On one hand, panic.
Panic because it's fun, panic because panic is familiar. The Mariners played a two-hour-forty-nine-minute game during which they only procured a single hit against a meddling back-of-the-rotation starter. That was supposed to be a thing of the past, and yet here we are. Felix walked three and his fastball hit 89 at times. You've seen that terrifying chart. Steve Cishek came into the game and was a nose's inch away from blowing it like you just know he's eventually going to:
If that isn't worthy of panic, then I don't know what else to tell you.
Of course, on the other hand, don't. That's what the northeast media does when their teams get off to anything other than a magical storyland start. Panic feels good but it's also a symptom of an illness of the eyeballs, one which makes it so that you can't see the forest for the trees because you're only looking down at the abyss that is just your own bellybutton. Boy, with post-victory ledes like this, who needs to feel good about anything, at all, anywhere, ever?
Yeah so the Mariners were one-hit and you should be worried about Felix and the bullpen is bound to start regressing one of these days (hi there says 2014), but also, they won. And you can't really spin the other side of this story without unraveling all the ways in which those noted exceptions are bound up in each other. That the Mariners won a baseball game with only a single hit to their name means that whoever was pitching for them did a damn good job at keeping baserunners off the bags. That it came from a pitcher still finding ways to be effective with a 2-mph downtick in velocity across the board is all the more impressive. That their closer only hits 91 mph and has, that delightful screengrab off the table, yet to blow a save is, wait, why are we panicking again?
Maybe panic is too strong a word. For a while there it was one of those games. Mistimed of course--it happened on a Friday night instead of a cold Tuesday in May--and yet there was Cano, Cruz, and Lind, each generating weak contact on at-bats which only saw a few pitches despite the fact that the two leadoff men REACHED BASE ON BACK TO BACK WALKS ONLY SECONDS BEFORE. For the remainder of the following five innings, it was more of the same.
Somebody would go up there and watch as Medlen either struggled to find the plate or had the zone squished by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza. They would make him throw a ton of pitches and piss him off as he caught the ball back with one violent swoop of the arm, probably punctuated by a naughty word or two in the process. Then, the next batter would decide they had the green light after only two pitches, and the baseball would dribble up through the infield grass, or find an outfielder's glove like it was the obverse side of a magnet mere inches away. Mariners.
But when you're up there throwing junk it's bound to bite you in the ass. The key thing for 2016 is that this lineup, shockingly, isn't just one massive black hole down the list, one through nine. Smart decisions can--and often are--made, despite the fact that you still can't seem to believe it. He's up there throwing junk? Well don't just swing at everything, Wily Mo Pena, swing at the right thing:
It was Seth Smith's 100th career homer, and (probably) Felix Hernandez's 100th career game saved by some guy hitting a dinger to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
Speaking of Felix, you know, yeah, panic. That's fine. The entire 206 area code knows his velocity is down, and apparently a select few at the top know exactly why. He doesn't look entirely normal, and that, coupled with the fact that I think we all knew That Which Shall Not Be Named is kind of only a matter of time, is a reason to panic if I've ever heard one. But the good news is that Felix didn't become a hall-of-fame player through freakish athletic talent alone. No, Felix is fucking smart. Here he is getting Alcides Escobar to strike out escaping a two-on-two-out jam in the fifth:
First of all, you have to credit Escobar for grinding this out, so much so in fact that I couldn't even capture the out pitch in the list below its visualization. But what you are looking at here is exactly the kind of thing that you will remember Felix for in twenty years. Not the perfect game (well, maybe that too), not strikeout after strikeout (alright fine, yeah that's an option). But really, c'mon, you know it: its those moments he leads off an inning with a walk, and then puts another on after somebody bobbles a grounder. But instead of getting pissy at luck, BABIP, the gods, or whatever, Felix just barrels down. He pulls all his tools out of the box: 83, 86, 91, 87, 79. Changeup, Slider, Curveball, Fastball, Slider. He'll throw forty pitches, all just crap, and finally, at the end of it all, he'll get a swinging strike on an 84 mph slider covered in dirt somewhere in the opposite batter's box. Then he'll jump off the mound and yell and if you're watching on TV it will appear that the sound coming from the gathered 20,000 is coming out of his mouth.
As long as he can still do that, like he did here, then we can set the panic at bay.
And just one more time for posterity: