While the Mariners have plenty to prove, don’t overreact after a disappointing opening day


It’s just one game.

Even if 15 media members surrounded manager Scott Servais in the home dugout at 2:48 p.m., more than double the typical turnout for a pregame scrum. Even if fans formed lines wrapping around T-Mobile Park more than two hours before first pitch, while broadcasters Dave Sims and Rick Rizzs addressed the crowd at the gate behind home plate. Even if a DJ spun beats for hours at a turntable by the backstop. Even if a pregame performer twirled a flaming trident behind second base, a surreal spectacle for thousands of fans still finding their seats.

Even if Mariners icon Ichiro presented centerfielder Julio Rodriguez his second consecutive Silver Slugger award. Even if Nelson Cruz — who clubbed 163 of his 464 career homers in four seasons in Seattle, from 2015-18 — tossed a ceremonial first pitch to former teammate Felix Hernandez, then signed a one-day contract to retire as a Mariner.

Even if it looked and felt like something more … exhale.

It’s just one game.

Though, on opening day, it’s tempting to extrapolate — to take a 6-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox and draw concrete conclusions. To sell your seats and book a Caribbean flight set for the fall.

In truth, the rolodex of questions attached to this team cannot be easily answered. It’ll take more than a game, or a series, or a month to weigh these Mariners.

For instance: it’s unclear whether this offense has actually improved, despite the array of offseason additions — second baseman Jorge Polanco, designated hitter Mitch Garver, right fielder Mitch Haniger, left fielder Luke Raley, third baseman Luis Urias, etc. Thursday’s opener overflowed with opportunities gone awry — a Garver double play that ended the first inning with runners on first and third; fly balls by Garver, Polanco and Josh Rojas that cruelly died at the warning track.

It’s an offense that led the majors with 6.3 runs per game throughout spring training.

But when we say opening day deceives?

More so for practice stats.

“Spring training is spring training,” Servais accurately assessed prior to Thursday’s game. “Guys are trying different things. We’re messaging a little bit differently, and it seems to have taken hold. But you don’t really know until the season starts. Again, it’s a lot different when you’re facing top-end pitching, there’s 45,000 people in the stands and the games count, versus trying something in front of 4,000 people in Peoria (Ariz.) on a Wednesday afternoon.”

And yet, it wasn’t much different for Haniger — a new and old Mariner — who hit .384 with five home runs this spring … then clubbed an opposite field two-run shot in the fourth inning Thursday to reintroduce himself. Nor was it different for do-everything option Dylan Moore, who added a two-run shot to dead center in the seventh, after a scintillating spring.

But while the marine layer claimed other casualties, more questions remain. Headlining a rotation considered possibly baseball’s best, Luis Castillo struggled — spreading six hits, five strikeouts, four earned runs and two walks over five uneven innings. Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers bested Castillo for a double and a two-run homer.

“Sometimes you expect a beautiful, wonderful moment on opening days like this. That didn’t go our way this time,” Castillo said through translator Freddy Llanos. “The most important thing is that we’re healthy. That’s baseball. Sometimes it goes your way, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

And while Castillo’s control was inconsistent, his defense didn’t always help. With runners on second and third in the fourth inning, Boston’s Ceddanne Rafaela stung a grounder to third. Rojas snagged the ball on the run and threw home, but it ricocheted off of Red Sox right fielder Tyler O’Neill’s helmet, allowing him to score. And after Urias replaced Rojas, he also made a late throw to first base on a routine ground ball in the ninth, surrendering an infield single that momentarily extended the inning.

The sloppy defense didn’t stop there. Seattle left fielder Dominic Canzone was late to collect a Rafaela liner in the corner in the sixth inning, resulting in the speedster taking third with a triple. He was promptly plated via a Connor Wong single that almost certainly wouldn’t have scored him from second.

“Little plays like that we certainly have to tighten up,” Servais said,

The trade departures of third baseman Eugenio Suarez and outfielder Jarred Kelenic — two above average defenders — may take a toll in 2024. And any bullpen concerns arising from Matt Brash and Gregory Santos’ spring injuries weren’t eased Thursday, as relievers Tayler Saucedo and Cody Bolton allowed a run apiece.

But, again: it’s just one game.

It’s also, to be honest, a circus and a celebration — complete with pink carpets, cameos by Seattle celebrities and 45,337 fans. It’s video packages and elaborate entrances and flaming tridents. It’s the burst to begin a marathon, before fatigue inevitably follows.

As Cruz said Thursday afternoon: “It’s easy to be motivated for the opener.”

The Mariners left Thursday with a loss, and plenty to prove. But the opener is a carnival, not a crystal ball.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Leave a Comment