Awesome to terrible Mariners pitching in just three days

The good news: King Felix will start every fifth game.
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The Seattle Mariners logo.

The good news: King Felix will start every fifth game.

Prior to the opening game of the 2007 Seattle Mariners season, Mike Hargrove seemed capable of winning little besides the dubious distinction of Big League Manager Most Likely to be Fired First. The newly chin-fuzzy, suddenly pudgy M's skipper was said during spring camp to have a shorter leash than any sports mentor this side of an Iditarod lead dog. What would come first, tax-filing deadline or a team pratfall and replacement of Grover with M's bench coach John McLaren? Then Felix Hernandez happened, or HAPPENED, if you read the local press. The Hernandez opening-day, eight-inning, three-hitter, with 12 strikeouts and freakish control, already has been confirmed locally as the greatest pitching feat since Johnny Vander Meer's consecutive no-hitters in 1938. Hargrove himself, during the intoxicating aftermath of the M's 4-0 game-one win against Oakland on Monday, April 2, couldn't help adding to the Adoration of The Felix. Mild Mike suggested facetiously that the 20-year-old (he'll be 21 on Sunday, April 8) probably will go 35-0 this season. Baseball seasons, of course, have a game two, three–162. Some teams even play a few more, though sadly not the Seattle Mariners for several years. A few skeptics dared to whisper after the King of Kings Felix coronation opening day that the M's, after all, only had four hits, none from the bottom end of the lineup. Had it not been for A's shortstop Bobby Crosby playing pat-a-cake with an easy double-play toss, the M's-A's opener could still be going on. Then game two happened. The M's had nine hits. Bottom of the lineup? Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, batting in the eight hole, had a two-room line-drive dinger to put it out of reach in the seventh. Even the M's worrisome bullpen couldn't piddle away an 8-4 lead, and suddenly the M's were 2-0. Hours later, the M's front office extended its hold on Cuban wunderkind Betancourt by locking him up through 2011. Keen TV analyst Bill Krueger praised the move, calling Yuni the best young shortstop in baseball. Then came game three. By Wednesday, April 4, this didn't seem to be the Mariners team that lost 17 of 19 to Oakland last season. Gone from 2006 are–well, plenty of guys are gone. Arrived for 2007 are a pair who, fans hope, won't become the no-way Joses (Vidro and Guillen); they're statistically interchangeable and thought to be known around the clubhouse as "Hose-A and Hose-B." The starting pitching staff is sans Gil Meche (now the pride of the Kansas City Royals), Joel Pineiro (Red Sox), and Jamie Moyer (Phillies). Game three featured perhaps the biggest pitching mystery of the era of General Manager Bill Bavasi. On the mound was Miguel Batista. He'd been roughed up during late spring-training outings, and there was little in his recent career history to suggest he'd be an effective three guy in the rotation. Batista was whatever you'd call much-worse-than-ineffective, starting with a five-run second inning. The M's lost 9-zippo, facing the best pitcher they might see this season, managing three hits in seven innings off an obviously recovered Rich Harden. Few can gripe about an M's club going to Cleveland Friday, April 6, with a 2-1 mark. Skeptics won't let up on the notion that pitching is still suspect. On the other hand, maybe Felix really will go 35-0 while Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Weaver, and Horacio Ramirez become the quality starters Bavasi believes they can be. For now, Batista is the answer only if the question is: What's the name of that 36-year-old stiff Bill Bavasi thought would be a better third starter than Gil Meche? Batista had an earned-run average of 15.43 (eight runs, 10 hits, two walks, two balks, and a hit batter) after being mercifully lifted during the fourth. It was thought that when he left the mound, he walked past the clubhouse and into the team doghouse, which still has enough space, if necessary, to accommodate even a portly Mike Hargrove.


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