2018 Mariners Preview | Keep Fighting
The Seattle Mariners hold the longest active playoff drought of any team in professional sports. The last time they made it to the postseason was Ichiro's rookie season in 2001. After leaving Seattle to play for the Yankees and Marlins, he'll come full circle tonight; the 44 year old not only makes his return to Safeco Field but will start in left field for the M's. If the Mariners have any chance of recapturing the Sodo Mojo that made Seattle believe in it's team, it's going to take a lot more than bringing back Ichiro.
Coming out of Cactus League play in Arizona there always seems to be great optimism about this team. The last few years they've definitely under-performed, but we've seen flashes of brilliance. This year we'll grow accustomed to seeing another type of Flash: Dee Gordon is the new center fielder. The Mariners gambled this offseason when they traded for the perennial gold glover and asked him to convert from second base to center. His ability to adapt to the outfield has been one of the biggest storylines this spring. Not only has he made some insane catches out there; he's got a laser beam of an arm that will instill fear in base runners everywhere. As one of the fastest players in the league, Gordon will give the Mariners the true leadoff man they've been lacking since Ichiro left for New York. Behind Dee comes the 2016 batting champion Jean Segura. Flash Gordon and Jean Jean the hitting machine will be the most dynamic 1-2 punch this team has ever seen. They'll set the table for Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager to lay the lumber. That trio combined for 89 homers in 2017 and look poised to add to that total this year. The bottom third of the lineup features breakout candidate Mike Zunino behind the plate and Mitch Haniger in right field. Not to mention the SeattLegend in Ichiro to round out the starting nine.
King Felix is set to make a bit of history himself tonight when the first pitch is thrown at 7:10 against Cleveland. He'll join an elite group of hurlers by making his tenth straight opening day start for the Mariners. Coming into camp, it wasn't a certainty that The King would get this opportunity again. James Paxton has been the better pitcher as Felix has been hampered the past two seasons by injuries and decreased velocity on his fastball. He spent spring training this year refining his pitch arsenal and calming his emotions when working out of a jam. Although he hasn't been as dominant in recent years, Hernandez can still throw hitters a chair and confuse them with his command. Tonight in front of a sold out Safe we will see if Felix can set the tone for another dominant season on the mound.
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We already know that the 2018 Mariners will score runs in bunches. If this starting rotation, anchored by King Felix and James Paxton can exceed expectations, we'll end up returning the Cleveland Browns to their rightful place as the holders of the longest playoff drought in sports. Go M's!!