The Mariners began their 41st home season Monday afternoon with a typically festive opener.
Players were introduced onto a red carpet. Fireworks blasted above the left-field bleachers. Former players Ruppert Jones, Harold Reynolds, Mark McLemore and Willie Bloomquist gathered in front of the mound for a group-toss ceremonial pitch, and two Navy jets zipped over the ballpark.
But what particularly distinguished baseball’s return to Safeco Field was some unscripted audience participation at odds with the celebratory mood of the day: Booing, loud and clear and sustained.
Booing is not all that unusual at Safeco Field. What's unusual is the boo birds waited until only the fourth inning of the season's first home game to convey their frustration with a hitting attack that was stagnant until it broke out Sunday.
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Apparently, blowing a 9-3 leads by giving up seven runs in the bottom of the ninth -- and losing six of seven out of the gate -- has a way of firing up characteristically docile fans.
How the Mariners would respond to the debacle at Angel Stadium was anybody's guess. Through three innings, the offense looked a lot like it did for most of the road trip. But when Robinson Cano led off the fourth with a walk, and Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager connected for back-to-back hits to load the bases with nobody out, a rally loomed.
And then Astros pitcher Charlie Morton went to work, striking out Danny Valencia and Leonys Martin on curve balls and inducing a Mike Zunino fly ball, ending the threat and creating the noise that seemed to serve as a wake-up call.
Prior to the booing, the Mariners had two hits and no runs. After the booing, they had nine hits and six runs, or five more than starter James Paxton needed in the 6-0 victory.
"It's part of the game," Zunino said of the fans' critical assessment. "There's high expectations for this team. We hold ourselves to that standard as well. We're as frustrated as they are.
"It was big to be able to get that off our shoulders."
Big, too, was taking a lead. The Mariners, who spent almost the entire road trip playing from behind, were palpably energized by a fifth inning that began with Jarrod Dyson's leadoff double.
Although Dyson was called out on a fielder's choice at third, the bases soon were loaded for Nelson Cruz, who hit a sharp single to center for his first two RBI's of the season. A Seager sacrifice fly made it 3-0, and Paxton took it from there.
"This offense is going to take off," said the left-hander, who last April opened his season in Tacoma. "I'm confident we'll score on a consistent basis. We're gonna be fine."
If nothing else, the Mariners are going to be different at home, where the offense finally followed the force-the-action blueprint general manager Jerry Dipoto devised during the winter.
In the sixth inning, for instance, Dyson used his speed to advance from first to third on Mitch Haniger's single. When right fielder Josh Reddick sailed a hurried throw past third, Dyson scored.
"People are going to see we're a good team," said Haniger, whose productive day included a double. "Our record doesn't show it, but I think it will at the end of the season."
The record shows the Mariners are 2-6, almost the same as last season. They ended up keeping things interesting until October.
"It's been a rough week," said manager Scott Servais. "It's disappointing, disappointing to everybody, but it's baseball. I do think our players fed off the energy of our fans.
"When Cruz was up," Servais continued, referring to the cleanup man's two-run single, "all the sudden the fans were on their feet. He's our guy, and he came through. Those are the things you have to keep in mind. It's a long season."