Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker back. Jack Zduriencik had tried to add depth to our starting rotation with veteran pitchers Scott Baker and Randy Wolf, but as Spring Training went on, I think it was clear to everyone that these pitchers were not going to be needed past April. The writing was on the wall and both Baker and Wolf knew it. Both veterans walked off the job and decided they would be better suited as free agents than ride the bench with the Mariners.
With newcomer Roenis Elias making the team out of AA ball and James Paxton returning to the rotation after his September call up last year, there were really only questions on two spots. When healthy, those spots belong to Kuma and Walker. Until then, the Mariners decided to go with Erasmo Ramirez and also signed veteran right hander Chris Young.
We have yet to see Young pitch after Friday nights game was cancelled due to horrible field conditions at the O.CO Coliseum. Felix resumed after the normal 5 days of rest and the rotation will follow suit. Which means, we won't see Young for almost a week. Currently, Young would be the odd man out at the end of the month but it will be a battle over that 5th spot. Every start by the Mariners has been fantastic thus far, with Felix clinching his second victory of the year today. In the five starts, the Mariners have not allowed over 3 runs in a game. I'd say, things are looking pretty promising for our starting rotation.
Our bullpen is the only reason we lost a game at all. Spoiling the MLB debut of Elias, our bullpen allowed 2 runs through 7 innings after heading to the 12th inning and handing the ball to Hector Noesi. In just two pitches we watched Coco Crisp circle the bases with a walk off homerun and the M's were handed their first loss. The following day, Noesi was handed his walking papers as he was designated for assignment. To date, no team has picked him up and may very well be pitching in Tacoma by next weekend.
Tom Wilhelmsen has been the other question mark in the bullpen. Nobody can deny that he has complete nasty stuff, but finding the mojo that he once had as our closer has been the struggle. He's been hit and hit hard, especially in close games. We'll just have to wait and see how short the leash is on 'The Bartender".
Offensively, the Mariners poured in on in Los Angeles. With a total of 26 runs over the course of three games, it seemed as though the Mariners were never going to lose a game. Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak looked like perennial all-stars and Brad Miller and Abraham Almonte set the tone early and often for the team. Since coming to Oakland, things have been a tad bit quieter due to the Athletics pitching staff but the Mariners have been doing enough everyday to put themselves in position for the win.
In each of the first 5 games I have watched the offense really learn from their at bats. The second and third times through the lineup is when the M's seem to pour it on and really start crushing the ball.
It's not just their hitting that has been getting it done either. The Mariners have been aggressive on the base paths as well. Stretching singles into doubles, advancing on throws and trying to steal bases. It's not just an improved offense, it's an offense that is putting a product on the field that is fun to watch.
After 5 games we look at a 4 and 1 record with a starting rotation that is 4 and 0. We look at an offense that is much improved and for more reasons than just Robinson Cano. Were looking at a manager in Lloyd McClendon that isn't just sitting around hoping that guys like Noesi fix whatever they need to fix. It's a brand new feeling. A feeling that Mariner fans have not felt in a long time and we can only hope that this same type of atmosphere will continue.
I don't want to be a total homer and say that the Mariners are going to the World Series because we've had a great week, but maybe I can take a saying out of the book from a well known Seattle favorite and ask; "Why not us?"
Our rotation will and maybe already does surpass most in baseball and if our offense can continue to do what they have done in this first week then we would be a lock to win the division. We just have no idea if our offense is going to sustain this level of play or not. If were even remotely close to it, then we as fans are in for a ride. For now, I'm just happy that baseball is back! True to the Blue!
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Tonight's game against the L.A. Angels was an amazing start to what we hope to be an amazing season. Felix Hernandez took the hill against Jared Weaver of the Angels and in the bottom of the first, after just two hitters, the Mariners and Felix were down 2 - 0. Mike Trout hit a bomb to left field and showed the world that he's worth every penny the Angels gave him this Spring when they renegotiated his contract. It was a rough start but the Mariners would fight back.
After a Michael Saunders sac fly the Mariners pulled within a run but the Angels snatched that one right back on an error and a bad read on a ball in left field off the bat of Albert Pujols. The M's put another run on the board but were still down 3 - 2 when Felix came out of the game at the end of the 6th. As is customary for Felix starts, the Mariners do not score runs when Felix is on the hill, but tonight would prove to be entirely different.
In the top of the seventh inning, the Mariners offense went to work. With one out, Dustin Ackley singled and was followed by Mike Zunino who hit a triple off the wall on a poor defensive play by Josh Hamilton and the game was tied at 3. Abraham Almonte came to the plate and facing new pitcher Fernando Salas, ripped a double in the left center field gap that scored Zunino and put the M's up for good.
In the ninth, the M's would add another 6 runs on a three run homerun by Justin Smoak and a bases clearing triple by Dustin Ackley after the Angels bullpen walked the bases loaded. The final score, Mariners 10, Angels 3. Felix Hernandez took home the win for his seventh consecutive opening day start and for the first time in a long time the Mariners can boast about being in first place atop their division.
Many fans will look at the success of Opening Day and revert to the Mariners history of winning on this day but flailing much of the season after, but some of us get a horrible sense of hope that grabs hold of us and wont let go. In recent years that hope has clung on until late June or so before prying itself loose with a 16 game losing streak or a couple of series sweeps at the hands of our division rivals. We all understand that this season may not be any different for us this year but to not hope at all is to not love the game. It's only one game in a trend of seasons with one theme, losing, but it's one game of an 162 game season that started with a win.
I'm not counting us in as World Series contenders or even playoff bound, but it's the same every year. We root and cheer, we complain and whine, we scratch and claw with the hopes of continuing to play come October. It may not be likely, but in baseball it's never impossible!
Mariners - True to the Blue!
at 2:20 AM