Believe It or Not

The Mariners look good losing the season opener.

The Seattle Mariners have scheduled about five dozen 2006 promotional events to help bribe disenchanted fans back to Safeco Field. Officials might have missed a timely idea by not including a Jack Abramoff Ball Cap Night. Maybe, judging from the lively, sold-out 5-4 opening-day loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Monday, April 3, the product on the field will sell itself, though few expect this 30th version of the World Series-shy franchise to be playing beyond the regular season.

Consensus among the press corps, leveling pregame guesses under roof-protected weather conditions, has the M's playing about .500, which is a chicken-spit prediction. I've got them at 95, but I haven't decided whether that means wins, losses, roster moves, or hours until General Manager Bill Bavasi gets canned.

If the M's keep losing, Bavasi's position seems tenuous. The club started the game in an 0-for-10 funk at the plate but grew spunky in the fifth inning. Japanese catcher Kenji Johjima smacked a line-drive opposite-field solo homer to right. Center fielder Jeremy Reed, who nearly started the season on the disabled list, followed with a ground-rule double. Magic-handed shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt scored Reed on a sharp single. Ichiro's first hit of a probable 200-plus season sent Betancourt to third before he scored on a soft Jose Lopez single to right to tie the score at 3-3. The M's chased the Angels' wide-body righty, Bartolo Colon, with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth, but L.A. reliever J.C. Romero retired the side. J.J. Putz let in a pair of L.A. runs in the ninth and a solo long ball by M's pinch-hitter Roberto Petagine ended the scoring.

Whiffing the first pitch he saw as a Mariner, designated hitter and revisionist historian Carl Everett (he doesn't believe in dinosaurs because Barney, Dino, et al., aren't mentioned in biblical "begats") let his bat fly about 20 rows into the right-side seats. He picked up his first hit in the sixth.

All-world Angel Vladimir Guerrero muscled a first-inning Jamie Moyer whiffle ball beyond the Bud Light sign in left. It gave the Angels a 2-0 bulge, but Moyer managed nearly seven innings of nine-hit pitching and left tied 3-3.

That Seattle coaches spent March emphasizing opposite-field hitting was evident Monday, and it bodes well for an offense that was unproductive last year. If Everett and teammates spend more time thinking at-bats rather than "begats," maybe the Seattle Mariners (though, unlike the Angels, never mentioned in the Good Book) can lure back some believers.

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