April 16—This is what a Major League Baseball game in Seattle should look like. That’s the kind of energy that should be flowing through T-Mobile Park any time the Mariners are in town.
Friday night was the home opener for the M’s, who beat the Astros 11-1. But it was also a reminder – that those three-decibel roars can be a stadium staple.
It’s not uncommon for a Mariners home opener to sell out, as it did on Friday. Before COVID-19 hit in 2020, this was a frequent occurrence. What’s rare — or, at least, what has been rare lately — is for the team to maintain the same level of interest beyond its annual debut in Seattle.
It’s hard to say what Saturday’s crowd will be like. If you win the interest of the people of Seattle, they will regularly show their loyalty. But this interest is not so easily won. It’s not enough to win in this city, you have to win and win again.
Still, the 45,023 fans in attendance on Friday showed just how much advantage they can provide on the pitch. In fact, they did it before a pitch was even thrown.
When the name of Houston’s first batter, Jose Altuve, was announced, boos could be heard from every corner of Sodo – as attendees voiced their disapproval for Houston’s sign-stealing scandal several years earlier . But then the throws started coming in, and the cheers followed.
Starter Marco Gonzales was magnificent for the Mariners on Friday – especially early in the game. The southpaw struck out the first six batters he faced and struck out four. The Astros needed a third-base line dribbler from Chas McCormick in the third inning to get to base — and they couldn’t do much with any of their base runners.
Two at the start of the third? Gonzales grounded Altuve in a double play. One up the fourth? Gonzales asks Kyle Tucker to swing. That said, there really haven’t been many jams in Marco’s seven innings — in which he allowed just four hits and no walks while stoking six. It took a single with a broken bat in the seventh to finally get Houston on the board.
Not that the Mariners (4-4) need Gonzales to be particularly bright. Their bats regularly gave fans a reason to wear out their larynxes.
Offense hasn’t been a strong point for the M’s in several years. They were 22nd in races last season, 22nd in 2020, 20th in 2019 and 21st in 2018. It’s way too early to tell how they’ll stack up this season, but Friday was pure dominance – and that came from a little everywhere.
The star, of course, was newly acquired second baseman Adam Frazier. I wrote earlier in the month that if the Mariners were to break this 21-year playoff drought, Frazier and other new Mariners such as Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker were going to match the level of production that brought them at the All-Star Game. in past years. Well, Frazier looked like an All-Starter on Friday night.
The Georgia native went 4 for 5 with two runs and four RBIs. He was the first Mariner to pass home plate after Winker picked him in the first inning. He put the Mariners ahead after hitting a two-run, two-out triple in the fourth. And he essentially sealed the win with a two-run brace in the seventh that gave the Mariners a 9-1 lead.
It was kind of the Friday theme – big moments throughout the game. There was no massive innings in which the M’s collected more than half of their points. In fact, there have only been two scoreless innings for the Mariners – and eight players have had at least one hit.
Rookie Julio Rodriguez got one in his first at bat, prompting a boom from a crowd who chanted “Let’s go Julio!” in later plate appearances. First baseman Ty France got one in the sixth inning, when he doubled up at home Frazier and catcher Tom Murphy to give the Mariners a 6-0 lead. And Suarez got one in the eighth, when he homered 394 feet to right center to put the Ms ahead by 10. Perfect punctuation. Perfect evening for the fans.
“We can have one of the best environments in the league,” Gonzales said. “We saw a bit of that night.”
Who knows how many games like this will take place at T-Mobile Park this season. Baseball is as temperamental a team sport as you’re going to find it. But if Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto’s vision comes to fruition, what we saw on Friday won’t be a once-a-year deal. This will be the expectation every time the fans enter the stadium.
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