Mariners Spring Training Game Thirteen: Mariners 8, Cubs 6

I live in Salt Lake City. A simple Google search will show you that Utah only has two pro sports teams. Make that one and a half; The Jazz and Real Salt Lake (I have a hard time with MLS soccer, thus the half). Because of this lack of local professional sports, whenever a team from a cool city or a team that hasn’t won for a while wins a championship, everyone goes crazy, buys tons of new gear, and posts on Facebook how they’ve always cheered for this team or that team. For example, there are unjustifiably high populations of Seahawks, Warriors, and now Cubs fans.

As a lifelong Mariners fan, I both long for and dread the day the Mariners win a World Series. I long for it because I want my favorite team to do well, but I dread it because of where I live; every shmuck will buy some Mariners gear and claim he’s the biggest fan you’ve ever met. If you’ve never experienced this with a team you actually cheer for or observed it in general, it’s more infuriating than you think.

Today’s game was a reminder of that fear of mine. The Mariners ended up with seventeen hits and beat the reigning World Series Champion and current Salt Lake bandwagon leader Chicago Cubs.

The major storyline of this is James Paxton’s three innings. He came out and dominated, recording five strikeouts and allowing only one run on an Anthony Rizzo solo shot. Both he and Iwakuma were able to shake off the dust from their first starts, and between these two, Felix, and Drew Smyly’s performance, Mariner fans have plenty of reason for optimistic thinking about the rotation.

Mike Zunino recorded two hits, including his third home run of the Spring and drove in two runs, bringing his RBI total to six. He also struck out twice, but his performance this Spring and demonstrated patience at the plate has given us evidence of his growth over this offseason.

Zach Shank continues to produce quietly. He also drove in his sixth RBI of the Spring and brought his average to .636 with two hits. Both he and Guillermo Heredia have put forth the strongest campaigns this Spring to be included in the MLB roster come Opening Day. I still think Shank will spend a bit of time in AAA this season, but he’s had MLB-caliber play at the plate and at third base, he’ll be a valuable asset in the organization.

The Mariners will host the Cubs at home tomorrow, hoping to repeat the results of today’s game.

In WBC news, the Dominican Republic, including Mariners Robinson Canó, Nelson Cruz, and Jean Segura, beat Tyler O’Neill’s team Canada 9-2 behind home runs from José Bautista and Wellington Castillo. So, yeah. They’re pretty good, I guess.