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Sports >  Seattle Mariners

Commentary: Mariners and their fans show what Seattle baseball could be like this season with energetic opening night win

UPDATED: Fri., April 15, 2022

Matt Calkins Seattle Times

That’s what a Major League Baseball game in Seattle should feel like. That’s the kind of energy that should flow through T-Mobile Park whenever the Mariners are in town.

Friday night was the home opener for the M’s, who took down the Astros 11-1. But it was also a reminder — that those triple-decibel roars can be a staple of the ballpark.

It isn’t rare for a Mariners home opener to sell out, as it did Friday. Before COVID-19 hit in 2020, it was a frequent occurrence. What is rare — or, at least, what’s been rare lately — is for the team to maintain that same level of interest beyond its annual Seattle debut.

It’s hard to say what Saturday’s crowd will look like. If you earn Seattleites’ interest, they’ll display their loyalty regularly. But that interest isn’t so easy to earn. It’s not enough to win in this town — you have to win and win again.

Still, the 45,023 fans in attendance Friday showcased how much of a home-field advantage they can provide. In fact, they did so before a pitch was even thrown.

When Houston leadoff hitter Jose Altuve’s name was announced, the boos could be heard in every corner of Sodo — as attendees voiced their disapproval for Houston’s sign-stealing scandal from several years earlier. But then pitches started coming, and the cheers followed suit.

Starter Marco Gonzales was magnificent for the Mariners on Friday — particularly early in the game. The lefty retired the first six batters he faced and struck out four of them. The Astros needed a dribbler down the third-base line from Chas McCormick in the third inning to reach base — and they couldn’t do much with any of their base runners.

Two on in the top of the third? Gonzales got Altuve to ground into a double play. One on in the top of the fourth? Gonzales gets Kyle Tucker to strike out swinging. That said, there really weren’t that many jams in Marco’s seven innings — in which he allowed just four hits and no walks while fanning six. It took a broken-bat single in the seventh for Houston to finally get on the board.

Not that the Mariners (4-4) needed Gonzales to be particularly brilliant. Their bats regularly gave the fans a reason to wear out their larynxes.

Offense hasn’t been a strong suit for the M’s in several years. They were 22nd in runs last season, 22nd in 2020, 20th in 2019 and 21st in 2018. It’s way too early to tell how they will stack up this season, but Friday was pure dominance — and it came from a little bit of everywhere.

The star, of course, was newly acquired second baseman Adam Frazier. I wrote earlier in the month that, if the Mariners want 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 got them to the All-Star Game in years past. Well, Frazier looked like an All-Starter Friday night.

The Georgia native went 4 for 5 with two runs and four RBI. He was the first Mariner to cross home plate after Winker singled him in the first inning. He put the Mariners up three after smacking a two-run, two-out triple in the fourth. And he essentially sealed the victory with two-run double in the seventh, which gave the Mariners a 9-1 lead.

That was kind of the theme Friday — big moments all game long. There wasn’t some massive inning in which the M’s collected over half their runs. In fact, there were only two scoreless innings for the Mariners — and eight players got at least one hit.

Rookie Julio Rodriguez got one in his first at-bat, prompting a boom from a crowd that chanted “Let’s go Julio!” during later plate appearances. First baseman Ty France got one in the sixth inning, when he doubled home Frazier and catcher Tom Murphy to put the Mariners up 6-0. And Suarez got one in the eighth, when he blasted a 394-foot homer to right center to put the M’s ahead by 10. Perfect punctuation. Perfect night for the fans.

“We can have one of the best environments in the league,” Gonzales said. “We saw a little bit of that night.”

Who knows how many games like that will take place in T-Mobile Park this season. Baseball is as fickle a team sport as you’re gonna find. But if the vision of Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto comes to fruition, what we saw Friday won’t be once-a-year one-off. It’ll be the expectation whenever fans walk into the stadium.

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