Mariner’s legend, Ken Griffey Jr’s, statue and with the team going 6-3 the Mariners ran into a roadblock against the Oakland Athletics. In the four game series the Mariners lost three in a row before salvaging the final game of the series with a dominant 11-1 victory.
Coming off of a good win, the team ventured into Detroit to face the Tigers. The first game of the series ended up being one of the worst losses of the season so far. Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez lasted only two innings after suffering a tight right shoulder. The club also lost rookie outfielder Mitch Haniger to a strained oblique in the third inning. The Tigers scored nine runs in the fifth inning in rout to a 19-9 win for the Tigers. The positive from the game was that starting shortstop Jean Segura returned from being hurt and went three for six with one home run in his first game back.
The team bounced back from the tough loss and won the next two games against Detroit to take the series against the Tigers.
Up next on the road trip is a trip to Cleveland to face the Indians. In the first game of the series, starting pitcher Ariel Miranda pitched one of his best games of the season, striking out seven and only giving up two hits in five and a third innings. Rookie Ben Gamel was brought up from the Seattle Mariners Triple-A affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers, to help replace the production of rookie Mitch Haniger. Gamel and second baseman Robinson Cano both homered in the game to help Seattle win 3-1.
The second game of the series had pitcher Yovani Gallardo take the mound for Seattle. He gave up four runs in the first inning, and Seattle also scored three runs in the first inning as well. No other runs would be scored in the game as they ended up losing 4-3.
Due to Hernandez’s injury the Mariners had to trot out pitcher Chase De Jong in the final game of the series against the Mariners. De Jong only lasted 2.2 innings and gave up six runs as the Indians ran away with the game with a 12-4 victory
The Mariners started off the month of May with a homestand. Up first was a rematch against the Angels. Paxton pitched the first game of the series. The Big Maple pitched five innings giving up only one run. The Angels took the lead in the eighth inning giving them a 4-3 lead heading into the final inning. The M’s then rallied in the ninth to tie the game and force extra innings. In the top of the 11th the Angels scored two runs keyed by a double by Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols. The Mariners failed to put together another and lost 6-4.
Jean Segura led the M’s to a win in the second game of the series. Segura had four runs batted in the game. Seattle built a four run lead by the fifth inning but then the Angels rallied behind their all-star outfielder Mike Trout who hit a two-run home-run in the sixth inning. The Mariners then came back in the eighth behind outfielder Jarrod Dyson’s two-run double and Segura’s two-run single to give the team the lead. Pitcher Edwin Diaz pitched the ninth and got the save as the Mariners won 8-7.
April was a rough first month for the Mariners. Plenty of injuries and losing streaks have put the Mariners in a hole to start the season. There are some positives. Rookie outfielder Mitch Haniger is in the running for rookie of the year by having a .342 batting average with four home runs and 16 runs batted in. Newcomer Jean Segura, after coming back from being injured, has a .317 batting average and designated hitter Nelson Cruz is heating up and has seven home runs with a .317 batting average. Utilityman Taylor Motter has become a new fan favorite for the ball club with his hustle, ability to play every position and his patented hair flip.
Catcher Mike Zunino still struggles to hit, but his defense behind the plate is one of the best in the league. Leonys Martin, starting center fielder and fan-favorite, was designated for an assignment on April 23. Martin was struggling and had an average of .111 in 58 plate appearances. Other teams had the opportunity to pick up Martin, but no one did, so he was outrighted to the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers, where he looks to find his swing again.
If the team gets 100 percent healthy and the main contributors keep hitting, then hopefully the Mariners can start stringing together a few wins and make a run.
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