Today, I couldn’t have been happier to listen to a game that didn’t matter at all. The end result was a thriller, a 5-4 walk-off victory for the Seattle Mariners over a San Diego Padres club starting almost all of it’s A-team that was arguably the most improved in MLB this winter. The outcome won’t be kept in many records, but the game was important all the same. It was a return from the winter for players and fans, and a comeback even longer in the making for some of those in uniform. While a limited number were actually in attendance, many more could at least listen to Rick Rizzs and Mike Blowers welcome them back. Against the odds, the game delivered no shortage of excitement atop the idyllic setting.
Without a TV broadcast, what clips exist came from the club, media, and attendees. As such, today’s recap (and many of the spring ‘caps) will take a more bullet pointed, key takeaways style.
- Marco Gonzales started, and went 1 2⁄3 innings, ending the top of the second via manager fiat, as is allowed this spring. The Padres would invoke the power once as well, later in the game. Marco reportedly took his subsequent Zoom presser in a t-shirt that indicated few on the club had forgotten disgraced former team president and CEO Kevin Mather’s comments.
- The other pitchers of the day, in sequence, were RHP Kendall Graveman, RHP Keynan Middleton, LHP Anthony Misiewicz, RHP Wyatt Mills, RHP Will Vest (Rule-5), RHP Casey Sadler, and RHP Paul Sewald (NRI). Gonzales was the only pitcher to issue a free pass, and there was particular praise from those in attendance for Vest, who worked a 1-2-3 “debut” with a pair of strikeouts.
- Vest also got this grounder that helped UTIL Sam Haggerty show some defensive shine.
- No pitchers, it seems, were hurt today, and nobody seemed horrifically out of their element, so the overall result can only be described as successful for me in that facet of the game.
- Rick Rizzs and Mike Blowers seemed appropriately elated at being back at the yard to broadcast, sharing a few possibly new (or at least new to me) anecdotes. Rizzs noted he called the game where Mike Blowers got his first big league hit, a 12-2 romp by Blow’s Yankees over the 1989 Mariners in which he singled off M’s reliever Jerry Reed twice. Rizzs also shared a hilarious story of his first spring training, setting up his radio broadcast atop the concession stand after being informed there was no booth. Missed ya, Rick.
- A few Mariners players played in games for the first time in nearly a year or more. Tom Murphy started behind the plate, having missed all of the 2020 season with a broken foot. Mitch Haniger hit second and got a hit and scored a run, in his first game action since mid-2019. Both reportedly were in good health following the game as well.
- Haniger was replaced by Jarred Kelenic in the top of the 4th in a fun, off-roster surprise for everyone involved. Kelenic laced a single into right field in his first at bat, and finished the day 1-for-2 with a walk that would loom large late.
- The rest of the lineup was near enough to be the Opening Day nine in a month’s time, and looked relatively sharp against Padres starter Adrian Morejón and an array of depth/quad-A arms. The pitching was hardly class from the Friars, but was still representative AAA or better quality for the younger players.
- One such younger player was Evan White, whose development will be key in 2021 as he looks to make more contact in his second big league season. He lashed a laser and worked a walk back from a 1-2 count before being relieved for the day.
- Cal Raleigh got a good amount of time behind the dish in relief of Murphy, and while we got literally no video of him doing anything, he did throw out speedy Padres prospect Tucupita Marcano on an attempted steal in the 9th inning. Raleigh’s been praised for improving his receiving to help take pressure off his bat, but his ability to control the run game has been a question mark. Something to watch!
- Most of the M’s offense came from the starters, as they jumped out to a 4-1 lead thru three innings. The starters went 5-for-15 with five walks and a Dylan Moore stolen base. The subs were Donavan Walton, Kelenic, Braden Bishop, Jack Reinheimer, Julio Rodríguez, Haggerty, José Marmolejos, Raleigh, and Taylor Trammell, who combined for just 4-for-19 with two free passes and a hit by pitch.
- The crescendo came in the bottom of the ninth all the same, as the Padres’ parade of former Mariners ticked from Taylor Williams to Nabil Crismatt and finally landed on Parker Markel to begin the final frame. After a quick two K’s, Jarred Kelenic came up with a chance to walk off into a thousand quippy headlines nationwide. Instead, a four-pitch walk, followed by a HBP of Bishop. Jack Reinheimer worked a walk as well after falling behind 0-2, putting Julio(ooooooooooooooooooooooo) in a spot to deliver.
He had a plan. He delivered.
Julio sat on a first-pitch slider. Exit velocity was 102 mph.
— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) February 28, 2021
February fun melts away by the time April rolls around. But the talent might just match the personality for many of the M’s current and future players, and until Tuesday, the last taste M’s fans have of their club is of what might be coming soon.