What We Learned: Seattle Mariners vs Houston Astros April 5th

Mar 9, 2017; Mesa, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton (65) throws against the Chicago Cubs in the first inning during a spring training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2017; Mesa, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton (65) throws against the Chicago Cubs in the first inning during a spring training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /

The Seattle Mariners entered the third game of the season, hoping to pick up its first win with James Paxton on the mound. The Mariners led 2-0 after the 6th inning but were unable to hold the lead in their quest for the first win of 2017.

The Seattle Mariners fell to 0-3, losing to the Houston Astros in 13 innings, 5-3. The Mariners took the lead in the top of the 13th, following four consecutive walks. However, they were not able to add a few more crucial runs, leaving rookie, Chase De Jong, to try and perserve a one run lead in his MLB debut. Here is what we learned in game three of the M’s season.

Felix Hernandez Is Still “The King”, But James Paxton Is The “Ace”

With all due respect to Felix Hernandez, he is no longer the #1 pitcher in this organization. That title now belongs to the Ladner, British Columbia native, James Paxton. Sitting from 94-97 with his fastball early on, Paxton was able pepper the inner half of the strike zone.

His curveball was superb, going to it for a key strikeout of Jose Altuve in the third inning with runners on second and third with one out. He used the curve again to strikeout Carlos Beltran after falling behind 3-0 in the 4th. Paxton finished the night with an impressive line. He gave up just two hits in six innings with five strike outs and just one walk. He threw 100 pitches.

Paxton showed a trust in his curveball when he got ahead and was aggressive in the zone with his fastball. When he is able to move the fastball to all four quadrants of the strike zone, he is tough to hit. When he can compliment that with a quality breaking ball, he is a true “ace”.

Nelson Cruz can still hit missiles

Cruz has struggled early in 2017, but we may have witnessed the beginning of the awakening. Leading off in the 4th inning, Cruz sent a screaming line drive to the base of the center field fence. The ball traveled 408 ft at a velocity of 108 MPH. He was of course stranded at second.

The Astros have attacked Cruz with hard stuff inside, and it has been effective. The cliche “he is a professional hitter” is overused, but the slight adjustments Cruz made in the middle of the at-bat is a fantastic sign.

The Mariners Approach With Runners On-Base Needs To Improve.

Much like the first two games of the season, the Mariners struggled with runners in scoring position. They have produced a ton of weak contact thus far, hitting lazy pop-ups on breaking pitches and rolling over for weak grounders that produce no value to the team.

Danny Valencia did hit a rocket right at right fielder George Springer in the 4th inning, but Springer was able to make the play. All the at-bats prior were unable to even move the runner up to third base.

The team combined to go 0-13 with RISP. Most notably, after the team drew four consecutive walks to take the lead in the 13th inning, the Mariners left the bases loaded. They produced two strike outs and a shallow pop up, losing their best chance to blow the game open.

Jean Segura Is The Prize Of The Mitch Haniger Trade… For Now.

It was so common to call Mitch Haniger the ” steal of the Jean Segura-Taijuan Walker trade”, that it very nearly became a cliche. Over the next five years, that may very well prove to be the case. But in 2017, Segura is the prize.

He launched his first home run to in the 5th to give the Mariners their first lead of the season. He finished the day 2-6 and continues to impress with his defense, making two great plays in extras, including a game-saving stop with a runner at 3rd.

Now, nobody’s opinion should flip on Haniger after three games. While he hasn’t looked great at the plate, he has reached safely in all three games so far and has made some nice defensive plays and added a stolen base in tonight’s game.

The Mariners Cannot Win With Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, And Kyle Seager Slumping.

The biggest culprit for the Mariners slow start also happens to be the biggest reason they are still contenders in 2017. The core trio was terrible at the plate, combining to go 1-13 tonight. All three are still looking for their first home run in 2017. Seager did draw three walks and Cano drew two walks himself.

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Cano and Cruz also struck out five times tonight.

Edwin Diaz Is Currently Filling A Traditional Closer’s Role.

This isn’t a good thing. The Mariners had the opportunity to stop a rally in the bottom of the 7th, instead, they went to Dan Altavilla to try and get out of a mess left by Evan Scribner. He proceeded to give up a double, the game was now tied, and the Mariners would lose six innings later.

Manager Scott Servais had no issue asking his young closer to go two innings early in the year, but pitching before the 9th inning is apparently off the table…

The bullpen was okay tonight but was far from dominate. Casey Fein, Diaz, and Nick Vincent threw the ball well, but James Pazos and Altavilla struggled greatly.

Next: Mariners In-GameTwitter Poll

The Seattle Mariners sit at 0-3 for the first time since 2004. That team went on to win 63 games. If this Mariners team wishes to avoid the same fate, they need to find some consistency at the plate and find a way to score more runs.