even though the Mariners played sloppy ball which resulted in their being swept by the Rangers. The series gave me a chance to really focus on the Mariners: their starting pitching is fantabulous.
- King Felix Hernandez is fantabulous.
- Cliff Lee made his first start of the season and painted corners for 7 scoreless innings. Lee dominated the Rangers.
- Eric Bedard should return from injury soon.
- Grasshopper Doug Fister (I am creating this moniker: Fister is tall and thin, like grasshopper; also throws mystical change-up - thus grasshopper also works as a "Kung Fu" TV show reference) is a surprise, and is the additional ingredient which cements my Mariners fandom. On the season, Fister has a 1.29 ERA and a fantabulous 0.80 WHIP. Fister is 6'5"ish. He comes over the top with a fastball he which paints on corners. He follows that with a mystical dancing change-up which he also controls. Video: Fister no hit the Rangers through 5 innings; shut out the Rangers on 3 hits and 0 walks before departing after 8 innings.
So: 4 fantabulous starters (and a capable 5th starter in Jason Vargas), pitching in a big ballpark in heavy air, and backed by outstanding defense - especially in an OF where everyone is a speedster and where CF Franklin Gutierrez is a defensive mega-star. In the infield: 1B Casey Kotchman and SS Jack Wilson are outstanding defenders; Chone Figgins is plenty solid at 2B. How do you beat a team like that? Not easily. The Mariners are no fun to play against.
The Mariners ought be in the pennant race all season. If the Mariners get a lead in the pennant race: how do the trailing teams make up ground against a Mariners club which is sending out King Felix, Lee, Bedard, Fister, and Vargas over and over all through the season? Catching the Mariners would be a formidable task. Further: if the Mariners make the playoffs, who wants to go back to back to back to back against King Felix, Cy Young Winner Cliff Lee, Eric Bedard, and Grasshopper Doug Fister? No one wants to face that.
Shifting focus: the AL West is going to be a fun division to follow. The pennant race will be heated all through the season, and likely right through the final weekend.
The Angels are division champs and are not disappearing; have their own fantabulous group of starting pitchers; have a dynamic offensive team. Any team with Erik Aybar at SS is worth watching. Aybar is one of my favorite baseball players, ever.
The Rangers are a rising team which might be ready to win. The Rangers are a volatile and powerful thunderstorm. They could strike with the sudden and massive force of suddenly mature talent. The rest of the division looks on warily.
I'm fired up for this season.