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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

April 4, 2007 at 12:59 AM

Mariners go for sweep

And a healthy good morning to all of you. Just thought I’d take a look at some of the reviews being garnered by the first-place — well, tied for it, anyway — Mariners as they attempt to sweep the Oakland A’s tonight. Obviously, the fact Seattle has won two games is not exactly worth a ticker tape parade. But folks are well aware of how dominant the A’s were over the Mariners in 2006 and, well, it appears things won’t be so easy this time around.
There’s already talk of a reverse Seattle curse this year in the big paper that covers the A’s. We all know the Mariners are 2-0 for the first time since 1996. The A’s? Now 0-2 for the first time since 1998. Good to see they aren’t panicking. Why should they? They’ve gotten two pretty decent starts from Dan Haren and Joe Blanton. Those type of starts are what usually propel the A’s to astounding second-half finishes. Nothing looks to have changed here.
If the Mariners really want to make a statement, they can close out the sweep tonight against Rich Harden. Teams that plan on contending have to be able to close out a series in which they take the first two games. It helps make up for those times later on when a four or five-game losing streak sets in. Happens to the best of them. A sweep tonight really is important for the M’s, as insurance for later. Sure, they can content themselves with a series victory. But too many of those — failing to close out the third contest — are the sign of a .500 team, or worse. Mediocre at best. Trust me, it happens every year in April. It’s why we can’t get too excited by a first week. But I’ll tell you what, if the Mariners do sweep, it may excite me just a little.
Another thing that excites me is the Los Angeles Angels bullpen. And not just the closer. How about Justin Speier (requisite Blue Jays mention here) and Scot Shields? Speier is now at 3 1/3 scoreless innings, Shields at two, in securing two season-opening victories. The folks who were pointing at the pending late arrivals of Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver all spring were missing the point. With this bullpen, you don’t have to look like King Felix did the other night. You don’t need Bartolo and Jered in April to contend. Besides, Ervin Santana is going to outdo them all with his new pitch.
And then, there’s old aquaintance Kelvim Escobar, who I’ve been predicting will win 20 games or a Cy Young Award for the past three seasons. Run support, or lack of, has been his biggest buggaboo the past few years (tack on an injury or three). He was up to his old tricks last night, throwing a Jarrod Washburn-like 103 pitches over 5 1/3 innings. But hey, he only allowed three hits and won the game. This wasn’t a good Escobar outing. A good one, he goes eight, allows two hits and maybe a run in Fenway Park. He may be the staff ace that carries the Angels to a division title this season. Remember this in October, because he’s now 1-0. He’s the fifth guy everyone mentions in that rotation and just may be, pound-for-pound, the best starter on that club.
Love that pound-for-pound talk. Kept boxing going another decade when the heavywieght division vanished, didn’t it? But hey, it’s my blog. I can use it.
The Angels, without their “best” pitching, are 2-0 and have outscored the Rangers 12-4. They are in first place, just like the Mariners, who are two games up on the Rangers already, as they very well should be. Forget the Ron Washington hype job. The Rangers really aren’t that good and should finish last. Have I mentioned yet, how bad and overpaid a No. 2 starter Vicente Padilla is? What a shock that he got lit up by the “anemic” Angels offense.
Why talk so much about the Angels? Well, I picked them to win the division. And they are tied with Seattle’s finest.
The Mariners? Who knows? We’ll know more after tonight if they can sweep the A’s. Otherwise, start turning the temperature knob on that hot seat.

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