After dropping the opening homestand 2-5 with series losses against the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels, there was much noise from onlookers that the 2023 Mariners were already playing poor baseball and set to disappoint their legions of fans. Sure enough the propensity for walks in those opening 7 games - 18 batters - has led to runs on the board for the opposition and put immediate pressure on the hitters. And sure enough, the early production from hitters was largely due to just a clutch of guys getting it done, with the early spotlight on struggling newcomers Kolten Wong and Teoscar Hernandez - and Jesse Winker style alarm bells ringing - as they settled into their new surroundings.
It's easy to take a glance at the batting leader charts and see Bryan Reynolds (an outfielder linked with the Mariners during the off-season) sitting pretty and leading the league and start feeling downcast and questioning 'what if...?' But this is early April and it's a 162 game season and we can get mired down and lost in the stats trying to figure out what's going wrong.
At the time of writing, the St Louis Cardinals are the only team hitting a plus .300 average and yet they're tied for the least amount of wins in all of MLB. Similarly, the Philadelphia Phillies, World Series attendees in 2022, are kicking around the bottom of the charts with a team ERA over 6, yet they're still expected to surface as contenders. The point is that it's the attitude from within that counts and right now the Seattle Mariners are getting their lead from their American League Rookie of the Year from 2022 who is still having fun on the field and unconcerned about the team's sluggish start.
Fresh from a 5-3 win in their opening game in Cleveland where they faced the Guardians on Friday night, outfielder Julio Rodriguez helped erase a 3-run deficit that saw starting pitcher Logan Gilbert allow two free baserunners to score. Standing at the plate in the 6th inning Julio sent a 2-run home run into the left field stands to put the Mariners ahead for good. Not only that, but in doing so set a team record for being the fastest player to 30 home runs - this only his 140th plate appearance since his debut on opening day last year.
After this come-from-behind-win, Rodriguez expects the team to start getting the desired results in the coming weeks.
"I feel like you saw our ballgame there. The way that we play the game and the way that we try to approach the game every day, trying to commit to our approach and swing at good pitches. I feel like that's why we were able to come up huge today. I feel like we prepare ourselves so much. We're always putting in the effort, doing the right things and doing the little things. I feel like, why would we be down when it's just the first homestand? We all know it's a long road. It's a marathon. We're not running sprints here."- Daniel Kramer (MLB.com)
The Mariners finished off the series with the Guardians with a thrilling, albeit disappointing finish, as they couldn't hold on in extras. They lost the game, but leave Cleveland with their first series win of 2023.