“First game of the year. Everybody’s excited, a lot of hype. I just try to keep all that to a minimum,” Bedard said after allowing three hits and a run in five innings. “It’s nice to get off on the right step and get the first one out of the way.”
Acquired to anchor a rotation that already included Felix Hernandez, Miguel Batista, Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn, Bedard got a standing ovation from largest opening-day crowd in Safeco Field history after striking out Kinsler. It was love at first strike.
“I didn’t notice,” Bedard said.
Bedard went to full counts on 10 of the first 18 batters. The AL strikeout leader fanned five, but he also walked four, one short of his career high.
“At one time, Erik’s pitch count was almost double what (Kevin) Millwood’s was. That was definitely concerning,” Mariners manager John McLaren said. “But he gave us a chance to win the game.”
The Mariners struggled for five innings against Millwood, who made his third consecutive opening-day start to tie a Texas record shared by Nolan Ryan and Charlie Hough.
Wearing short-sleeves, as always, while snow fell onto Safeco Field’s closed roof and a chilling wind blew inside, Millwood allowed only three hits and one runner past first base through five innings. But Ichiro Suzuki sliced a wicked liner off the glove of Young at shortstop for an error leading off the sixth.
“He hit it hard, but it’s a play I’d like to have back, for sure,” Young said. “If he doesn’t get on, the inning might have a different look to it.”
Suzuki then broke to steal second base—“I was cold,” Suzuki explained— while Lopez got jammed on an inside pitch but squibbed a soft roller to the spot Ian Kinsler vacated to cover the steal attempt.
“My hands got lucky,” Lopez said.
Raul Ibanez then got a base hit, which scored Suzuki to tie the game at 1.
With Lopez at third and one out, Beltre hit a two-hopper that third baseman Hank Blalock tried to turn into an inning-ending double play. But Beltre beat Kinsler’s relay throw to first by a step. Beltre flashed his own safe sign while crossing the bag as Lopez scored the go-ahead run.
“I was hoping he could turn it,” Millwood said. “But he did a good job hustling down the line.”
McLaren has challenged Suzuki to steal 80 bases this season, which would be 24 more than the perennial All-Star’s career high from 2001. Suzuki scoffs at the goal, but he did acknowledge the affect he had on the outcome by running in the sixth.
“When I got on base, things happened,” Suzuki said through his interpreter. “I recognize what influence it has when I get on base. I’d like to carry that through the season.”
Lopez hit a clinching, two-run double off in the seventh off Kazuo Fukumori, who was making his major league debut.
Millwood allowed only four singles and two unearned runs in six innings. He struck out four and walked three.
Milton Bradley returned from a season-ending knee injury he sustained when he was spun to the ground by San Diego manager Bud Black during an argument with umpire Mike Winters on the final weekend of last season.
Bradley walked to first base after appearing to get hit on the top of the right foot by a pitch from Bedard in the third. But plate umpire Jim Joyce called back Bradley, ruling the pitch did not hit him. Bradley limped back and walked on the next pitch—and then flipped his bat halfway to the third-base coaching box. Joyce warned manager Ron Washington to settle Bradley, who stayed calm.
Kinsler was originally scratched from his third opening day start because he showed up to the clubhouse with what Washington called flulike symptoms. But antibiotics and fluids allowed Kinsler to go 1-for-5, with three strikeouts.