Fans expected a step-back. They received the 6-1 league-leading Seattle Mariners.
After sweeping Oakland in two games in Tokyo, Seattle took three of four against the defending World Champion Red Sox. But no win may be more as important than tonight, as Felix Hernandez earned a win in his season debut in a 6-3 win over the Angels.
After a hit barrage against the Red Sox — including 42 hits and 34 runs — the debate stirred on whether the Mariners could keep their offense on fire, or if the bats would inevitably cool.
But before the debate could continue, Seattle picked up right where they left off against Boston, pouring four runs on Los Angeles in the first inning.
What the Mariners left for speculation, though, was whether they could play add-on. After jumping out to an early lead, Seattle went cold for five innings, letting the Angels back to within one.
Jay Bruce finally woke up the Mariner offense, cranking a two-run homer that propelled Seattle’s lead to three and ignited the 14,463 in attendance.
Bruce’s homer was considered vital at the time because it provided insurance for a shaky Mariner bullpen waiting in the wings. But for the first time since Opening Day, Seattle would go on to shut down the Halos, not allowing a run after the fourth inning.
Aside from the five-inning scoring drought, four defensive errors let Los Angeles creep back into a game that should have been a convincing Seattle win. But Felix Hernandez was strong enough to put the Mariners in position to win, a breath of fresh air for those caught up in last year’s nightmare.
After a miserable 2018 that saw the King finish his season in the bullpen, Hernandez bounced back with a 5.1 inning start that featured four strikeouts and just one earned a run. The King’s Court — which has seen a decline in population over recent years — was four sections strong, as if Felix had never left his ace status.
Lost in the reality of a rebuilding season, no Mariners team has ever started stronger than 6-1. And there’s no telling when the wins will stop if Seattle can continue to pour on the runs.
So if the Mariners offense truly is an April Fool’s Joke — ready to shut down at any moment — we’ll have to wait one more night to find out.