If you recall, coming out of spring training with Cliff Lee a month away from pitching - and Erik Bedard a good six weeks out - the Seattle Mariners hoped to 'stay close' in the American League West throughout April.
[caption id="attachment_7901" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Ken Griffey Jr.: Can he still hit?"][/caption]
Well, as they watch their 19th game of the 2010 season delayed by rain - the new start time is 11:45 a.m. (PDT) - they have done just that, going .500 thus far.
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Would you have thought they'd be 9-9 after starting the year 2-5? What if you'd known Felix Hernandez would win just two games - and Ryan Rowland-Smith and Ian Snell wouldn't have a win yet? Or that Milton Bradley would miss five games to injury?
Would you have believed they could go 9-9 despite losing four times on walk-off hits? What if you'd know Chone Figgins would be batting .186? Or that your two catchers wouldn't hit? Worse, that your two designated hitters - Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney - would produce a batting average under .200?
All things considered, it's amazing this team has won nine games. Will they be better in a week, with Felix and Lee starting twice each turn through the rotation? Yes.
Will Lee's return - or his and Bedard's together - solve all the Mariners problems? Not hardly.
It's fair to expect Figgins to hit. He will. But after hitting .213 last season, having Griffey hit about the same this month - without power - raises legitimate questions about whether he can or should be the left-handed DH.
Jose Lopez isn't an ideal No. 4 hitter, but this team doesn't have a better one at the moment. The bullpen hasn't yet become the automatic out-machine it was for months at a time in 2009. The rotation - specifically Rowland-Smith and Snell - remains a work in progress.
To be where they are as they work through all that is remarkable. It doesn't make the problems any easier to solve.
- Underway in Chicago, lefty John Danks retired Ichiro (3 pitches), Figgins (4) and Franklin Gutierrez (5) quickly and efficiently. Yikes!
- Juan Pierre was hit by the first pich Jason Vargas threw, and Gordon Beckham singled on the third - and Pierre stole third base on his fifth pitch. Adruw Jones struck out. Adam Moore was charged with a passed ball, allowing Pierre to score, on the 13th pitch of the inning. Konerko walked. A.J. Pierzynski grounded out. Carlos Quentin grounded out. After one: Chicago 1, Seattle 0.
- Here come those scrappy little Mariners! Lopez dunked a single into center field and Sweeney snapped an 0-for-11 stretch when he singled into left. Casey Kotchman grounded into a double play, Lopez taking third base. Eric Byrnes struck out. Scrappy didn't produce a run.
- Gutierrez hit his second home run of the series - and the season - on a one-out, 1-1 pitch. In the fourth: Seattle 1, Chicago 1.
- Kotchman tripled off the glove of center fielder Alex Rios leading off the fifth. Byrnes looped a slow line drive to short. Moore looped a single into right field for the RBI, his second of the season. In the fifth: Seattle 2, Chicago 1.
- Despite early command issues, Mr. Vargas has now sailed through five innings on 72 pitches, allowing just the first-inning run. If you were to start a rotation with what's on hand right now, it would be Felix, Fister and Vargas, 1-2-3. Who knew?
- Jones singled and Konerko doubled - runners at second and third asae no one out. Pierzynski popped out. Carlos Quentin grounded out, Jones scoring. Rios popped out. After six: Seattle 2, Chicago 2.
- Leadoff double by Mark Teahen in the seventh inning. Vargas struck out Alexi Ramirez and retired Pierre on a ground ball, holding Teahen at second. Sean White replaced Vargas. Beckham flied out. After seven: Seattle 2, Chicago 2.
- With two out in the eight, Ichiro singled. Figgins singled him to third base. Gutierrez flied out on Danks' 107th pitch.
- Brandon League in to pitch the eighth for Seattle. Mark Lowe is unaailable (lower back spasms). On a one-out, 2-1 pitch, Konerko homered. After eight: Chicago 3, Seattle 2.
- Bobby Jenks in for the ninth, trying to save the Sox third one-run win of the series with Seattle. Ground ball, strike out, Kotchman doubled and Byrnes walked. Ken Griffey Jr. batted for Moore and struck out. It's a final: Chicago 3, Seattle 2.