SAN FRANCISCO – Entering the 2018 season, it was apparent that the Mariners’ offense was going to score runs in most games. Given the versatility and depth of the projected lineup, scoring runs wouldn’t – or at least shouldn’t – be an issue, even with Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino noticeably absent for the next week.
It was evident again on Tuesday.
The Mariners banged out 12 hits, scored four runs in the first inning before making an out and provided more than enough run support for starter Marco Gonzales, who delivered an encouraging outing, in a 6-4 win over the Giants.
Seattle didn’t hit a homer but had runners on base in seven of the nine innings, with seven of the eight position players getting hits.
“Obviously, (Cruz and Zunino) are out, and we’ve still got guys who can drive it out of the park,” manager Scott Servais said. “But I liked our quality of at-bats and using the whole field.”
While the Mariners’ offense was expected to produce, Gonzales, despite the positive outlook from Servais and general manger Jerry Dipoto since being acquired, remained an unknown commodity entering this season. They all believed that Gonzales, now in his second year removed from Tommy John surgery, would be better in 2018. A solid spring training from Gonzales only added to the optimism.
It carried over into his first start of the season. Gonzales, a former Gonzaga standout, pitched a career-high 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits with no walks and two strikeouts. It was a solid first start for a rotation that is going to depend on the 26-year-old lefty.
“He had a really good spring and he carried it out to today,” Servais said. “He’s a different guy. We’ve talked about it all spring. He’s stronger and more confident. He should definitely be able to build off that.”
For Gonzales, the only bad aspect of the outing was how it ended – prematurely, on a two-run homer from Evan Longoria.
With Seattle up 6-1, Gonzales struck out Andrew McCutchen on a nasty change-up for the first out.
“With a guy like that, who has such a compact swing, to get him out in front, I wasn’t expecting it,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales then allowed a single by Buster Posey and misplaced a sinker over the middle of the plate to Longoria, who hooked it over the wall in left field.
“Honestly, the pitch to Longoria was the only pitch I threw today that didn’t have conviction behind it,” he said.
Why the hesitancy?
“Hindsight is 20-20,” he said. “But out of my hand, I immediately regretted it.”
But the Mariners don’t regret trying to push him through a lineup for the third time in a game. It’s something he needs to overcome.
“I really felt strong going into the seventh and was confident,” he said. “Those are things you learn from and take into the next one.”
Being the Mariners, a little late-inning drama was unavoidable. Brought into the bottom of eighth with a three-run lead, set-up man Juan Nicasio struggled, allowing one run on three hits before escaping without further damage.
“He was on the edge a little bit,” Servais said. “He had a couple of breaks that really didn’t go his way. But Juan’s a veteran and kept pitching and got us through it.”
Edwin Diaz would have no such drama in the bottom of the ninth. The Mariners’ closer came in and struck out Longoria and Hunter Pence, then got Nick Hundley to pop out weakly for his third save of the season.
On a gorgeous, sun-drenched day at AT&T Park where the Giants rolled out all the pomp and circumstance fitting a home opener, including a pregame ceremony that featured Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Barry Bonds and Dusty Baker, the Mariners played spoiler, quieting the sold-out crowd of 40,901 immediately.
They jumped all over Giants starter Ty Blach in the first inning. Back-to-back singles by Dee Gordon and Jean Segura and Robinson Cano’s walk loaded the bases.
Mitch Haniger continued his scorching start at the plate, lining a single into the gap to score two runs. Kyle Seager and Ryon Healy each followed with RBI singles to make it 4-0.
“I don’t know if I can ever hope to ever get Mitch-hot,” said Seager, who had two hits on the day. “He looks really good in there. He’s swinging the bat really well. He’s been really doing a good job. Nelson is a hard void to fill, and he’s jumped in there really well.”
Given a nice lead, Gonzales cruised through the first four innings, allowing just one hit against a Giants offense that had scored just two runs in the previous four games on a pair of solo homers by second baseman Joe Panik. The Giants’ first run of the game and third of the season was also provided by a Panik homer – a solo blast into McCovey Cove in the fourth inning to make it 4-1.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Giants are the first team in MLB history whose first three runs of a season came on solo home runs by the same player.
Seattle scored two runs in the fifth on an RBI double from Cano and sacrifice fly from Guillermo Heredia.
Gordon finished the day 3 for 5 with two stolen bases, while Segura reached base four times with two singles, a double and a walk, with two runs scored.
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