At the open house at Safeco Field Monday night, some of the 10,000 or so who showed enjoyed the giant-screen telecast of the Angels-Mariners game from their seats on a rainless (!!) March evening. Others were permitted onto the field’s warning track, where they walked in circles.
Walking in circles has been, of course, a team tradition for the last dozen years. But the Mariners changed it some Monday — in Anaheim, they ran around the bases. By the end of the evening, Seattle people in two cities were with dizzy with success.
Hard to know what was more admirable — a dry night, the modest $1 admission to the open house (all proceeds to Northwest Harvest), or a 10-3 triumph in the Big A that featured 11 strikeouts by Felix Hernandez, a three-run homer by Justin Smoak, a three-run triple by Dustin Ackley and a double and single by the new leadoff guy, rookie centerfielder Abraham Almonte.
Or it could have been a double and single by second baseman Robinson Cano, along with the first of presumably many intentional walks. I think Cano was the most admirable. True, it was merely the first of 10 years of games from the new star, but at $240 million, any less-than-superb outcome will be examined each night by the media’s electron microscope, searching for evidence that Cano and the Mariners made a colossal mistake over the winter.
But the man was even flawless in field. Surely, the 1-0 start to Lloyd McClendon’s tenure as manager can be the chalked up to the hire of Cano, who made, as superstars are supposed to do, everyone better.
The Mariners haven’t scored 10 runs in an opener since 1992, back in the sepia-toned days of Junior, The Edgar, The Unit and The Bone.
“It’s good to get it out of the way,” said McClendon. “I don’t know about much significance. Talk to me when I get to 500 or 600.”
Even Catcher Mike Zunino, who figures to have with Almonte the weakest bats in the every-day lineup, banged a triple off the top of the outfield wall.
He also caught something of a difficult game from Hernandez, who needed 103 pitches to get through six innings. He gave up only three hits, two earned runs and a walk to go 5-0 in openers, but was in the dirt with several pitches. His change-up, however was like throwing a double-thick blanket over the Angels lineup — no swing felt right.
Except one. Mike Trout, in his brief, magical lifetime a .395 hitter against Hernandez, scooped up a fastball below his knees for a two-run homer in his first seasonal at-bat. But that was it, the only other Angels run unearned.
Weirdness this night was confined to the Angels, who experienced a Mariners-like fail before the game began. Hitting coach Don Baylor, in a catcher’s crouch catching the ceremonial first pitch from longtime Mariners nemesis Vladimir Guerrero, broke the femur in his right leg. A former Mariners hitting coach, Baylor, 64, had to be helped from the field and will require surgery.
The good season-opening omens went only in one direction Monday.