Monday, themade a grave mistake. The Reds sent representatives to challenge the baby bear that is the ' B-squad. The Reds representatives cornered the baby bear. They teased it, they taunted it, and they attempted to establish their dominance over it. But where there is a child, there is an adult, and mama bear was none too pleased with the Reds' behavior. So Tuesday, mama bear came at the Reds and mauled them in the face, and the Mariners' A-squad prevailed 8-6.
With the win, the Mariners improved to 4-1 in Cactus League play and screamed past the Reds in the standings. They screamed past the Reds all the way to the top, as the Mariners sit a half-game in front of the, , and A's. Given that the Mariners, Royals, and A's are widely expected to be playoff contenders, you can see that it didn't take long for the wheat to separate from the chaff. Yes, it's still early in the Cactus League schedule, but it's never too early to have a lead. The Mariners now control their own destiny in pursuit of the Golden Saguaro.
The game's big highlight was the performance turned in by Felix Hernandez. Making his first real start of the spring, Felix threw as many pitches in three innings as Hisashi Iwakuma threw in one, whiffing four without a walk or a hit. Felix did drill some nobody with his very first pitch of the day, but that was just to send the message that the baby bear team is not to be fucked with. Felix retired the next nine guys in order. The last one was a three-pitch swinging strikeout of the same guy Felix had plunked in the first.
Felix wasn't lighting up anybody's radar gun, topping out around 91-92, but nobody has a radar gun that lights up because radar guns aren't made by LA Gear. This early in camp, I don't think there's anything to worry about, as Felix is just getting loose. He sure as hell got the right results, and his command was on point. Felix is fine. Better than fine, if "fine" means "acceptable". Felix is so far beyond acceptable. Additionally, Drayer left this note of interest:
Felix on working to bring back his slider "My slider was on vacation last year."— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 6, 2012
Just because Felix wants to improve his slider doesn't mean he's going to improve his slider or that anything's going to change, but that's something to keep tucked away in the back of your mind. Also, did you notice that Felix had a mediocre slider in 2011? I didn't notice that Felix had a mediocre slider in 2011. I guess the pitch values don't lie. God damn, Felix's changeup is amazing.
The Mariners' offensive star was Ichiro, who had three hits, although one of those hits was a sun hit. From one perspective, the Mariners were lucky to get a sun hit. From another perspective, the Mariners are leveraging the power of the sun to improve their performance on the field. The Mariners benefited from the sun again during a five-run third inning. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Justin Smoak hit a fly to center, and Daryl Jones screwed up and everybody was safe and two runs scored. The Mariners put up that fiver against Brett Tomko. So you can tell they're ready for the regular season, in triple-A.
No Mariners player homered. Francisco Martinez tripled, and Adam Moore almost homered with a double off the wall. Just another almost for Adam Moore, who I like to call "Mr. Almost". Chone Figgins drew a pair of walks and nobody struck out more than once because Carlos Peguero didn't bat more than once.
Nobody was really impressive behind Felix out of the bullpen. Four of six relievers allowed runs, and the other two had one walk and two walks. Lucas Luetge allowed a homer, which you wouldn't think would matter since Lucas Luetge isn't making this baseball team, but Hong-Chih Kuo allowed a homer and continued to struggle, slightly improving the odds that Lucas Luetge makes this baseball team. There's a lot of time to go yet but Kuo needs to get himself straightened out if he wants to last. He has not made a positive early impression. As I've probably written before in exactly these words, Kuo has obvious upside, but there's a reason he came so cheap.
Tomorrow, at 12:05pm PST, the Angels. On MLB.tv! Allegedly. The Angels are currently 2-0 in the Cactus League. The Reds were also 2-0 in the Cactus League, before.