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

May 15, 2007 at 11:03 AM

Felix returns

What a gorgeous Seattle day, bringing with it the rays of sunshine Mariners fans have hoped for ever since Felix Hernandez went down with an elbow injury way back on April 18. His opponents tonight will be the first-place Los Angeles Angels, getting by on pitching and little else. For the Mariners to contend, they will have to eventually put up the pitching to compete with the Angels and A’s in the AL West.
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the value of a seven-inning “quality start” of three earned runs or less allowed. Unlike the typical six-inning quality start, going that extra frame sets the bullpen up just the way a team likes it — with the set-up man working the eighth and the closer the ninth. It’s no coincidence the Mariners, with as heavy-duty a late-inning arsenal as any team in the majors velocity-wise, are undefeated when leading after seven.
How do the Mariners stack up against the elite rotations, typified by the Angels? Well, let’s see.
Heading into tonight, the Angels have received 13 “quality starts” of seven innings or more:
Kelvim Escobar — 3
Bartolo Colon — 3
John Lackey — 3
Ervin Santana — 3
Jared Weaver — 1
Over on the Mariners side, there have been seven such quality starts:
Jarrod Washburn — 3
Felix Hernandez — 2
Miguel Batitsa — 1
Cha Seung Baek — 1
So, obviously the Mariners have some catching up to do. But the fact they sit only two games behind the Angels has to be considered fortunate at this stage. The Mariners can also point to the prolonged absence for Hernandez and figure their seven such quality starts could have been boosted to nine or 10 by now had he been healthy. Take Jeff Weaver out of the equation, and there is possibly room for another such start out of his replacement. All of this is, of course, hypothetical. Games are won and lost on the field, not on paper.
But Jarrod Washburn’s performance, clearly, has kept Seattle within sight of the division lead. Now, he needs some help. As evidenced by the Angels, with four of their five starters matching Washburn’s team-high totals, the depth is not quite there for the Mariners. But there are still 4 1/2 months to play. That’s 4 1/2 months to try to get some things right.
It’s highly doubtful Hernandez will add a seven-inning quality start to his totals tonight, given his pitch count limit — even against the free-swinging Angels. But Washburn and Baek will have their shot this week. Who knows? The Mariners could find themselves catching up to the Angels both in that pitching stat as well as the all-important standings by the time Thursday night is over. It should be a very interesting week.
On the other end of the pitching spectrum, we have “injured” Seattle starter Weaver. Seems he and his younger brother will have plenty to talk about today. For all we’ve written about him, Weaver has been a pretty stand-up, easy-going guy. Not saying you all have to root for him. Just maybe ease up on the wanting-to-trash-his-house talk. This is only baseball. He feels terribly about what’s gone on, trust me. This isn’t Barry Bonds or Kevin Brown we’re talking about. No, I don’t want to see him back in this rotation any time soon. But let’s forget about cursing his family and just move on. It’s healthier for everyone and besides — the Mariners have a division leader to catch.

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