BY Art Thiel 11:51PM 04/13/2012

Thiel: Shocked by being home, Mariners revert

Felix Hernandez was a little off, the offense was never on, the cash registers didn’t work. And the A’s thumped the Mariners 4-0. Weak night at the yard.

Kyle Seager was one of numerous hitless Mariners Friday night in the home opener at Safeco Field. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

With Felix Hernandez on the mound, a clear night, the most people Safeco Field will see in quite some time, as well as a moribund opponent, Friday night was a chance for Mariners fans to get jacked for the future.

Instead, they were hijacked to the past.

Anyone hoping not to hear “same-old, same-old” was disappointed in the Mariners’ tepid display on Opening Night against Oakland and Bartolo Colon, the new/old nemesis who stuffed a 4-0 three-hitter down their throats.

But the eternal optimist, Mariners manager Eric Wedge, again cautioned against 162-game conclusions from the home opener.

“We got in late last night,” he said, referring to the Thursday arrival from Texas that ended their two-month sojourn across deserts and oceans. “Once we settle in, we’re going to be more consistent.”

Excuse or not, the Mariners had nothing going against Colon, 38, who crushed them Tokyo March 29, and lost to them in Oakland. The A’s, on the other hand, got a little something off Hernandez — seven hits and three walks. The A’s blended three of the hits and one of the walks for two runs in the third inning, and Colon took it from there.

Wedge said Hernandez “didn’t have his best stuff,” although his fastball was up to 93 mph, about 3 mph more than his previous starts, which had been a growing concern among the radar-gun cognoscenti.

The problem Friday was not velocity, but movement. It appeared Hernandez’s trademark sinker wasn’t sinking.

Said Wedge: “It was more true than it had been.”

That would be baseball-speak for coming in wide, fat and happy for the A’s hitters.

Even though Hernandez insisted he had good command, he owned up to the fact that if “you throw a fastball in the middle of the plate, you’re going to get hurt — that’s what happens when you get behind in the count.”

In seven innings, he threw 107 pitches, 69 for strikes, and some of those strikes were long fly outs as opposed to the grounders typical in a well-pitched Hernandez game. In Oakland five days earlier, he had a similar game — 6.1 innings, 102 pitches, 64 strikes, eight hits and six runs.

The King is not yet right.  But he didn’t seem particularly disturbed.

Asked if he and his team were tired from the long time from home, Hernandez smiled and offered a big of a non-sequitur.

“It was awesome — I slept in my own bed last night,” he said. “Now that we are home, we can relax and just play the games.”

In fairness, the Mariners’ schedule has been ridiculous. They came to camp early because of the Japan trip, then took eight days from spring training to play four games in Tokyo, where they were properly celebrated and pulled in multiple public-appearance directions. Unlike the A’s, who flew from Tokyo to Oakland to complete spring training, then opened the season with five home games (two against Seattle), the Mariners resumed spring training in Arizona with five more fake games before the two real ones in Oakland, followed by four in Texas against the toughest team in the American League.

The trip to Japan had value on different levels, but from a standpoint of major league competitiveness, the combination of bookings has left them temporarily debilitated. Flatly, it was unfair.

Obviously, no one at MLB is going to offer them a pity party. And the discombobulation won’t last much longer. But in the home opener, it was the worst they’ve looked.

Fans open to cutting new leadoff hitter Chone Figgins a break saw a particularly pitiful 0-for-4 — including hitting into a 6-3 double play in the eighth inning after Colon’s replacement, Brian Cook, walked the first two batters — and bobbled a ball in left field.

Behind the plate, catcher Miguel Olivo had another passed ball, an egregious gaffe in the eighth in which he failed to catch an ordinary breaking pitch that led to an unearned run.

And there was even an E-stadium.

From the first inning through the sixth, the registers at concessions stands failed to process credit cards, resulting in a total shutdown and reboot by the fifth innning before order was restored.  The local Twitterverse was filled with fan complaints about long lines at the stands and ATMs.

It marked the first time in Safeco history for such a stadium-wide register blackout, as well as a first for the Mariners being unable to take money from fans volunteering to give it away.

The opening ceremonies were fun, the return of the retired Mike Cameron for the first pitch was great — nobody ever said the franchise wasn’t good at festivities — but opening night was a faceplant.

It’s hardly the worst thing. But for a team that has been sputtering for years, to start with a stop is like, well, complaining about traffic from a potential sports neighbor. Sends the wrong message.


YourThoughts

  • 1coolguy

    Wake me up after Lincoln and lap dog Armstrong are gone…………..

  • 1coolguy

    Wake me up after Lincoln and lap dog Armstrong are gone…………..

  • Grover

    Here’s a little test for you, Art:  Did the M’s draw 46,000 last night because Felix was pitching?  Or because it was the Home Opener, and they would have drawn 46,000 no matter who was pitching?

    Remember, at the Kingdome, the M’s started almost every season at home, because they were indoors, and Randy Johnson started every M’s home opener, which always sold out.  That is why Randy always drew a few more fans than the other M’s starters at home — because Randy always started the home opener.

    So, what do you say?  Did Felix draw 46,000 fans last night, or did the Home Opener draw 46,000?

    By the way, I went down to Lander St. last night, just to see how the train crossing affected traffic in the area before the M’s home opener.  I watched it from 5:30 to 7:00, and there were 10 trains which crossed Lander during those 90 minutes — an average of one train every 9 minutes.

    There were 3 Sounder trains, each of which had 7 cars, and each of which blocked traffic for just one minute.

    There were 2 Amtrak trains, each of which had 11 passenger cars, and each of which blocked traffic for about 1.5 minutes.

    There were 4 BNSF trains.  One had just 4 engines, and 0 cars, and took one minute.  One was just a single engine and took about 45 seconds to cross.  One had 5 cars and took 2 minutes to cross.  And one had 23 cars and took about 3 minutes to cross.

    And there was one Union Pacific train, which had 100 cars and took about 5.5 minutes to cross.

    All, in all, these trains had almost zero effect on traffic.  All except the Union Pacific 100-car train were not much worse than waiting for a normal red light at an intersection.  Traffic never got backed up far from the RR crossing except for that long UP train.

    An overpass on Lander over the RR tracks would not make much difference whatsoever to traffic to M’s games.  Last night drew 46,000 (which is why I wanted to see the traffic down there last night) and I did not see any signs of any significant traffic problems on Lander St between 5:30 and 7:00 at all.

  • Grover

    Here’s a little test for you, Art:  Did the M’s draw 46,000 last night because Felix was pitching?  Or because it was the Home Opener, and they would have drawn 46,000 no matter who was pitching?

    Remember, at the Kingdome, the M’s started almost every season at home, because they were indoors, and Randy Johnson started every M’s home opener, which always sold out.  That is why Randy always drew a few more fans than the other M’s starters at home — because Randy always started the home opener.

    So, what do you say?  Did Felix draw 46,000 fans last night, or did the Home Opener draw 46,000?

    By the way, I went down to Lander St. last night, just to see how the train crossing affected traffic in the area before the M’s home opener.  I watched it from 5:30 to 7:00, and there were 10 trains which crossed Lander during those 90 minutes — an average of one train every 9 minutes.

    There were 3 Sounder trains, each of which had 7 cars, and each of which blocked traffic for just one minute.

    There were 2 Amtrak trains, each of which had 11 passenger cars, and each of which blocked traffic for about 1.5 minutes.

    There were 4 BNSF trains.  One had just 4 engines, and 0 cars, and took one minute.  One was just a single engine and took about 45 seconds to cross.  One had 5 cars and took 2 minutes to cross.  And one had 23 cars and took about 3 minutes to cross.

    And there was one Union Pacific train, which had 100 cars and took about 5.5 minutes to cross.

    All, in all, these trains had almost zero effect on traffic.  All except the Union Pacific 100-car train were not much worse than waiting for a normal red light at an intersection.  Traffic never got backed up far from the RR crossing except for that long UP train.

    An overpass on Lander over the RR tracks would not make much difference whatsoever to traffic to M’s games.  Last night drew 46,000 (which is why I wanted to see the traffic down there last night) and I did not see any signs of any significant traffic problems on Lander St between 5:30 and 7:00 at all.

  • Jamo57

    “The only problem is that the guy on the field in charge has never faced a pro defense that is loaded with talent and enlightened by a pro scouting report on him.”

    And his backup has only done so twice.  

    Interesting times.

    • Artthiel

       That’s what life is like in the land of the outlier, Jamo. Carroll is a risk-taker, but if you listen carefully, his primary mantra on offensive is control of the ball — no turnovers, and run the ball as often as possible. That’s how he sees Wilson surviving, and succeeding, as a rookie QB.

  • Jtkxyz

    It’ll be a blowout win for the Hawks.  Wilson will not single-handedly beat the Cardinals, but his supporting cast is so strong–i.e. the defense and running game–that he won’t be asked to play beyond his means. 

    • Artthiel

       That’s the game plan, Jtkxyz, but the results will be hard to come by in the first game. But your optimism is commendable.

  • Paul in Yakima

    Wilson is smarter than TJack on every down, not just third.

    • Artthiel

      But one’s bones are made on third. And if you’re right about first and second down, then there’s a lot of third-and-one. Everyone looks smarter on third-and-one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.lundman Andy Lundman

    Congratulations.  You wrote off a player before the season even started.  Bold move.  I look forward to you being proven wrong.

    • Artthiel

       Andy, I believe I confined my write-off to the first game, not the season. My point was he’s going to see things he’s never seen Sunday,  and fans need to temper expectations for the first game. Growing pains, y’know?

  • Erastus

    I believe Ken Whisenhunt was OC (offensive coordinator) not DC for Pittsburgh. Dick LeBeau is the longtime defensive coach. And before being the OC, Whisenhunt was the TE coach. I don’t see any coaching prior to being a head coach (in the NFL) that was on the defensive side.

    • Artthiel

       Good catch, E-man. Fixed. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/justa.guy.3511 Justa Guy

    Telling everyone that Russell Wilson will see things he’s never seen before makes zero sense to me.  Sure, the kid hasn’t played an NFL game yet, but I would think that he has seen a lot of different looks in practice from a very good defense.  It wouldn’t make sense for Seattle coaching to only throw a vanilla defense at him in practice.  That wouldn’t do the team or Russell any good.   Russell Wilson will be prepared to handle everything that the cardinals can throw at him.   It seems as though people forget that there is more to preparation than just preseason games.

  • Bayviewherb

    The last time The Seahawks faced the Cards with a rookie QB wa the first exibition game of their first season.His name was Zorn, and his primary reciever was Largent. They came very close to beating that St. Louis team. One of their tackles who later became a color guy on Monday night footballstill talks about the game thy should have won handily and almost lost.

  • Soggyblogger

    Well, you have staked out a position. “Wilson is about to experience his first [setback] as a pro.” No one forced you to write it. Since you have vastly more experience than I in the field of sports, I accept your prediction with some respect, but nothing I have seen so far from Wilson leads me to believe he will fail. Or have a setback. Sure, he will make mistakes like every player in the league. He will probably make more mistakes this year then he will in future years. That’s natural. It’s NORMAL. Yet predicting the “normal” for RW has not been accurate so far in his career as a QB. 

    Some players are awesome in college and either cannot make it in the pros or they are much more mediocre. Others are special. They get better as the competition increases. Wilson will fall into the latter category. That is the position I have staked. So far, so good.

  • Artthiel

    That’s OK, Trakar. I have faith in you as a reader.