SEATTLE — J.P. Crawford was the beneficiary of a pitch-clock violation. A big swing from Ty France ensured that it became notable on opening day.
Crawford’s walk was helped by a timer violation called on James Karinchak, which saw an eighth-inning rally capped by France’s three-run homer, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Cleveland Guardians 3–0 on Thursday night.
Seattle manager Scott Servais said, “Obviously, there’s a lot of talk around town about expectations and what we hope to do this season and you can’t get off to a better start than tonight.”
Opening day was a dramatic pitcher’s duel between Cleveland ace Shane Bieber and Seattle’s Luis Castillo that featured no offense until a wild eighth inning.
Crawford went on a 3-2 pitch, but only after being gifted a ball when Karinchak (0-1) committed the game’s lone pitch-clock violation with a 0-2 count.
The reliever was clearly upset while firing the pitch after the backstop violation.
Crawford fouled on a few pitches and finally went on a check-swing that Cleveland argued should have been a foul ball.
Guardians manager Terry Francona believed the ball was a foul.
“It happens and you’re hoping it doesn’t inspire more, but James had a tough inning … and it made for a tough inning,” Francona said.
Kolten Wong was hit by a pitch with one out and France went to the opposite field with the pitch out of the strike zone and cleared the wall down the right field line.
France doubled off the wall in right-center first in the game and tripled short of the cycle.
His homer ended any flashbacks the Mariners were experiencing the last time they were at T-Mobile Park last October and lost 1-0 to Houston in 18 innings in the ALDS.
France said, “We hadn’t scored a run in 26 innings so it was time.”
Andres Muñoz got into trouble in the ninth, giving up a single to Amed Rosario and a double to Jose Ramirez with two outs.
But the Seattle reliever grounded out to Guardian newcomer Josh Bell for the save, ending a game that clocked in at a brisk 2 hours, 14 minutes.
Until the eighth, the pitching was a story for both teams looking to repeat their playoff runs from the previous season.
Castillo dominated from the outset with another emphatic performance, following in line with several stellar starts last season after he was acquired from Cincinnati.
Castillo needed just 74 pitches to go through six innings, and that was his limit.
He struck out six and the only runner he allowed came on an infield single that hit the right-handed batter.
It was a scary moment at first as Will Brennan’s line drive hit the back of Castillo’s head, with most of the impact appearing to be absorbed by the pitcher’s dreadlocks.
Castillo said it was about 50/50 between the impact on his head and his hair.
“When the ball hit me, I realized it was fine,” Castillo said through an interpreter.
Three relievers finished the four hitters. Paul Sewald (1-0) worked the eighth.
Despite frequent traffic on the bases, Bieber kept Seattle off the scoreboard and matched Castillo with six shutout innings.
Bieber scattered six hits and struck out three, and most importantly, the critical pitches came with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Bieber said, “I couldn’t really buy a clean innings today, but that’s all, trying to bend, not break, and was able to do that for a few innings.”
Seattle threatened against Bieber in the third, fifth and sixth, but was unable to muster a two-out hit with a runner on third.
France got out in the third and Julio Rodríguez hit a line drive that Brennan drove into right-center to end the fifth.
France doubled in the sixth – missing the home run by nearly a foot – but Cal Raleigh grounded out to third.