Tuesday, April 13, 2010

MARINERS: M's shut out in home opener, unable to provide offense

The skies were hazy and dull, but that didn’t stop 40,000 strong to go out and support the Mariners in their home opener yesterday afternoon against Oakland. The streets were packed and the atmosphere was unmatched, full of anticipation and excitement to (somewhat) officially kick off baseball season here in Seattle.

But all of the hoopla didn't prevent the Mariners from dropping their home opener 4-0.

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Randy Johnson was in the house to throw out the inaugural first pitch, and he was greeted on the field with screaming fans to show their appreciation and adoration for the towering ace. Once he reached the mound, he was accompanied by former catcher Dan Wilson to catch his famous throw, re-igniting a familiar scene to M’s fans of old.

To top it off, Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner appeared from the dugout to welcome back their old teammate. Ken Griffey Jr. arrived from the clubhouse, the only one in full-uniform, to cap off the 1990s reunion and present us with what truly is Seattle Mariners royalty.

The amity each of the athletes showed for one another presented a beautiful moment for the Seattle fans, a benchmark in hopes that our 2010 Mariner team can and will create similar memories. However, even the powerful threats of the 1995 Miracle Mariners couldn’t have helped the offensive vainness this squad provides.

After 5 games facing the unimpressive Oakland A’s, the Mariners have yet to overcome their offensive woes and figure out this opposing rotation. Don’t get it confused: the Athletic’s pitching staff isn’t that talented; the Mariners offensive lineup is just THAT desolate.

At the moment, the Mariners only starter batting over .300 is center-fielder Franklin Gutierrez, whom had one of only two hits earned in the lineup on Monday. Opposing starter Justin Duchscherer finished after 7 1/3, shutting out the M’s off of 2 hits and only 2 walks allowed.

Ryan Rowland-Smith performed well in his 2010 home debut going 7 strong innings, giving up only 3 hits, and 4 ER (although, a questionable Milton Bradley error in the 7th may suggest otherwise), and 5 BB. The intimidating lefty didn’t have a great outing, but it was still good enough.

For once in a long while, the Mariners' problems are not concerned with pitching and/or giving up runs. Aside from Ian Snell’s rough start in Texas on Sunday and Jason Vargas’ collapse last Friday, each pitcher (primarily each starter) has done their part well enough to put this team in position to win games.

After one week of opening games, the M’s have made it evidently clear that their biggest demon is batting. Milton Bradley is off to one of his worst starts, going 1-22 (.045) and has shown signs of weakness on the road, whether it’s flipping off fans in Texas or blowing kisses to upset Oakland fans after making a routine catch.

Casey Kotchman got off to a remarkable start in his first two games, but has been unable to keep his hitting streak going over the past five. Ichiro is off to a slow start, but is also accustomed to this behavior before tearing it up in mid-season. Chone Figgins has provided a let-down with only a .294 OBP, in which he’s been touted as a walk specialist and stealing bags.

I know, it’s only been a week. Griffey Jr. announced today that he’s been unhappy with the team’s performance but also presented a beam of hope, stating that the team will get on track and put these first 8 games behind them.

My biggest concern(s) are: A.) if the M’s are struggling this much against Oakland, then how bad is it going to get when we have to face the powers of the league (New York, Boston, Minnesota, etc.); or B.) Perhaps the A’s are better than everyone thought they were, and the lack of offensive prowess is somewhat justified. If the latter is true, that should cause even more concern for fans in the AL West, as we haven’t seen the last from them this season. Far from it.

Reach Jacob Kehle at nextseasonsports@gmail.com