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Series Preview: Texas Rangers @ Seattle Mariners

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Seattle: 0-0
Texas: 0-0

GAMES

Game 1: Erik Bedard* vs Kevin Millwood
Game 2: Felix Hernandez vs Vicente Padilla
Game 3: Carlos Silva vs Jason Jennings

Thank Hades that we won't face a lefty starter. I don't think I could take an Ibanez and Morse outfield this early on.

We justifiably hate on ERA, but there are some times that it's useful because we're all still very familiar with it. Here's one such occasion. The premier three pitchers for the Rangers, their opening salvo to 2008, had the following 2007 ERAs: 5.16, 5.76, 6.45. Curious about an actual measurement? tRAs were 5.41, 5.95, 6.07 and even regressed they're 5.29, 5.49, 5.60. Welcome to bad.

Likely Starters:
C Gerald Laird
1 Ben Broussard*
2 Ian Kinsler
3 Hank Blalock*
S Michael Young
L David Murphy*
C Josh Hamilton*
R Marlon Byrd
D Milton Bradley

Four lefties in the Opening Day lineup for Bedard to roll through. Of note is that given a full season, all nine batters above would project for 100 or more strikeouts. We could see north of 20 strikeouts in the first two games, hell even Silva might nab a batter or two in his turn Wednesday.

CONTEXT

Baseball, baseball, baseball, baseball!!! AHHHHHH SEAAAAAAHAWWWKKKKSSSS
Okay, whew, sorry about that. Here we go, Opening Day (can we get this a national holiday already?), a new Spring, a fresh start, renewed hope, pick your cliché. Beyond that, what does this mean? Well, it's a chance for crazy instant small sample size emotional analysis! Sexson strikes out in his first at bat? He's through. Boo the slug. Lopez pops out? Free Tuglett! Bedard has a typically rocky April start? Oh god, we're screwed!

It's also a chance to do some actual scouting on not just the new players, but the whole team. How does Beltre look? Is his thumb noticeably bothering him? Does Richie's at bats at least look better? Has Lopez learned to fake a clue at the plate? Can Raul cobble together a Chris Gray-like resurgence in LF for a little while after an offseason of rest?

Do you see the difference between the preceding two paragraphs? It's early in the season, this is essentially still Spring Training, and you know what you should be looking at in Spring Training? NOT STATS! Look for Bedard's movement on his curve; are hitters taking fastballs for called strikes? That suggests his deception is still good. That's one example; there's plenty others. These are just games one, two and three of 162. Game one did set a high bar last season; let's hope for an even better one this time around.

Obviously this series kicks off the season, but it has more than that going for it. The Mariners April schedule should be cream-filled until they reach Cleveland at the very end of the month and it includes six games against the Angels. With Lackey out for the month and Escobar for at least 2008, and with the valid concerns over how Seattle is going to score runs, getting off to a good start is paramount. There's a lot of pressure on this team this year and the last thing we need is for them to struggle out of the gate and start pressing. By all measurements, this should be an easy series win for the Ms and a sweep isn't the least bit improbable. From there, they play 4 against Baltimore, who might be the AL's worst team this year. Don't waste the opportunity Seattle.

THIS SERIES BROUGHT TO YOU BY:

Jaywalker Russian Imperial Stout
Walking Man Brewery. Stevenson, WA

A heavy hitter at 12.7% ABV; the alcohol will be felt. Malts and caramels on the nose with a toffee, cocoa, malt and caramel flavors undertoned with some complex fruit sweetness. 2005 North American Beer Awards Gold Medalist.