While many things about the baseball season has changed in 2020 due to the pandemic, one thing appears to be the same. In 2019, the Astros absolutely dominated the Mariners beating them 18 out of 19 times. On Friday at Minute Maid Park, the Astros took down the Mariners 8-2 on one of the strangest opening nights in MLB history.
Justin Verlander gave up two runs (both solo homers) on only three hits while striking out seven and walking one in six innings of work for the win. Lefty Marco Gonzales worked four-and-a-third for the Ms, giving up four runs, three earned, on five hits. In fact, Gonzales pitched quite well until his third time through the lineup in the fifth inning, when an error and a three-run home run by Michael Brantley off reliever Zac Grotz gave the Astros and Verlander all they needed for the win. Here are some thoughts.
Justin Verlander's retooled mechanics appear fine.
After requiring surgery earlier this spring, last year's Cy Young Award winner decided to do what he considered a long overdue tune up on his pitching mechanics. The somewhat more compact delivery was on full display Friday with seven strikeouts and plenty of velocity from his fastball. Verlander is a perfectionist, so it is no surprise that whatever he did would not hurt his performance, but, from the looks of it, he may very well be able to reach his own goal of pitching well into his 40s.
Aledmy Diaz exits with groin discomfort.
Diaz, playing DH in place of Yordan Alvarez who finally made it to Texas on Friday, felt some mild discomfort in his groin and left the game after going 1-2 and scoring a run. Manager Dusty Baker said after the game that Diaz would be evaluated further on Saturday. Abraham Toro replaced Diaz and promptly doubled, going 1-1 with a walk and a run scored. Diaz remains a valuable utility infielder, but the Astros do have other options at DH including Kyle Tucker and using the spot as a way to give position players the night off from the field.
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Seattle is like Houston about five or six years ago.
The Mariners have decided to go full rebuild mode, emptying virtually their entire roster in favor of a youth movement. It is reminiscent of the Astros when they began their complete turnover prior to the last few years of 100-win seasons. Gone are the familiar faces of Ichiro Suzuki and "King" Felix Hernandez. They will lose a lot of games, but in a pandemic-shortened season, this might be the best chance for them to get those young guys on the field to get some valuable experience.
The fake crowd noise is absolutely bizarre.
There were plenty of odd sights Friday night, from the cardboard cutouts of fans in the Crawford Boxes to the massive virtual advertising over the infield seats to Dee Gordon shagging foul balls. And there will be much to dissect about how COVID-19 has affected the live game of baseball. But mark us down as not being a fan of the canned crowd noise, which was inconsistent and just plain weird. It might work for a radio broadcast, but it is impossible to reconcile the uneven clapping and general murmur most of the time with the completely empty seats. God help us with Fox national broadcasts show virtual fans in the stands.