Even if it weren't for that one thing, Monday's game between the Mariners and the Rangers would be of considerable interest to us. We'll get to see Hector Noesi make his first meaningful appearance in the uniform, following a spring with an encouraging walks total and a less encouraging strikeout total. And we'll get to see the Mariners try to hold their tenuous lead in the AL West. We're taking this shit wire to wire!
But there's also that one thing. When Yoenis Cespedes made his Major League debut, not a whole lot of people cared, in no small part because he debuted around three in the morning. Tonight, Yu Darvish will make his Major League debut. People are going to care. A lot of America is going to care, and like all of Japan is going to care. Japan has a lot of people in it. You can take my word for it, or you can conduct your own independent research.
How might the Mariners hitters fare against Darvish? We have some considerations.
Yu Darvish is really good. At least, Yu Darvish seems really good. His pitches are certainly really good, in that they move well and go fast. The only question is how well he'll be able to locate them. He had little trouble locating them in Japan; he had a little more trouble locating them in Arizona, but in his defense it's hard to locate a lot of things in Arizona. The 202 is obnoxiously not continuous. In downtown Phoenix there are numbered streets, and then identically numbered avenues. You'd think that Arizona would be user-friendly but it's more complicated than it seems. Anyway, this is about Darvish, and six months from now there could be an argument that Yu Darvish is the best pitcher in the world. It's possible, given what we know now.
The Mariners hitters might not be really good. They just scored some runs against Oakland, but they didn't exactly demonstrate a whole lot of patience or power. If you want to use early indications to believe that Chone Figgins is bouncing back then that's fine, but you'd also have to use early indications to believe that Justin Smoak is a pile of crap so let's not be hasty. There's undeniable talent in the Mariners' batting order, but that talent isn't yet proven, so for the moment we still have to believe that the Mariners' offense is worse than average.
The Mariners have never seen Yu Darvish before. Pitching. Live. Maybe they've seen him walking around, or maybe they've seen him pitching on TV. But they haven't faced him. Darvish hasn't faced the Mariners, either, but his catcher has, so he'll be working from a position of knowledge. There's only one Mariner who's ever faced Darvish - Munenori Kawasaki - but I don't think his scouting report is going to be of very much use.
"He's a great pitcher," Kawasaki said Saturday through interpreter Antony Suzuki.
I don't know what benefit there would be if the Mariners had faced Darvish before. I don't know how important that experience is, or how long the memories last. But I'm pretty sure it can't help the Mariners that they're going up against an unknown. Pitchers are in a position of power, and hitting is all reacting; the Mariners don't yet know what they'll be reacting to. This could be messy.
Given the above considerations, I think it would be wise to expect Darvish to look really good. If the Mariners come out and try to swing aggressively, Darvish will expand the zone. If the Mariners come out and try to be patient, then Darvish might be lethal once he's ahead. How many of the Mariners' batting eyes do you trust? There are going to be strikeouts. Oodles of strikeouts. Maybe a handful of walks. Hopefully a hit. Assuming the Mariners aren't going to follow my bunt-literally-everything advice, Darvish should look pretty dominant, and the Mariners should lose. There, look where I have set your expectations! Now it will be almost impossible to be disappointed! Figgins really should bunt to lead off, though. I don't ordinarily recommend bunting against a defense with Adrian Beltre in it, but maybe Darvish would injure his groin coming off the mound. I'm not going to pretend like that wouldn't make me happy.