Thursday, April 06, 2006

And We're Off...

So here we are... Three games into the 162-game marathon that is the Major League Baseball regular season. The hard work and the early morning practices in Peoria, Ariz. are a thing of the past and the games start to count from here on out.

Three games is an extremely small sample size, I will concede that point. However, what the Mariners have been able to do in those three games is something that they were wholly unable to do in all of the previous 324 games of the past two combined seasons. Yes, they played aggresive baseball, they showed unrelenting promise and most of all, they were able to score runs in bulk.

Starting off with opening day 2006, the Mariners had one of the most encouraging losses that a team could have. On the opposing side of the ledger under the starting pitcher line was a man by the name of Bartolo Colon. Colon, the 2005 American League Cy Young Award Winner; Colon, the man who has been utterly dominant against the Mariners in his nine seasons of Major League experience; Colon, Mariner killer. The game did not start off well at all for Seattle, Jamie Moyer, starting his third straight opening day for the Mariners gave up a homerun to the Angels slugger, Vladimir Guerrero (who hit 9 homers against Seattle pitching in 2005) in the top of the 1st inning, and just like that, 2006 looked an awful lot like 2005. A funny thing happened that day at Safeco Field however, the Mariners offense began to click and was able to tie the game at three in the 5th inning against Colon. To make a long story short, and to ignore the gory details of an opening day loss, the Mariner bullpen found a way to lose the game as they had so many times in the previous season. One good thing about baseball though? There is always a tomorrow, in fact, there are 161 more tomorrows after opening day.

The first tomorrow came the very next day on April 4th, when the Mariners sent their number two starter and number one project pitcher this year, Joel Pineiro, to pitch against the Angels who countered with their youngster, John Lackey. Pineiro held the Halo offense in check for much of the game until he began to tire in the 6th inning when he held a 6-0 lead before he yielded a three-run homerun to Angel outfielder, Garret Anderson. With the score at 6-3, the game began to get very interesting, and even more encouraging for this Mariner fan. In the top of the 8th inning, the Angels were able to drive two runs across the plate to bring the already skinny Mariner lead to a lead of anorexic-like proportions, a measly one run. Now let me just throw this out here, when the Mariners lost momentum last year like this, they tended to fold and just give up, and eventually lose the game. Not this year! Going to the bottom of the 8th inning, the Mariners lead was 6-5, when the offense retaliated. Richie Sexson stepped up to the plate after the leftfielder, Raul Ibanez was intentionally walked. Sexson struck out his last time up to bat, but in this at-bat he was able to crush an Esteban Yan offering into the seats of Safeco field to extend the Mariner lead to 9-5, by the end of the inning the score was 10-5 and the Mariners looked to be driving down Easy Street on their way to the first victory of the year. It ended up not being so easy however. It took Eddie Guardado 41 pitches and three earned runs to get out of the top of the 9th inning but in the end, a win is a win is a win.

Game three of the season turned out to be just as heart pounding as the previous three with free agent starter Jarrod Washburn taking the mound against his previous team. Washburn dominated the potent Angels lineup en route to a 6-4 victory that was not as close as the final score indicates as the Angels scrapped for 3 runs in the final three innings.

The first series is in the bank now for the Seattle Mariners, and all indications thus far are pointing towards a very different season than those the previous two seasons. Aggressive baseball, hard baserunning, great starting pitching and most of all, the ability to bounce back when they are punched in the mouth. All these attributes are things that have not been seen in Seattle in a few years, and they have never been more welcome. The absence of expectations, the influx of talent and a full season of new hope are the keystones for this new Mariners team. All of this without even one Felix start yet? Just wait until Friday April 7th when Hernandez makes his first start of the season, then take the pulse of the Mariner fanbase, if the team is 4-1 after that game, you may just find a heartbeat once again in the nearly deceased baseball heart of the city of Seattle. Fingers crossed. And We're off...


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