“We’re really excited to get back and play in front of them,” said Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic as the Seattle Mariners began their opening homestand against the Houston Astros last Friday, April 15. As the dawn of a new season begins, it’s important to take a step back and recognize where the expectations of success came from for this playoff-hungry team.
Last season ended in heartbreak for the Mariners as they finished only two games short of the second wild card spot in the American League, boasting an 18-10 record in Sept. Although they finished with 90 wins, two more than the 2021 World Series-winning Atlanta Braves, it still wasn’t enough to end Seattle’s 20 year playoff drought.
Heartbreak wasn’t the only thing this team gave its fans; they also gave them hope, something the fanbase hasn’t felt for a long time. The Mariners followed their strong 2021 season with a strong off-season, with acquisitions like 2021 American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, Cincinnati Reds Star Outfielder Jesse Winker, along with former all star Eugenio Suarez and Padres all star second baseman Adam Frazier.
However, even with all those high-level acquisitions, the talk of Seattle baseball fans has been all about rookie outfielder Julio Rodriguez. Rodriguez had an impressive spring training, slashing numbers of .412 OBP/.794 SLG/1.281 OPS. These numbers led to him getting the call to the show for the start of the 2022 season.
Before this team could get home and play in front of its fans, they had to start the season with a seven game road trip against the Minnesota Twins, who signed former Houston Astros all-star shortstop Carlos Correa this offseason, followed by the AL Central 2021 champions, the Chicago White Sox. Although Seattle won the first two games of the new season, the team dropped four in a row: two to the Twins, and two to the White Sox. After a somewhat bumpy start to the season, the Mariners were able to wrap up the road trip with a 5-1 win over the White Sox, finishing the new season at 3-4 before their return home for the opening series.
Baseball fans of Seattle were ready for the team’s first home series, selling out the stadium for opening day. The crowd did not fail to provide an electric environment for the sold out event, booing loudly when Astros players like Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman would come up to hit, and erupting into cheers when they struck out. And while the fans did not disappoint in this opening game, neither did the Mariners with a dominating 11-1 victory over the Astros. New Mariners 2nd baseman Adam Frazier had an amazing day at the plate, going 4-5 on the day and driving in four runs in the victory.
Game two of the series went a bit differently. Future Hall of Fame pitcher Justin Verlander was nothing short of spectacular as he took the hill for the Astros. Verlander tossed 8 incredibly efficient innings, only giving up 3 hits and striking out 8 in the process. The Mariners failed to get any semblance of an offense going in this game and fell to the Astros 0-4. In the rubber match of the series, the Mariners offense came back alive, scoring 7 runs on 10 hits in the game. The star of the game was Mariners first baseman Ty France, who went 2-4 on the day with a homerun, leading the team to a 7-2 victory over the Astros. The team carried their success into its next series against division rival Texas Rangers, taking 2 of 3 from a team that has struggled despite big additions of all-star-caliber players like Corey Seager and Marcus Semien.
The season is still incredibly young, but there is one thing that is already certain about this ball club: it’s going to be fun. If you are a Mariners baseball fan, or are even slightly interested in Mariners baseball, now is the time to buy into this team. No matter what the 2022 season brings for the M’s, it’ll be one hell of a ride.