Speaking of perfect games, the Mariners home opener came on a pleasant, rainless, windless April evening (!!) before a near-sellout of 42,589, Jamie Moyer was back in town for the ceremonial first pitch, new pitcher Joe Sounders ran his personal record at Safeco Field to 7-0 and the Mariners prevailed over the Houston Ghastlies 3-0.
Even Dustin Ackley had a hit, his second in 23 tries this season as he begins the long, slow climb to make everyone forget the Mariners could have drafted Mike Trout instead.
We mention perfection because Philip Humber was in the house. He was the obscure pitcher who a year ago for the Chicago White Sox threw a perfect game against the Mariners, then plunged right back into obscurity and stayed there — he was the starter Monday for Houston. The Astros fell to 1-7 and may be on the way to 1-161.
Yet in six innings, Humber did all right — three runs on five hits. Might have been his second-best career game.
Remember all those home runs the Mariners hit in spring training? Remember the anticipation surrounding the shrunken dimensions of Safeco Field? The Mariners had four singles and a double. The two biggest offensive plays were bunts. And you thought Ichi-ball was dead.
“We don’t want to be a one-dimensional team,” said manager Eric Wedge, meaning hitting home runs and saying it without a trace of irony for the Mariners’ offensive futility over the last five seasons. “We want to be able to (produce runs) from one through nine.”
He made his point in the fifth inning with the Mariners up 2-0. Hitting eighth, Ackley led off with his triumphal single, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt that was weak enough to tempt Houston catcher Jason Castro to foolishly try for the out at second. Ackley beat the throw. A deep fly out from Michael Saunders moved him to third, from where he scored on a rare safety squeeze from No. 2 hitter Frankllin Gutierrez.
“We had the play on, and I got a fastball over the middle,” Gutierrez said. “You can’t ask for a better pitch (to bunt) than that.”
It bounced up the first base line, catching the Astros defense so unaware that Ackley scored standing up. The manufactured score represented some offensive capability among the 8-9-1-2 hitters, all good runners, that pleased Wedge.
“Our short game gives us options,” he said. “There’s a big difference between two and three runs.”
Aside from the offensive efficiency and Joe Saunders’ breakthrough start as a Mariner — a six-inning shutout in which he gave up six hits and walk and struck out five — the real star of the evening was the debut of the Mariners’ new, $10 million Orgasmatron scoreboard.
A show in itself, the scoreboard is an eyeball magnet. It is so clear, so bright, so big and so active . . . well, hell, it hasn’t been possible to say that about 75 percent of the players in Mariners history.
The scoreboard isn’t going to make the Mariners better. But if the International Space Station ever needs a beacon, this sucker can be seen from either side of the earth. Fair warning: If you come to the ballpark with your nose hairs untrimmed, the cameras panning the stands between innings will call you out as the low-life hygiene wastrel that you are.
Also, gird your loins for the introduction of closer Tom Wilhelmsen. Complete with Jimi Hendrix solo, his sashay from the bullpen was an audio/video/light show mini-concert. Lighters up.
Asked if he found himself staring, Wedge said, “I came out early (to the stadium) for that. It was very impressive. The whole presentation of the evening, everyone did a great job.”
Considering the caliber of the opposition, the Mariners’ arrival at 4-4 was not a breathtaking moment. But the Mariners do have a good history of throwing celebrations. And at 22-15 over the franchise’s lifetime, they need to do home openers a lot more often.