SEATTLE – There will be no snark here, no parade-raining or buzz-killing.
Not today. Not on the National Day of Optimism, otherwise known as the home opener. Not after the Mariners made the champs look like chumps and sent balls flying out of T-Mobile Park like it was a T-ball stadium (to steal from a tweet).
We’ll deal with the rebuilding plan later. You can worry about the potential pitfalls and pratfalls another time. For now, the operative words are “blowout” and “unbeaten.” The operative numbers are 12-4, the margin by which the lowly regarded Mariners dispatched the feverishly celebrated Red Sox on Thursday.
In the process, the Mariners delighted a sellout crowd in the season reopener at their rebranded stadium, and if there’s a better way to kick-start a baseball season widely characterized as a placeholder for better times ahead, I can’t think of it.
So savor this one. Savor this rout of the mighty Red Sox, which moved the Mariners to 3-0 in March, made them impenetrable on two continents, kept them ahead of 29 other teams, and made it safe, for one more day, to dream.
For now, no team in baseball is better. They made Chris Sale, the best pitcher in today’s game never to win a Cy Young Award, look mortal. They made the best team in the sport look vulnerable. If there’s an early-season MVP, his name is Tim, not Mookie. The Mariners gave a glimpse of what they can do after a spring with a lot of talk about what they were lacking.
The standings at the end of the year, or even at the end of April, might tell a starkly different story. But right now, the Mariners are developing a little spark, a little snarl, and they’ve earned it.
“What you saw tonight, I think that defines our team,” shortstop Tim Beckham said. “It’s an entertaining ballclub, and we’re going to come out and play with intensity.”
Yeah, the same Tim Beckham who hit two homers off Sale and now has a three-game slash line of .583/.643/1.417 that he might want to frame for posterity. And Domingo Santana is playing McCovey to his Mays, with another towering homer on Thursday and four more RBIs, giving him nine in three games.
I’ll do the math: That’s a pace for 486 ribbies by Santana. If Marco Gonzales continues to win two out of every three games this year, he’ll go 108-0. The Mariners can still go 162-0.
Get giddy. Have a winner’s laugh. Go ahead and mull over these postgame words from Gonzales with an approving nod: “We have a locker room full of guys looking for stuff to prove. I think that’s dangerous when you get a good group together like that. You’re going to see some fun things happen.”
That’s what Thursday was for Mariners fans: fun. A romp, in a variety of ways. They blasted five homers. By the third inning, they had hit for the cycle off Sale, clinched by Mallex Smith’s triple. Even in the first inning, when Sale struck out the side, the Mariners made him sweat for it with 24 pitches.
“That’s the big difference in our ballclub,’’ manager Scott Servais said. “Some days we’re going to hit four or five home runs, other days we’re not, but I think we’re going to grind, grind through at-bats consistently up and down our lineup.”
Servais also said, and repeated, how much he likes this Mariners’ team. I’d dare say that many others are in the early stages of infatuation. Maybe you’ll be jilted. Maybe you’ll be betrayed. It’s a trend with this organization, after all. But right now, it’s OK to listen to your heart.
“It’s a different look to our team, and I get that,” Servais said. “It’s not the household names, the names you’re used to seeing in our lineup. But these guys can play, and I’ve said it all along, I think as the season goes along, fans will have plenty of guys to latch onto. Because we certainly have personality on this team. You saw some of that come out today as well.”
The Mariners believe they bonded during their week in Japan. And Gonzales felt that witnessing the Ichiro Suzuki farewell ceremony in Tokyo “really fired a lot of passion into us, just kind of gave us some perspective on what we’re doing and what this means.”
Sure, that’s helpful, in the big picture, but today, you’re allowed to discard perspective, disregard reason, and eschew analytics. Reality can wait. No need to know that the first Mariners team that went 3-0, in 1985, finished 74-88, 17 games out of first place.
This, too, might be an imperfect season in the end. But in the beginning, it has been perfection.
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