by Stu Matthews, Angels Nation managing editor
Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani got a pleasant surprise Wednesday evening when he had the chance to chit-chat with one of his heroes — retired Seattle legend Ichiro Suzuki, still a special assistant for the Mariners.
Then the Angels sprung a St. Patrick’s Day surprise for the Mariners with a lineup that featured the slugger/pitcher Ohtani as an Ichiro-like leadoff man. Why not?
Ohtani and the Angels jumped on Mariners right-hander Chris Flexen — who is trying to make it back to MLB after spending 2020 with the Doosan Bears of the KBO — with three runs in the first inning.
Ohtani walked and set the aggressive tone by running hard from first to third on Taylor Ward’s base hit up the middle, then the Japanese was driven home on a crisp single to right by Jared Walsh.
And that was pretty much the way things rolled in this spring ballgame under the lights at the Mariners’ Peoria sports complex in Arizona in which the Angels rolled to a 7-4 win.
The Angels were in good hands on the mound too, with left-hander Jose Quintana showing his veteran savvy to work out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning by striking out the side.
Quintana had started the game by freezing Seattle leadoff man Mitch Haniger with a full-count changeup — a pitch the veteran said he’s been refining all spring.
“I feel right now that I can throw that pitch in any count,” Quintana said. “I have a really low percent changeup usage in the past, but I need it get good results on the fastballs and curveballs. I need to throw it for strikes. It’s a good time to try it.”
The ‘Brief Breakdown’:
Pitching: Quintana struck out 6 batters in 3.2 innings and he allowed only two hits. Ty Buttrey followed him by throwing 1.1 scoreless frames.
Left-hander Thomas Pannone didn’t fare quite as well, however. The Angels were cruising but the Mariners scored all four of their runs when Evan White crushed a grand slam off Pannone in the sixth.
Jake Faria, who appears to be faring well in his quest for a spot in the Angels bullpen with a 2.45 ERA, tossed a scoreless seventh.
Batters: Ward, fighting for the fourth outfielder spot, went 3-for-3 and scored two runs to lead the Angels’ attack.
Franklin Barreto helped his cause for the Angels’ utility infield role by ripping an opposite field homer.
In addition to his first-inning walk, Ohtani also singled and came around to score twice. Jo Adell went 1-for-3 with a pair of RBI.
And top outfield prospect Brandon Marsh — despite the knowledge that he’ll begin the season in the minor leagues — just keeps hustling:
Brandon Marsh just tripled off of former #Angels reliever Keynan Middleton. That’s the second triple of the spring for Marsh.
Dude can mash AND fly. pic.twitter.com/0fXL6okfTO
— Brent Maguire (@bmags94) March 18, 2021
On Thursday: The Milwaukee Brewers will send Corbin Burnes to the mound at Tempe Diablo Stadium against the Angels and left-hander Andrew Heaney.