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

May 29, 2007 at 1:07 AM

Mariners serve notice

Not sure what kind of notice the M’s just finished serving, whether it’s the 24-hour kind or something more permanent, but the club that showed up here tonight was one to be reckoned with. They didn’t just beat the Los Angeles Angels, 12-5, they “crushed” and “obliterated” them say the local scribes. Believe me, the folks walking out of the stadium and watching the highlights on television locally know their team got mugged. Now, here’s the thing. We’ve seen this act before. Try two weeks ago in Seattle. Mariners jump all over some shaky Angels defense to win the first game of a series, then get taken to the cleaners the rest.
One game will not make a definitive statement or a season. Seattle needs to win this series, or any statement made here in the series opener will be explained away as more shoddy defense (which there was) and a tired Angels team still living off the high of a Yankee Stadium sweep. But do you know what I really liked about tonight from a Seattle perspective? Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson. For this team to win anything, those two have to produce. I know some of you have wanted to float them off to a deserted island for some time, but they really are the team. Without them producing, the team never gets beyond .500. With them? Who knows?
Everyone was a little jazzed up after this game. Before it, too. Manager Mike Hargrove keeps trying to downplay the importance of a May series. But he knows his team can’t lose any more ground this early. Came out and said nearly as much before the game, stating that when a team is trying to establish itself as a contender, every series is big.
After the game, he was asked about those wanting to see whether this team could beat up on clubs other than the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Kansas City Royals.
“For the people that don’t want to believe, they’re always going to find reasons not to believe,” Hargrove said. “I have neither the patience nor the time to worry about that. We feel like we’ve got a good ballclub and eventually people will come to that conclusion and that will be good. I can’t do anything about the doubters. We can’t do anything about the doubters except to keep going out and doing our jobs.”
And doing them consistently, he should add. The doubters have their opinions based on performance, not on expected performance. It’s “show me” time for the Mariners.
The M’s, as we’ve mentioned, have had their shining moments before. It’s the 2-1 losses to San Diego, the 13-12 defeats to Tampa Bay, that cause folks to scratch their heads. It’s the fact that Miguel Batista, as per Hargrove, was about one pitch away from an early exit several times in this game. Good thing Cha Seung Baek is around to help stabilize this starting rotation. Yes, the Mariners used some good hitting to negate another negative outing by Batista. No, these bats will not last forever. But they are certainly fun to watch,
The “doubters” out there are not all crazy. They want to see better pitching from the starting rotation before they truly believe. I know I do. Seattle has found signs of that with an improving Felix Hernandez, a solid Jarrod Washburn and a surprising Cha Seung Baek. But they are still about one arm away from having a rotation that will intimidate anyone in this division.
It’s different with the bats. They are intimidating. As we mentioned a while back, they are hands-down the division’s best, whether or not they draw walks. And they really could use more walks. But they will never win a division title based on their walk ability. The best move Bill Bavasi made all winter was the Jose Guillen signing and he set the tone tonight. Seattle wins when it scores first. The M’s needed to get on the board quickly here to show they mean business.
“Absolutely,” said Richie Sexson. “We want to let them know that we’re here. They’ve got — I don’t know what it was — maybe a four or five game lead in the division. We need to come in here, play well, let them know that we’re not going anywhere.”
Win tonight and that won’t be just a statement. Win this second game and the M’s will know they won’t be any further than 3 1/2 back with the awful Texas Rangers coming to Seattle next weekend for four games. They could even narrow the gap to 1 1/2 games. Hey, it’s early to be saying that. But we’ll know 48 hours from now whether the M’s truly made a stand here. Tonight was a great start. And hey, why not enjoy it? I don’t know many baseball fans who want to see the Angels run away with and make a mockery of the AL West. If the Mariners want to give them a run, then by all means, go out and do it. But it says here they will need better starting pitching than they’ve gotten. Either through a new arm or improvement, something has to change. Because these bats, as good as they now look on what is still really a .500 team, won’t be doing this every night — even though it now looks as if they can. They can’t. They won’t hit .371 for the rest of the season as they’ve now been doing. But the M’s have to hope that, for at least tonight, this surge can continue and carry young Ryan Feierabend over the top.
It’s been four years since the M’s were this far over .500. Enjoy it while it lasts. If it lasts all season, we’ll have plenty to talk about. If not, even more to talk about. That’s what fun baseball is about.

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