Felix Gives Royal Performances, Mariners Beat Cleveland 2-1

SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 29: Starter Felix Hernandez
SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 29: Starter Felix Hernandez /

In the grandeur of Opening Day, Felix Hernandez turned back the clock, and gave an excellent performance. His loyal subjects helped shut the game down, and your Seattle Mariners are 1-0 (and headed to World Series. Ok probably not).

Felix Hernandez showed guts, guile, and ingenuity in his first start of 2018, and gave Mariners fans a glimmer of hope early in 2018. Working on a strict pitch count, Felix shut down the Indians over 5.1 innings. He gave up just 2 hits, walking 2 while striking out 4.

The fastball sat at 90 mph and hit 92 on occasion. The changeup had good depth and arm speed. The curveball was sharp, but he did not have great command of it. He pitched backwards and didn’t give in. And, of course, the quick pitch.

Oh man was that quick pitch something. In the 5th, with 2 strikes on Bradley Zimmer, Felix threw his “bull rush changeup”, completely fooling Zimmer. The pitch was perhaps the best sign of a Felix Hernandez who has finally embraced change after back-to-back disappointing seasons.

Nelson Cruz backed up ” The King” with a 2 run bomb in the first off reigning CY Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Kluber quickly rebounded, and absolutely stymied the M’s potent lineup. Only Mitch Haniger stood out, going 3-3 against the ace, including a double in his second AB.

With Kluber on his game, the bullpen needed to close out the final 11 outs. Aside from a bloop single on a poorly played ball by Dee Gordon, and a cue shot that snuck by Seager, the bullpen was solid until Edwin Diaz entered the game.

After a strikeout of former Mariners 1B Yonder Alonso, Diaz grazed Edwin Encarnacion on the knuckles. He then balked pinch-runner Raja Davis to second, and then grazed Tyler Naquin on his pant leg.

With 2 on and 1 away, Davis stole 3rd standing up, and Diaz fell behind 3-0 to Yan Gomes. And then, it all clicked. 3 pitches later, Gomes was headed back to the dugout after a nasty slider. With 2 down, Diaz jumped ahead of Tyler Naquin  0-2. Naquin put up a good battle, but Diaz ended the night in style, striking out Naquin with a nasty 99 MPH heater at the knees.

Next: 5 Ways the Mariners Could Make Playoffs in 2018

The Mariners will take their Opening Day win into the off day Friday, before facing Cleveland again on Saturday. The Mariners will send staff Ace James Paxton to the mound. Cleveland will counter with Carlos Carrasco, in what figures to be a low scoring game.