When talking 2012 Mariners during the offseason one of my main sentiments has been “I’m happy to lose 9-7. Let’s play some three and a half hour games!” Well the team looks like it’s going to hold me accountable for that statement. All three games on American soil have seen the Mariners score at least five runs and give up an average of seven. Twelve runs a game, are you not entertained!? I am. Kind of.
This was a game full of storylines and talking points but the overall theme is something I think we’re going to see a lot this year: The Texas Rangers are a damn fine baseball team and can win a game in almost any way. Their biggest offseason acquisition disappointed in his debut and put the team in a big hole but they didn’t have the slightest problem coming back to pummel an inferior opponent. The M’s have featured an exciting, young offense in the last three games. They ran into the measuring stick tonight and it’s clear they have a ways to go. Some observations:
On the podcast last night I got all indignant-like about the need to compare Yu Darvish to the last big name free agent pitcher to come over from Japan. My stance basically being that to so narrowly focus on a player’s race when searching for comparables is shallow and somewhat demeaning in this day and age. Darvish then went out and threw a game that was the very picture of a Diasuke Matsuzaka game. He nibbled, he fell behind, he labored, he took damn near forever. The raw stuff in Darvish’s repertoire is comparable to the best in the game. But despite his dominating spring his command still showed as a weakness and is the obvious thing to watch for him as the season progresses. It was a pleasure to see the Mariners recognize the issue and force him to throw strikes. Miguel Olivo of course being the exception.
But then Miguel Olivo is awful.
Noesi Struggles in Debut
Handed a 4-0 lead before he even threw a pitch, it was obvious early that Noesi wasn’t sharp. He consistently missed his location early and it seemed his release point was really off. Given that this is arguably the best offense in baseball he was punished for it and only slogged through 3+ innings before his day was done, surrendering two home runs and three walks in the process. It’s easy to be discouraged by what we saw but given that there is almost no more difficult scenario for a debut than to face a great offense on the road during the debut of a heralded free agent, it’s important not to read too much into it. If you’re really feeling down remember that changeup in the first to strike out Josh Hamilton. That goes down smoooooooth and Noesi will start half his games at sweet, sweet Safeco Field, where right-handed power is largely neutralized. As always it’s about what happens going forward.
Ramirez does NOT struggle in debut
This was something we’ve all been waiting for awhile now. All Spring we had heard about Erasmo Ramirez, unheralded baby-brother to The Big Three turning heads with his command of the strike zone. We got to see an extended glimpse today and it was hard not to like what we saw. Thrity-one of forty-four pitches for strikes and other than a home run to one of the four or five most dangerous hitters in baseball Ramirez either struck out or induced a ground ball from every hitter he faced. It bears watching when a rotation spot opens up either through attrition or trade if Ramirez gets the call. He certainly looked capable today in a situation with the game still in doubt. He’s a personal favorite of mine and one of so many young players worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.
Kyle Seager = The Real Lasershow
The small, blonde Jason Vargas-after-a-chemical-peal continued his hot start to the year by roping line drives to right field on three occasions. Despite Darvish’s inability to find the zone Seager’s game plan was very aggressive. He saw only eleven pitches in five at bats. But whereas a hitter like Miguel Olivo appears to have the switch permanently stuck in the “swing” position Seager attacked only when the pitch was in the zone, which just happened to be early in the count today. A lot of people (including myself) don’t really know what to make of Seager as the ceiling for a low power, average patience third baseman only goes so high. But every game seems to see him making positive contributions on both sides. Tonight saw a beautiful barehanded play on an Elvis Andrus chopper. He seems to have no interest in seceding the position anytime soon.
There will most likely be many games this year where the Mariners flash potential but are ultimately overmatched by a superior opponent. The American League is certainly the stronger league and the AL West in particular has spent the last two offseasons A) getting rich and B) spending that wealth on premium players. Gird yourself for more defeats at the hands of the Rangers those son-of-a-bitch-Angels (God-given name). The worthwhile part is in the pursuit and the Mariners, at long last, are hopefully at least on the right path.
Half of a compelling matchup tomorrow as Blake Beaven faces off against Netfali Feliz in his major league starting debut. There’s no earthly reason for the Mariners to win that matchup so look forward to a breezy victory tomorrow. Hopefully Jesus Montero stops being sick long enough to rejoin the lineup. Hopefully Miguel Olivo loses his cleats. And his glove. Or just gets the day off. Just, less of him please.
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