Mariners blank Dodgers 2-0, Everybody Gets Ice Cream

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Pitcher Marco Gonzales
PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Pitcher Marco Gonzales /

Great tests come every now and then in Spring Training that really kick season preparation into high gear. With Clayton Kershaw on the mound for the defending National League champion Dodgers today, the Mariners were set to take on maybe the greatest challenge they’ll face all Spring.

And they had the bodies to do it. Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz made their 2018 debuts in this game, giving the Mariners their most complete lineup of their first three Cactus League bouts so far.

However, Clayton Kershaw pitched only one inning. A really good inning at that, because, well, he’s Clayton Kershaw.

For Cano and Cruz, their performances were less than spectacular. Cano hit into two groundouts, one off of Kerhsaw, and the other off Scott Alexander. Cruz was the victim of a scary moment for Mariners fans. A 93 mile-per-hour fastball from Tom Koehler zoomed right into the slugger’s wrist, sending him to the ground. He was able to stay in the game and take his next scheduled at-bat in the bottom of the fourth.

Did I mention running the bases? Because boy, oh boy, are the Mariners bad at doing that. After Cruz’s HBP and a Kyle Seager single that put runners at the corners in the second, Mike Zunino tapped a dribbler to Koehler. For whatever reason, Cruz thought it was a brilliant idea to run home. Not only was he tagged out in a pickle between third base and home, but  Seager tried to stretch his way to third while the defense was distracted and ultimately failed as well. Double play, no runs scored in the inning just like that.

I think it goes without saying that base running is something that needs to be fixed immediately.

Funny enough, the Mariners’ first run was scored due to a heads-up play on the base paths by Ben Gamel, who sprinted home on a wild pitch. Before that, Gamel had tripled on a sweet stroke into the gap; in the fifth, he drove in John Andreoli on a sacrifice groundout. Solid day at the plate for Gamel, who led off today.

Oh, right, Marco Gonzales pitched in this game and he was pretty darn good. The Gonzaga alum racked up four strikeouts in two innings of work, whiffing the likes of Justin Turner and Joc Pederson:

Gonzales’ command ran a little shaky in the second inning, as he walked Matt Kemp and threw a wild pitch. He quickly recovered, however, and struck out the next two batters he faced to end his day.

Rob Whalen looked really impressive today, throwing two beautiful innings against the meat of the Dodgers’ lineup. I’m now looking forward to seeing how he progresses in the next few weeks as he tries to make the ball club either in the rotation or the bullpen. Mechanically, he looks like a different pitcher.

We also got our first look at two of the “Big 4” relievers in the Mariners’ bullpen: Juan Nicasio and Edwin Diaz. Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy ripped a ground-rule double off of Nicasio, but the Dominican flamethrower battled back to get three straight outs and hold Los Angeles scoreless. Diaz was also sharp in his appearance, walking one and inducing three flyouts.

With Dan Vogelbach and Ryon Healy both ailing, Rule 5 draft choice Mike Ford is starting to get the bulk of playing time at first base. He made the most of it today, ripping a double that hit the base of the wall which led to the aforementioned Ben Gamel sacrifice RBI.

Mariners pitchers finished the day yielding only two hits and three walks while striking out nine. Sam Moll notched the save in the ninth and the Mariners are now 2-1 in Cactus League play.

Next: Robinson Cano Worth Every Penny

The M’s take on the Chicago Cubs in their first game outside of the Peoria Sports Complex tomorrow and it’s shaping up to be a good one. King Felix makes his debut as he looks to regain form in the 2018 season. Unfortuantely, the game will not be televised; however, a radio broadcast will air on at 12:05 PM PT.