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April 16, 2007 at 10:16 AM

Mariners pass first test

Things could not have gone much better for the Mariners than they did this weekend after that series opening loss. Seattle did what it had to do, taking two of three from a team I really do expect them to beat out this year. The Rangers are not a very good squad, Ron Washington hype aside, and showed it by literally giving both weekend games away without much opposition. Thing is, though, this should not detract from the job the M’s did in taking advantage of all the Texas miscues. That’s what a good team does.
That’s 2-for-2 in series against AL West foes so far. Very encouraging and the reason why this 5-3 team is in first place. Will it last longer than this week? We’ll know more after this next test against the Twins. This is a tougher foe than the Rangers for the simple matter of pitching. Seattle is fortunate in that it doesn’t face Johan Santana. But the tone-setter of this series will take place tomorrow night. The Ramon Ortiz heading to the mound for Minnesota is not the one fans remember from years past. And Jeff Weaver, the guy Seattle trots out, has not looked good so far. It could be very interesting. Ortiz shut down a very powerful Yankees lineup his last time out. The one weakness he has consistently demonstrated throughout his career has been his vulnerability to a big inning. One strength this Seattle lineup has — up and down the order — is the ability to put a big inning together. Sometimes, that big inning is the only one the M’s manage while shooting blanks for the other eight. But with Ortiz, one inning is sometimes all that’s needed.
Take this opener and the Mariners would have a very good chance of a sweep. Even with the very sharp Carlos Silva heading to the mound for Minnesota on Wednesday. Don’t forget, that Felix kid who will pitch for Seattle that same night has looked sharp as well at times.
Nice to see the offense get going. We all knew it could. Now, we’ll have to watch for the consistency part. Will the Mariners continue to produce, or get shut down the next two days. I’m very anxious to find out. What an interesting start to the season!
To answer some of your questions, the part about Hargrove possibly skipping Weaver in favor of Hernandez this time around was never a possibility. You don’t spend $8.3 million on a guy, fifth starter or not, and give up on him after only one turn in the rotation. The last thing the Mariners need to do right now is shatter Weaver’s confidence. If he gets hammered again tomorrow night, the situation would obviously have to be re-visited. But you can’t base assumpions off of one weather-delayed start. What the Mariners will be looking for tomorrow is to spot a repeat pattern of something, negative or positive. Remember, even when Weaver struggled in spring training, the pattern was not the same. At first, he was missing high in the zone. Later, he was missing down in the zone.
One pattern the team cannot afford to let stand? Weaver getting rocked. If the Twins start smacking balls off the wall, the way the Red Sox did, it will be the indication of a problem potentially bigger than weather. If he throws another 40 pitches in the first inning, that will also set off an alarm bell. If he takes a 4-2 loss, he’ll be back out there the next time around. Too early in the season to be yanking his rotation spot around unless there are big-problem indicators like I’ve mentioned above.
Assuming Weaver does a reasonable job tomorrow, win or lose, it sets up quite the thrill factor for next weekend. There is still an outside chance he could face his brother, Jered, on Sunday in Anaheim. But weather problems in Boston between the Angels and Red Sox could delay Jered’s debut. They have to get today’s game in, pitch Jered tomorrow, then bring him back on regular rest to face his brother Sunday.
Other weekend thrills? Try Jose Guillen making his return to Anaheim for the first time since getting booted off that team in 2004. Or how about an early-season showdown for first place?
Remember, the wins and losses now count just as much as they will in September. The more the Mariners defeat AL West foes now, the better the chance of having those September games mean something.
By the way, here is an interesting development from today. As for Santana, I was led to believe he wouldn’t be pitching at Safeco. But I’ll keep checking.



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