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April 9, 2012 at 8:53 AM

Mariners hitters face somewhat of an unknown challenge tonight in Yu Darvish

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After watching the Mariners demolish Oakland pitching and defense for two games, they take a step up in class tonight when Japanese sensation Yu Darvish makes his major league debut for the Rangers here in Arlington.
There is no rain happening at the moment, though it came down mighty hard yesterday. Driving here to my hotel — in the shadow of the ballpark — from the airport yesterday and seeing all the “disaster zone” electronic billboard notices from last week’s tornado was a little ominous. We got stuck in a tornado zone here a few years back and heavy rain seems to always be a problem this time of year.
So, will they get the game in? Let’s hope. Let’s also hope this area has no more disasters for quite a while.
Back to Darvish, the only Mariners player to have faced him is shortstop Munenori Kawasaki and he’s not even supposed to play. Mariners manager Eric Wedge has insisted that Brendan Ryan is his starting shortstop, though I would not be stunned if Wedge decides to give the incumbent one of his usual “one more day” rest sessions just to get Kawasaki in there.
As I wrote in this morning’s paper, Kawasaki wasn’t much help with the advance scouting report on Darvish.
“He is a great pitcher,” he said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki.
Well then, that explains the $112 million the Rangers put on-the-line for him, $108 million of that guaranteed.
Photo Credit: AP


Scanning the morning papers in the Dallas area wasn’t much help either. We know that Darvish struck out 11 Colorado Rockies in his spring finale,
This read from longtime columnist Randy Galloway was somewhat interesting for its attendance estimates. They are expecting well over 40,000 for this game on a bad weather Monday night. Even with the Rangers now a perenial World Series contender, their Monday night draws rarely exceed 30,000 in normal circumstances, so the big free agent splurge should already start seeing some dividends.
This in-depth profile by USA Today writer Paul White gives a bit of a scouting report at the bottom. It also dispells the notion we might see Darvish throw his legendary (at least, purported to be) “gyrolball”.
So, what do the Mariners have to do tonight? Same thing they did in Oakland. Chone Figgins has been the offensive catalyst to date, hitting .412 and getting on-base at that same .412 clip.
The top three hitters in the order are all batting over .300, while Kyle Seager and Nos. 8 and 9 hitters Michael Saunders and Ryan are all making solid contact as well.
That part as helped obscure the struggles in the middle of the order, where Jesus Montero is 3-for-15 and Justin Smoak 2-for-17. That Figgins is your team RBI leader with four tells you some of the bigger bats are not delivering as of yet. But the smaller bats and some team speed has made up the difference so far.
It’s still too early to draw any conclusions from it, but this is what’s happened so far. Texas had been a good place for Smoak to hit, until last year when he went 4-for-23 (.174). We’ll see how he does this time around.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Jesus Montero

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