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2-4: The Mariners bookend opening week with another bizarre Felix start

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Felix looked more like the Felix we all know, but the bad part is that so did the rest of the Mariners.

these things. i do not need these things
these things. i do not need these things
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

chart4.10

the quiet infinitude residing within us all: Felix Hernandez (.430 WPA)

that same thing but when you watch the mariners: Steve Clevenger (-.148 WPA)

Jerry's Equation: (5 Mariner BBs + 12 Mariner Ks) - (3 A's BBs + 7 A's Ks) = 7. Hell of a win, boys.

Hello there, welcome, sit down, take off your shoes, let me get you a drink, the Mariners are bad.

Alright fine, it's been a week. But it's been........quite an interesting week to being this, easily the strangest potential season of Seattle baseball I can remember in quite some time. It's strange because the Mariners were supposed to be shiny, new and fresh, radiating that healthy new mojo now that the Milwaukie font man has been sent packing. Instead we got another three-hit, ten-strikeout Felix no-decision like it was 2010. It's strange because the whole point was that there were to be no expectations, a blank chalkboard ready for etchings--and then Robinson Cano hit a dinger every day and the Mariners started flexing their muscles so fast they pulled them like a new year's gym resolution come to life. Just pick one or the other and run with it, guys. For crying out loud.

Today the Mariners lost a baseball game to the Oakland Athletics, and that means they have fallen to 2-4 after gifting Billy Burns and the Pancake Crew their first series sweep of the year. It doesn't matter yet, but it sure wasn't fun to sit through. Now, the good news is that what started as another shaky Felix start quickly righted itself after a minor jam in the third. After breezing through the first two with only a double to his line, Felix took his brand-spanking new 90MPH fastball and promptlly put Josh Phegley on first with a single, gave up a walk to Marcus Semien, and eventually another to Josh Reddick.

After just grinding through the first two outs, the King faced Stephen Vogt, owner of a .524 career average against (which, what??). He threw three sinkers, falling behind in the count 2-1 to head towards what would quite honestly have been worse than  a smoldering pile of wreckage on the side of the highway: like the season opener in Arlington, Felix was again looking like the few ticks off his velocity were enough to keep him dangerous but vulnerable. Like the storm brewing underneath two consecutive rocky outings suggested a much larger concern, the red sky we wake up to at dawn that remains despite how hard we rub our eyes in its direction.

But then, Felix did something else.

felixk

This was, I think, the moment it all changed. Felix's velocity is still way down, way, way down on the year, even when you take 2012's March Japan opener into account. It's been two games, but his changeup is sitting around 87 right now--which is, terrifyingly, where it was when he was still throwing 96 before turning it into one of the game's elite pitches. And yet, after stealing this seven-pitch strikeout from a player whom he had yet to strike out during his entire career (!), Felix suddenly dialed back to find some of that old magic that used to be the wet blanket draped over the head of those good A's teams during the past couple of seasons. By the end of the seventh, Felix was sitting in the dugout with ten--rack 'em, ten--strikeouts on the day, giving up only three hits (all in the first four innings), and keeping the game tied at blanks. Which, stop me if you've heard this before.

You may notice up there that the Mariners technically won the day were we to follow Jerry's newfangled C the Z equation doohickey. With the caveat that this almost produces its own critique, you kind of almost want to add in some sort of handicap when you have a guy like Felix on the mound. It's great that Mariners' pitching racked up 12 strikeouts on the day--ten of those came from a pitcher who has seen this lineup before, and likewise seven came from Mariners hitters who by the middle of the game seemed to have little to no game plan up there whatsoever.

There were some ultimately pointless quirks here and there--a batter interference as Chris Coghlan ran to first in the fourth is one which comes to mind--but the two hardest things to watch for a team touting a new approach were also, not ironically, the two moments that probably sank this game more than any other. I say that including the bullpen's two late lead-changing dingers.

First, in the bottom of the sixth, with the game tied at zero. After Nelson Cruz made it into second with an all-too-surprising double, Adam Lind quickly rolled over a 93 MPH fastball hosed literally right in the middle of his hot zone. Cruz made it to third, on the play, but then Seth Smith did Seth Smith things, and earned just a beautiful walk in an AB that should be framed in the clubhouse right in front of the locker of the person whose name is the subject of the sentence that immediately precedes this one. Look at this:

smeth

Now sure, this isn't as sexy as a two-out, two-run jack to save the game for your newly-minted thirty-something ace, but if there is anything to this C the Z nonsense, it's what you see in that picture up there. Bassitt made it through seven innings today while surrendering only three hits, but he threw almost 40% of his pitches today outside of the zone. Situational hitting, yes, etc, but this is a picture of a man who knows what the hell he is doing up there.

After this, Marte just barely made it to first after Jed Lowrie bobbled a grounder, and it put the M's on the board for the first time all afternoon.

After this came Steve Clevenger, who swung at all four pitches he saw, ending the rally before it, frankly, had even started. It was far from the worst thing you've seen if you have followed this team any time during the previous fifteen seasons, but on the other hand, with the memory of Texas and hot streaks and Tom Wilhelmsens and Go Fuck Yourselfs still fresh in your mind, this was a bit more like the two(three?)-day hangover bringing you back down to earth. True to the blue, my friends. True to the blue.

After Joel Peralta gave up a dinger to the first batter he saw, tying the game, the Mariners were playing catch-up on momentum for the rest of the afternoon, hoping to take advantage of tied frames at home in a way that never materialized like that which shall not be named that felt oh so close to being possible one more time. Steve Cishek came out and threw a scoreless ninth, which was kind of surprising. On the one hand, he's only throwing 92, and he has come to rely on his slider more since his days out of the Marlins' pen. On the other, he can still do stuff like this:

cishek

Now, I don't know the first thing about putting a bullpen together. I forget this at times, because I realized that Brandon League should have had his arms taped to the Powerade cooler long before Eric Wedge seemed to get the memo, and like any good baseball writer, I like to let things go to my head now and then. But on the other, what you are looking at here--two pitches which suggest a command that is more than capable of turning into something productive--is encouraging. It remains to be seen if Cishek has the ability to actually close down ballgames for this team, but you can see why the team elected to keep him around after the end of spring training.

After two quick outs off the arm of Nick Vincent, Coco Crisp put a baseball way over the right field fence and the Mariners were down to their final two outs. Kyle Seager led off the tenth with a two-pitch double, giving way to the possibility of being sent home by either Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, or a pinch-hit platoon first baseman known for hitting dingers.

Now what I'm going to do here is stop. I'm going to stop writing because you can go somewhere else and find out exactly what happened next, or hell--you probably already know. But I want you to think about this first week of Mariners baseball, filled as it was with its requisite golden moments and Mariners ones, and then calm down. Calm down on both sides. The Mariners aren't going to win 117 games. But even if they are going to be bad then my god, listen to this sentence.

Kyle Seager led off the tenth with a two-pitch double, giving way to the possibility of being sent home by either Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, or a pinch-hit platoon first baseman known for hitting dingers.

wedgebradley

Kyle Seager led off the tenth with a two-pitch double, giving way to the possibility of being sent home by either Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, or a pinch-hit platoon first baseman known for hitting dingers.

chonedugout

Kyle Seager led off the tenth with a two-pitch double, giving way to the possibility of being sent home by either Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, or a pinch-hit platoon first baseman known for hitting dingers.

Olivo Miss

Kyle Seager led off the tenth with a two-pitch double, giving way to the possibility of being sent home by either Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, or a pinch-hit platoon first baseman known for hitting dingers.